Like many successful entrepreneurs, Mike Christopherson had an unwavering commitment to his dream – the American dream of having his own company – that carried him far beyond the borders of his hopes. In 1981, Christopherson started General Pump out of his garage; those unassuming beginnings are today the foundation for this internationally renowned supplier of high-pressure pumps and accessories. How did a company with such modest digs find this degree of global success so quickly? “The key to our success is the level of service we provide our customers, who know that we will do everything to make sure they get exactly what they need to produce their own quality products,” says Troy Benike, marketing manager.
Based in Mendota Heights, Minn., and part of GP Companies, Inc., General Pump designs, engineers and manufactures superior high-pressure pumps and accessories for global pump-manufacturing OEMs in three major markets. The company initially focused on the pressure-wash industry, manufacturing pumps for OEMs of pressure-wash equipment, which in turn sell to professional pressure-wash and cleaning companies, as well as to retail chains. General Pump later moved to develop the business by manufacturing pumps for the vehicle-wash industry. The latest opportunity in this area is to provide large pumps to companies specializing in pumps for water desalination and the water-jetting markets.
Customer Focus Through and Through
General Pump prides itself on operating as an employee-focused and decision-driven company with one underlying purpose: to continue to serve its customers to “meet or exceed their expectations each and every time,” says Benike. “Our reason for manufacturing in the U.S. is to be able to supply our customers with the products they need much quicker than if they went overseas.”
Christopherson’s philosophy is the guiding light of the company, even after 20 years, and the company has continued to grow successfully because of its dedication to each individual customer and its needs. “We don’t make a product and then go out and try to sell it,” explains Benike. “We will sit down with our customers and listen to their ideas, and we will take those ideas to the drawing board and build something for our customer, all the time keeping them involved during the process.”
This customer-driven philosophy lives in General Pump’s management strategy as well. “We’ve empowered our work force and we encourage them to make their own decisions on how best to serve and satisfy a customer,” says Benike. “They don’t have to wait for a corporate response. They make their own decisions and if the decision isn’t quite what the company wanted, we will live with that and grow from there.”
One of the company’s most promising areas of growth is its brand-new line of centrifugal pumps, which had their debut at the recent annual Hardware Show in Chicago. “We foresee this product line to be very successful in the next three to five years,” says Benike.
That goal is grounded in a keen and pragmatic assessment of the world’s needs in several critical markets, including desalination and water reclamation. General Pump anticipates strong demand for centrifugal pumps over the next several decades, as potable water becomes more and more of a problem, especially in the Far East and even some European regions. “These pumps will also be used in the water reclamation industry, which is growing quickly,” says Benike. As the country becomes more sensitive to preserving natural resources, regulations requiring water reclamation will become more prevalent in markets such as the car-wash industry or in processing plants.
Other markets for centrifugal pumps include the food industry, the reverse-osmosis industry and the home-use industry, which are new customer targets for the company and which can use the pumps for a wide variety of applications. “This new line is driving everyone’s actions here at the company,” notes Benike.
Another reason for the company to aggressively pursue the industrial market is to broaden its customer base by diversifying its product range. “We planned this strategy so that if one business sector is down one year, another sector can carry us through and we won’t have to be so dependent upon one group,” says Benike. He adds that the company plans to build its industrial sector to equal that of the current markets, while maintaining the strength and integrity of those current customers.
Today, General Pump is No. 1 in customer service in the pressure-wash industry. Looking ahead, the company will continue to live by its philosophy to always find ways to please its customers, the foundation of the strong customer relationships it has established over the last two decades.
Numbering about 100 employees in its 64,000 square-foot U.S. facility and another 400 worldwide, General Pump has grown at a tremendous rate since 1981. “We attribute that kind of successful growth to our continued commitment to our customers,” says Benike. He adds that General Pump is recognized in the industry as a company that can be trusted to maintain confidentiality, which is absolutely critical for its 400 OEM customers.
“We will continue to be the industry leader as we continue to bring newer and better products to the market,” Benike states. “We work with the latest technology that will enable our pumps to last longer and perform more efficiently every year. We will continue to introduce new products for new markets while maintaining the customers we already have and catering to their specific needs.”