LONG BEACH, Calif. This year, Long Beach, Calif-based GB Remanufacturing Inc. is celebrating a quarter century in business. Founded in 1986, GB Remanufacturing has become one of the market leaders in providing remanufactured OEM gasoline and diesel fuel injectors, injector components and diesel electronics to the automotive aftermarket. The company offers more than 1,000 part numbers covering more than 20,000 unique vehicles. In today’s Executive Interview, Mike Kitching, GB’s president and CEO, who founded the company with his father, chronicles GB’s history and talks about where the company is headed.
In today’s Executive Interview, Mike Kitching, GB’s president and CEO, who founded the company with his father, chronicles GB’s history and talks about where the company is headed.
Why did you start GB and what lead up to the decision to embark on a new
My dad and I started GB for a number of reasons. When we first started GB, we supplied carburetor rebuilders with various components, including choke pull-offs, throttle position sensors and mixture control solenoids. New, these parts were a significant percentage of a rebuilder’s overall cost. We knew that if we could supply a quality remanufactured part at a fraction of the cost of similar new parts, we would be successful. The other reason we started GB was that my dad had been terminated from his previous employer 12 to 15 months prior, and things were starting to get a bit tight, financially. So we started GB. Looking back, it was a pretty risky time for our family. I’m glad everything turned out OK!
How many family members are now involved in the company?
My dad and I worked side by side at GB from 1986 until his passing in December of 2008. Now, there are three family members working at GB – my mom, my wife, and me. My mom came to work at GB in 1995, after a long career in the nursery supply industry. My wife, Lisa, also works at GB part time. Lisa handles the insurance and human resources areas of the business. Our two children come in every now and then to help out with filing papers or shredding documents when they need a couple extra dollars.
Tell us about the early years growing the company.
Honestly, we had an extremely difficult start to the company. We had a great idea on how to build a better mousetrap, but in trying to do so, our tooling kept breaking after a very short period of time. Each set of tooling cost around $12,000. Back in 1986, that was a lot of money, and we didn’t have a lot of extra money lying around. My dad and I had several discussions on what would happen if we broke yet another set of tools. There was even a discussion on whether we should cut our losses and shutter the company. Those are the talks that keep you up at night.
We eventually found the right technique and the correct material for the tooling, and everything worked out fine. We gained acceptance in the marketplace, and soon the business was doing well.
In 1991, we met an Australian company that manufactured fuel injector service and diagnostic equipment. The company was looking for a U.S.-based distributor for their equipment. We began distributing the equipment to carburetor rebuilders in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Soon, we were getting calls from all over the U.S. from companies wanting to buy reman fuel injectors.
Eventually, we started supplying the reman injectors to our local market, and that gradually spread to include all of North America and parts of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America. Today, we remanufacture well over a thousand fuel injectors, both gasoline and diesel, as well as injector driver modules and fuel injector control modules.
How has the state of the economy in the past few years affected GB?
Typically, a downturn in the economy has always been good for our business. In a time of recession, consumers are looking to save money.
If they have a choice between a $40 remanufactured OEM fuel injector and a $120 new fuel injector, the choice is almost always the remanufactured fuel injector. To answer your question more directly, the past several years have been the strongest growth period we have experienced in 25 years.
Where does GB go from here?
Being an industry leader, you continually have a target on your back. The competition is always trying to gain market share at our expense. In order for us to remain industry leaders, we have to work harder and smarter than our competitors. We need to improve upon the product we currently remanufacture, develop new products that others cannot or do not remanufacture and provide tools to our existing customers that make it easy for them to purchase from us. We have been very successful in doing this in past years, and we will continue to work on these areas in coming years.
Did you think 25 years ago that GB would be where it is today?
I always knew once we got three or four years under our belt, the company would be successful. As I mentioned earlier, the early years were very difficult, but once we turned the corner, we’ve never looked back. When I sit back and look at what we have developed, it is very rewarding. We have a great company, great, loyal employees and customers who are more than just customers. Our customers are more like partners. We have an unspoken mutual respect for one another that is very strong. So, looking back 25 years ago, I knew GB would be successful, but I never knew how rewarding it would be to guide the company to where it is today, and I am very proud of where we are today as a company.
What have you learned the most in the last 25 years? What do you hope to learn over the next 25 years?
Wow, this is a tough one! I’ve learned that in order to succeed, you have to have a great team of people in place. You cannot do everything yourself, and you have to empower your employees, your team members, to make good decisions on behalf of the company. If you cannot trust the decisions your employees are going to make, then as a manager, you are doing something wrong.
Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised right here in Long Beach. I graduated from Long Beach Wilson High School. I went to UC Santa Barbara to become a doctor because I always enjoyed helping people and having close interaction with people. I quickly found out that I disliked a lot of the science-related courses and decided to focus on business.
In 1986, my dad called me one day and asked me to come home for the weekend because he wanted to talk to me about an idea he had. This was the first discussion that soon lead to the creation of GB Remanufacturing. I transferred from UCSB to Cal State Long Beach the following fall and took as many marketing and finance classes as possible. After many, many night classes, I earned my degree from Cal State Long Beach.
Other than GB, I’ve really only had one other real job. While playing on the golf team in high school, I worked in the bag room and washed golf clubs at Virginia Country Club. That was a great job! I met some great business people from the Long Beach area, and got to play unlimited golf at one of the finest golf courses in Southern California.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing that’s tough! When my dad was still with us, I used to love spending time with him talking about the business, the future, the challenges, etc. Having a person to bounce ideas off of was great, and I really miss not having him here to do that with anymore. That being said, GB has some really great employees, and I’ve been able to surround myself with great people. I really enjoy coming into the office every day and interacting with our employees, whether it is face to face, on the telephone, or through e-mail. It’s great to hear how they are doing, what is going on at work and in their lives, no matter what their position within the company or their job.