From Auto Repair Shop to Nationwide Supplier
One of the best examples of a business that has grown and adapted with the changing times is Goerend Transmission Inc. located in tiny St. Lucas, Iowa. Owner Dave Goerend and his brother took over the business from his father, which at the time was a general repair shop. Over the last few decades Dave has grown his shop into one of the leading diesel transmission specialists in the nation, and then eventually into parts manufacturing. We sat down with Dave recently to get an idea of how he was able to achieve these successes.
“It all started with converters,” notes Dave. “Even if we could get the Transmissions to last, the converters were a weak link right from the start. There were a couple local construction companies that had a fleet of Dodge trucks and they actually left a couple with us over the winter so that we could develop better parts and get a converter to hold. This was about 1997 or 1998. I don’t know how many times we had those transmissions in and out, but we finally found a combination that would work for your basic tow and work truck,” says Dave.
“At the time, we were working on everything from automobiles to pickups to tractors, so we weren’t afraid to get into the diesel market. We took out a small ad in the Turbo Diesel Register and eventually started to get a couple of calls. I mean, we probably started out with a maybe only one call a month. Then it was one call a week. Then after a couple years and building a reputation, it was multiple calls a week and diesel transmissions became a large part of our business.”
“In the early 2000s we were still relatively small time. Most of the business we had was in the radius of a couple hundred miles to our shop. We noticed however, that people started driving from further and further away to pick up converters or transmissions from us. We knew there was a number of good shops in the Midwest, so we eventually made the decision to start sending transmissions out, with the caveat that we walk the installer through the installation the first few times. Again, a couple of years of doing this resulted in a dealer Network that stretched all the way from New York to California.”
“Throughout this process, we had developed a pretty good product, but there were always things I wasn’t happy with,” notes Dave. “A lot of companies were reluctant to build parts a certain way because of cost, but I realized that since most of these trucks were used for business, the owners would see a value in a vehicle that didn’t have to spend any time in the shop, or go back for additional repairs. Eventually I got fed up and just started building parts myself that I knew would work. My background and auto repair gave me a good idea of where the weak points were and we were able to develop torque converters, flexplates, valve bodies, and internal parts that worked exceedingly well.” says Dave. “We also expanded in areas we knew about. We did Dodge converters, so when the opportunity came along to get in the GM and Ford converter market, we jumped in there too.”
“I guess that brings us to the business point of things,” comments Dave. “I think a big reason that I’ve had so much success is that I trusted good honest people to do good honest work. My family (many of whom work or worked there including Dave’s brother Bob and father-Ed), and friends have been a huge help, but I wasn’t afraid to make connections outside of my own circle, and almost all of those paid off. You have to be careful about how you grow your business, and as you do, you’ll need a great staff–I owe most of my growth to them,” notes Dave. “A lot of times the opportunities to grow will be obvious, but you have to work hard and take full advantage of the situation to realize results.”
Goerend Transmission, Inc.