Step into the world of GEN-Y Hitch, a pioneering company that has transformed the towing industry with its groundbreaking products and unwavering dedication to excellence. Founded by the visionary entrepreneur Carl Borkholder, GEN-Y Hitch has emerged as a true game-changer, introducing innovative solutions and redefining the way trailers are hitched and towed.
In this exclusive interview conducted by Chris and Helder, we embark on a captivating exploration of GEN-Y Hitch's remarkable entrepreneurial journey. From the defining moments that shaped their path to the challenges they overcame and the strategies that propelled their success, we delve into the inspiring story behind this trailblazing company. Join us as we talk with the president, Dan Miller, and uncover the passion, determination, and ingenuity that have made GEN-Y Hitch a force to be reckoned with in the world of towing.
Helder: Hello Dan, thank you for joining us today! We are excited to delve into the fascinating journey of GEN-Y Hitch and the remarkable accomplishments the team has made in building a successful enterprise. As our audience consists of aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, your insights and experiences will provide valuable guidance and inspiration. Let's start by exploring the history, mission, and core values of GEN-Y Hitch. Could you share the story behind the company, its mission, and the guiding principles that shape its operations?
Dan: Thank you for having me today. I'm excited to share the story of GEN-Y Hitch and what we stand for. The company started with a mission to revolutionize the towing industry and provide customers with exceptional towing solutions. Our core values include innovation, craftsmanship, integrity, customer service and continuous improvement. We constantly strive to push the boundaries, create durable products, conduct business with honesty, and always seek ways to enhance our offerings. By staying true to our mission and values, we've become a trusted leader in the towing industry.
Chris: What were some challenges GEN-Y faced when launching the company or product?
Dan: There are always challenges surrounding competition and negativity. People may say that our ideas won't work or that our product won't succeed. However, our approach is to ignore that noise and focus on our own goals. We strive to create the best possible product, provide solutions to people's problems, and let the customers decide. This approach has been very successful for us.
Helder: Can you tell us about someone who has been influential in your entrepreneurial journey? How did they impact your life and contribute to your success?
Dan: Yeah. Throughout my life, there have been several impactful people and moments. If I think back, one of the earliest high-impact moments I can remember was when I was washing dishes with my mother. I come from a family of ten kids, and I was around eight or nine years old at the time. I had a dream of becoming a rancher and owning a horse ranch. While we were talking, I randomly mentioned that I wanted to have a ranch with about 600 horses. It was a big dream for a child. My mother turned and looked at me, and what she said had the most profound impact on me. She said, "You know what, Danny? If you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want to." That statement has stayed with me to this day. Whenever someone tells me something won't work, my response internally is, "I'm going to show you that it can." It's a mindset that anything is possible if I want it enough. This mindset has shaped my style of leadership as well. When we talk about our goals as a team, I always emphasize that "I can't" is not in our vocabulary. If someone says they can't, it means they won't try because they believe it's already impossible. We focus on finding solutions and overcoming challenges rather than accepting limitations. Problem-solving is similar to product development.
Chris: Would you be able to provide a range of your annual revenue since 2012? Additionally, could you elaborate on the strategies your company implemented to attain those goals? Lastly, what advice would you offer to our subscribers when it comes to establishing business goals?
Dan: So you're asking about annual revenue. What specific information are you looking for?
Chris: For example, you can give us a range of last year's revenue. How did you set that goal and what strategies did you use to achieve it?
Dan: While we don’t publicly share our yearly revenue, I can share that growth surpassed 20% last year from the previous year. Every year, we set a general goal for growth based on various factors. We analyze our customers' habits, historical data from the past six months, and the previous year's performance to forecast what the next year will look like. We also consider the potential impact of new products. Our sales and marketing team helps us come up with these goals and validates their achievability. Once we set the goals, we use them as metrics to measure our employees' performance. We continually assess the market, the economy, and our customers' behaviors, especially in the most recent six months, to validate and adjust our goals. It's a combination of analysis and informed estimation. While it's not an exact science, we take a measured approach to set realistic goals for our company's growth.
Helder: During your entrepreneurial journey, what was the most significant risk you undertook? Were there any instances where failure was not an option, and you had to execute something flawlessly?
Dan: That feeling of not allowing failure to be an option is ongoing in my journey. Every time we hire new team members, I see it as a responsibility as a leader. I recognize that these individuals are relying on us as an organization and our leadership to provide for their families. It's a personal commitment every time we bring someone new on board. The challenges continue to arise as we have grown rapidly. Five years ago, we had only four team members, and now we have around 55 to 60. With rapid expansion, we have taken on financial risks, such as investing in a new facility, quadrupling our production and office space, and accommodating the growth. It's not just about the business risk; it's also about ensuring that we can take care of our team members like a family. We emphasize internal customer service within our team because if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers, who are the ones who provide business for us. So, the risks we take are not only financial but also focused on building and sustaining a strong team that can handle the growth and serve our customers effectively.
From a business perspective, another significant risk we face is dealing with international customers. Australia is our second biggest market, and it's growing rapidly. While customers there love our products, doing business internationally introduces a different set of risks. For example, carrying receivables internationally poses challenges because if someone defaults on a receivable, we often have limited recourse compared to dealing with defaulters in the United States, where legal processes can assist us. International business requires trust and careful risk management.
Chris: Additionally, could you please elaborate on the sales distribution channels employed by your company?
Dan: We sell through various channels. We sell directly to retailers, both physical stores and e-commerce platforms. We also sell to brick-and-mortar stores that then resell our products. Additionally, we work with distributors who distribute our products across the US, Canada, Australia, Chile, UK and Mexico, reaching resellers who further sell to customers. We also have partnerships with a few e-commerce companies that sell our products on platforms like Amazon. We strive to cover all channels and adapt our mix as we grow. Currently, our distribution network is more extensive than ever, with warehouses across the country and in Canada. Distributors find it easier to reach resellers than for us to directly handle every transaction.
Chris: Can you share any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives for your company? What are your goals for this year or the next?
Dan: As we continue to grow, we are undergoing a transition. We recently renamed our manufacturing side to GEN-Y Tech, reflecting our increased focus on automation and highly technical equipment. We are investing in advanced technologies and automation to enhance our manufacturing processes. It's quite unique in our area, and it aligns well with our hometown's expertise in robotics competitions for grade school, middle school, and high school students, where they consistently rank among the top ten in the world. So, we are proud to be part of that tech-driven environment. From a product offering standpoint, we are also expanding our portfolio. One exciting project we are working on is the development of a product that utilizes patented Bluetooth technology for hitching and unhitching trailers. This innovative product will provide a convenient and efficient solution for users. However, it requires further refinement before its release, which we anticipate will happen within the next one to two years.
Additionally, we have another industry-changing product in the pipeline, a true auto-latching coupler. While there are existing auto-latch couplers in the market, we have improved upon them by incorporating an additional safety feature. This feature ensures that when the coupler is unhooked, it remains in a position where it automatically latches when the trailer is hooked up again. This eliminates the need for manual intervention and guarantees a secure connection. The product is set to be launched this fall, and we are collaborating with key trailer manufacturers to introduce it to the market.
Our company's goals for the coming years involve continued growth and increasing automation in our manufacturing processes. We aim to leverage technology and cutting-edge solutions to enhance our products and operations. By staying at the forefront of innovation and providing superior customer service, we strive to maintain our position as a leader in the industry.
Chris: The last question is for our subscribers who are entrepreneurs or are planning to start their own businesses. What advice would you give to someone starting their own venture or who is at an early stage of their entrepreneurial journey?
Dan: The simplest advice I can give is: never give up. It sounds straightforward, but it encompasses every aspect of building a business. It's not just about persevering through the big challenges but also about not giving up on the smaller tasks and details that make up the foundation of your business. Additionally, it's crucial to be selective about where you direct your efforts. Sometimes, people can be determined and persistent at the wrong things and end up failing despite their hard work. So, it's essential to evaluate and prioritize what truly matters and ensure that you are driving towards the right goals.
Another piece of advice is to always be a student. Embrace a learning mindset and constantly seek knowledge and improvement. None of us know everything, and recognizing what we don't know is essential. Surround yourself with talented individuals who excel in areas where you may lack expertise. Hire people who are smarter than you in their respective fields.
Lastly, take care of your team members and treat them like family. When you prioritize their well-being and provide a supportive and positive work environment, they will take care of your customers. Customer satisfaction and loyalty are vital for business success, and it all starts with a team that feels valued and motivated.
Remember, building a business is an ongoing journey of learning, adapting, and growing. Stay resilient, embrace change, and continue to evolve both personally and professionally.
Overall, the GEN-Y Hitch journey exemplifies the importance of perseverance, strategic planning, and adapting to growth in building a successful business.