• Craig Kruckeberg - The DL S3E24

    Craig Kruckeberg - The DL S3E24 is now available on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and YouTube

    In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Craig Kruckeberg – CEO of Stinar, Owner of Bandit Big Rig Series Racing, & CEO/CVO of Kruckeberg Industries.

    Please like, subscribe, and share. If you have questions or would like to learn more about a particular topic, drop a comment and let us know. 

    As always, thank you for watching and listening!

     

    Connect with Craig Kruckeberg:

    LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/craig-kruckeberg-74798413/

    Websitehttps://www.stinar.com/

     

    Transcript for Craig Kruckeberg - The DL S3E24:

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Welcome everyone, to a new episode of The DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson. This is the show we  talk about everything going on in the heavy truck, the equipment, the diesel-powered world that we live  in today. I'm really excited about who I'm about to introduce you to. This is someone that has been  there, done that in this space, grew a business, sold the business, still in the space-at least in the world  of ground support equipment, and diesel powered and gas powered equipment. He's got a great,  interesting story. If you ever wondered, how do you grow a company? How do you pivot a company?  How do you do all these things? I'm hoping Craig's going to really be able to unpack a lot of this for us.  Craig Kruckeberg, welcome to the DL, sir. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Hey, Tyler. Thanks for having me in. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    I tried really hard not to throw an L in your name there, and I think I still did it anyway, so I apologize  about that. But let's just, want to give everyone a little bit of an intro to who you are and what you've  done in our industry. So do you mind kind of unwinding and just giving us the little brief overview of  Minimizer? What was the story there and what products did you sell? And let's just start talking about  that for a minute. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Oh man, you're going to make me go back about 35, 40 years here. No, Minimizer was actually started  by, we say my father, but it was actually my mother that started it truly. My father drove truck. He was  an owner operator. Then he had two trucks, and one day, he always had shiny stainless on because he always pulled caterpillar equipment. And so he had shiny stainless fenders on, well, he had to put a new set on one day and it was the Saturday. And I had my trunk packed with beer. I think I was 16 17 at the  time and he's pulling into the driveway and I'm trying to do a fast sprint to my car, because I'll never forget. It was a little blue Ford ranger set of tan stainless fenders sticking out the back. And I knew  where this was going to go. 

    And he goes, "where are you going?" I said out. And he goes, "no, I need to help me put these  fenders on cause I want to leave tomorrow afternoon." So that shot my night. And so then we sat and  put the fenders on. And Monday when I got home from school, he just had me on the phone with mom  and he was talking to her and he goes, let me talk to Craig again. He goes, "yeah, you know the fenders  we put on," he goes, "I lost one side at Caterpillar." The forklifts, always a little bit [inaudible 00:02:25]  to the front. Forklift slammed into the side of the brand new shiny stainless, crushed into the tire. Well,  he couldn't roll because he would've cut the tires. So him and another driver pulled the fenders off. All  the way home he's going, there's got to be something better. And about two weeks later, mom was  backing out the driveway and she backed over the rubber made garbage can and dad popped his foot in  it and said, God, if I could make fenders out of this, we'd have something and that was in 1984. And I  ended up buying a company from them, in 06 07 and selling to private equity in 18. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So did plastic offenders exist back then? Or was this like a new thing? I do remember. I mean, I sold  trucks. I worked at a dealership. There was a lot of, like you said, the stainless steel metal type fenders that were always dinged and banged up and we were selling to loggers and a lot of construction type  guys and it was just like the never ending thing. So was it brand new at the time? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    I want to say in Europe it wasn't. In some things Europeans are significantly further ahead than we are in  things, and then when we tried to lobby to get, so fenders became mandatory instead of selfish get a  mandatory in every single truck in the country right. We tried to lobby for that. And one of the  pushbacks was, well, we're not like European countries. We don't have horse and buggy still to this day.  And people walking alongside the road and getting sprayed and its kind of an eye opener at that  moment was like, huh, that explains a lot. And so they never, it's just a cost expense at ATA and IDA just  didn't feel was relevant and didn't back it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I know you have a book by the way you sent me a copy. I read it all the way on a plane ride. I had to  go out, up north, up to Minnesota. Actually I tried to visit you, but I got a little tied up. So success comes  overnight. You're going to jail. So a good book by the way it was, it was great. And I know a lot of your  stories in there on how this all happened, but for entrepreneurs that are maybe listening to this or have  an idea, did it, I mean, did your dad and mom go get outside funding? Did they just start building stuff?  Like how was it? Do you remember at all how it got started through this whole process? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    And then that's the funny thing, but is we've laughed about that now. In the beginning, everybody just  laughed at the idea, right? Even the banker. And so he sold both his trucks, to fund this and to fund it.  Right. And I remember when his second truck, his first truck, the driver's truck sold, then his truck sold.  And when it pulled away from, out of the driveway, I'd never seen my father tear up. And I think at that  point that's when he realized he was done driving his truck and it was something he thoroughly enjoyed  right. Now he became the manufacturer and they bootstrapped it. And I remember his story one time.  My father, my folks, blue collar, had a small town, swimming pool in the backyard. I invited some friends  over and I'll never forget my mom going. "Geez. You know, I don't think I got enough hot dogs and stuff  to feed these guys." I didn't realize how broke my parents were until that moment. I had two little kids  and I was broke and it's a funny little thing now, but no, they self-funded daddy sold his trucks and our  first- We used to have to pay cash when they delivered plastic to us. No, it was a sheer food strap,  drowning it out. So there's no outside funding. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I mean, this is, resonating with me. Right. And I think a lot of times people have this idea in their  head that I got an idea. I have a product or I got a service. I need to go get a bunch of money in order to  make this thing work. And I just want to point out to the audience that you have two people living proof  here. One, we didn't do that either. We just bootstrapped it. And two that's exactly what you guys did  too at over at Minimizer. So I think one of the challenges a lot of people have is sometimes you have a  product and you can have the best product in the world. But if people don't know you exist, you're going  to have a hard time selling the thing. So what was it like back then? How did you get- you had to go  change an industry. As a never before seen product that really did solve some problems. So how did you  guys get that message out there to people that, hey, we have this great solution for your problem, Mr.  Customer,

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    And the thing of it is right. It comes down to education. And so my father built the tool there just  happened to be. Now, you're probably old enough to remember the Wind Jammer, the fairings for  motorcycles. There was an aftermarket item before the OEM started putting them on the bike  themselves. Well, there's a local farmer in our small town that proceeded to invest in Wind Jammer  ended up with all the equipment, when they went under and he was making molded farm related items  and him and my father proceeded to get together and sketched up this fender drawing. And then my  dad goes, well, can you mold this? And he goes, yeah, but it's going to cost you X number of dollars per a  sheet. And so my dad says, I only need six of them. He was just going to put him out of his truck. 

    He didn't give a shit about anybody else. It was his problem he was trying to solve. And so the  guy made five, two to his side and he had one extra. The old man was happy before the wood tool fell  apart. And as he was sitting in truck stops, people were coming up to him going, where'd you get that?  What are those? Where'd you get those? And so we went back to the old guy and the old guy goes, "oh,  you got to fill aluminum tooling as you see wood doesn't work." And so my dad sat literally in the  garage, framing up, it was body putty and aluminum and making his first funded prototype and took it  back out to this farmer to mold it for him. And then from there it just kept going and he'd literally sell  them off the [inaudible 00:08:17] rack. 

    And then somebody came along and said, hey, I'd like to sell those, sell, I'll do a hundred percent  commission, blah, blah, blah. And he went down to Stepp Equipment, which is in Wisconsin and they  were a Galbert dealer. And one of their sales guys from Galbert selling roll offs just happened to be in  there. And he said, you guys got those that looked like the roll-off fender, the metal roll-off fender.  There destroying those every day. And one thing led to another thing led to another thing and ended up  Galbert being his first major customer, took a hundred sets of BFI blue, hundred sets of waste  management, burgundy, and a hundred sets of black. And that's kind of really, my father was in the  bathroom throwing up because that just ended up being about 1200 pieces of plastic that he had to pay  COD for when it came in. It's like, how am I going to do this? And so the roll off industry is truly not the  trucking industry itself, but the roll off industry is what truly took off first. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And I know, I think one of the interesting thing too, is I  remember spray control systems. That was the original name, I believe. But obviously I always, I  remember when I first heard them my spray, like what the heck are they doing? That's not an  agricultural company or whatnot. It was kind of a weird name. How did you go about figuring out like,  hey, we need to rebrand this thing and call this something else. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    And that's the funny part about it, right? We'd been in the yellow pages under the sprayer parts with  spray control systems and spray control. My father was a serial entrepreneur and marketing wasn't his  strong suit. And so spray control systems was a system of fenders that controls the spray coming off the  tires. And he, really thought that he could push the trucking industry to really give a shit about the four  wheeler getting hosed. Right? No, just keep my equipment clean. I don't really care about the cars  around me. Right. And that was a learning curve. And so then we started doing some advertising in the  Harlem magazine and then the rebrand was, the frustration was spray control systems, as you stated,  sprayer parts.

     

    And we just happened to have a flyer sitting that said minimize spray, minimize expense,  minimize weight. And I thought, okay. And then that just transitioned over to Minimizer. I wish I  would've kept the journal. My mother kept a journal every night. She made suppers. She wrote in a  journal. I wish I would've done that to better answer these questions, but that's pretty much where the  transition was, was from those three items, because that's what we did. We minimized weight expenses  spray. So minimize it and now don't get me wrong. We have truck drivers when they would search for  us. The internet just loved us because they would accidentally key it in wrong. And they would end up  over at minimizer bras. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    I'm sure no one was complaining too much about that. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Not in the trucking industry, no. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well, so one of the interesting things is I don't remember a lot of ads in my life, but I worked at a truck  dealership. I got kicked out of college, went back home tail tucked between my legs, went to work for  my dad, him and his brother started a truck dealership. And that's how I got involved in truck  dealerships and I was always reading industry magazines. But I remember, I actually remember seeing, I  don't know if it was in magazines or your actual product, but I do remember it pretty vividly seeing little  kids jumping up and down on top of Minimizer fenders, the whole family sitting on top of them and it  just, it really stuck out. How much did you guys focus on the marketing side to say, hey, we're going to  be different. We're going to kind of push this brand forward and explain what our product is to people a  little bit different way than everybody else does. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    When we first started doing, so really truly our first peer at marketing was we had an ad agency. He had  a new sales guy there, Donald Hormel pitching him. Well to get back to cities, you go to Minneapolis,  you go through a small town. And so the [inaudible 00:12:23] he owned the ad agency at the time and  he had this new kid and he says, hey, I'll buy you lunch if you can make it sale at the next place that we  see viable. And we had a sign on the highway and we are literally in a single wide trailer and connected  to a hog barn. That was our ritual facility that we gutted the hog barn. We had to take the rafters out,  use cables to hold it together. Thank God we didn't have codes in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. 

    And so they came in and they pitched the press release and put the whole, we'll send it to 200  magazines, a pitcher and a one page article and the magazines will put it in and then people will call you.  The people that call are the sales guys, because that's a lead generator from magazines. Sales guys is the  press release is to call up new companies. Right. And they'd call up and say, hey, we say you got a press  release. You know, I don't know when the editor's going to put it in, but we can get you an ad in next  week if you want to run an ad. Well, we couldn't afford that shit. Shit, I paid the guy 600 bucks to send  out a hundred press releases and a hundred pictures. And we just did that. How about you run the press  release? If I get some calls, then maybe I'll run an ad in your magazine. And that became a 30 year game  for me with all these magazines and Randall Reilly publications and so on and so forth. 

    And so then one time, so half the magazines they were sending to had no relevance to the  trucking industry. And so I went to the public library. I said, do they have a publication list of any magazine in the country? And I'm a big believer in karma, faith, God, I don't mess with any of them  because things could go bad. And she goes, you won't believe this, but I just got to, we are a branch of a  bigger public library and she goes, I just got in these books about, four inches thick each, three of them  that lists every periodical in the country. And it's like, wow, really? And they were printed on, like phone  book paper real thin. Now I'm not the brightest guy in the family. 

    And so I literally, so we bowl league didn't have any money. So it's like cost me like $4 a week to  bowl. That was my highlight of my entertainment. And I took one of these books and I took a yellow  notepad and they go, okay, get out, man, you going to bowl? Are you going to work? What are you  doing? Went through all three of these books line by line by line. I ended up with 350 different  magazines. And so then we just changed the part number in the first press release they wrote for us, my  mom would hand address the envelopes and she'd run down to the local grocery store and get 350  copies of a photo that we'd take made. And she'd stuff those, and we'd send them out to the magazines.  We get the magazines to call, but then sometimes they'd run them and I told the magazine guys, well  just run the, if I get some calls, I'll advertise. 

    And when I saw Minimizer, I believe we were spending a million dollars a year with Randall Riley  and across, trade shows, the ad budget for Minimizer was about 4 million, not sales and marketing, just  marketing. And Randall Reilly was a big- I got nothing but good things to say about Randall Reilly  because they understood it. Right. And they helped. And I kind of got to beat him up on price and so on  and so forth. But that is truly the steps that were taken and it didn't happen like that. If it did, I'd be  going to jail. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Hence the name of the book. I will say, this is what I love about bootstrap companies, right? Because  when you don't have a lot of money to throw at something, you have to start looking at alternatives,  you have to start thinking in different way. What's cost effective. What's the best use of every single  penny. And I've seen this a lot with companies that raise a bunch of money, get a bunch of money. They just had to throw a bunch of stuff for the wall and see what sticks and they do it kind of the opposite  way. And that I would prefer. And it sounds like the way you prefer it as well was like, let's go figure out  what works here and what doesn't and be, be smart about this. And I can't tell you how many  entrepreneur stories I've talked to with people who have done the same thing. 

    Bootstrapped, thought about it differently, had no ad budget essentially, and had to go find a  way to grow their brand and do this thing. And again, for people listening, the book definitely goes into  more details about all this, but it's a great story about what happens in our industry. So short version is  you bought this from your parents, you then grew it. And then you mentioned the beginning that you  sold it. So what happened? What did you wake up one day and just be like, I'm done with Minimizer or I  want out, what was the pivotal moment where you decided I want to sell this company? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    So like I was saying, companies outgrow people. Okay. And I seen it within my organization and I didn't  realize it out of the gate, but I got to a point where I'd be working Friday nights, my own book work, et  cetera, et cetera. So I did everything within the organization. And then you slowly, as you know you  bring in they always say the first employee is the hardest to hire. I got my twin sons have their own  businesses and I keep telling that the hardest employee, the first person that you hire is the hardest.  Right. But they're probably the best because you analyze the hell out of it, make sure that you got the  right resume. And so anyway, so long story short, I started hiring a team. I hired a CFO, a charter  accountant from Europe that happened to be in Minnesota.

     

    And when I get to [inaudible 00:17:52] to a certain size, that'll have to happen again I'm sure just  more well rounded than a CPA. And then I hired a VP of ops. It was basically just go manage people for  me. My CFO managed the books great. And him and I were a great team because he hated people and  he hated spending money and I love spending money and I love people. And so it made us the perfect  team and there's enough respect both ways. And so I guess, I grew to the point where I had people  where I didn't need to be on top of it all the time. Because I enjoyed being on a plant floor, hanging out  with the team, et cetera, et cetera. Well then, we proceeded to, got in the opportunity of truck racing  with another series that was fraudulent, went defunct, but it became great content for Minimizer with  our products. 

    And so we created our own series and that took off, we were just going to use it for content,  couple of races, et cetera, et cetera. It took off. And so I was helping the marketing department. I was  focusing on that. I'd go in every Monday for our executive meeting. But other than that, they were  running the company and then one day I was walking. I don't know why. I mean, I can't tell you, right?  Karma, God pick one. I was just walking through the lobby and just doing my normal thing. And I walked  into my CFO's office and I said, hey, what do you think we can get for this thing? And it wasn't on my  mind to sell. He gave me a number. I went, oh shit I could live off that. 

    And he goes, well now don't forget. You could have to pay 30% plus tax. I went, okay, now I  need a calculator. And I went, all right, fine. I can do that. Yeah. I can make that work. And that was it.  There was no plan for tomorrow. I mean, I just spewed this out at him. And so we went to work and he  goes, well, all right. I said, well, let's sell it. And he goes, well, you want to talk about this? And I said, we  just did. He goes, that was like three minutes. And I said, yeah, so we just did. And he goes, do you want  to go home and talk to Robin, my wife? And I said, no, no. For those numbers she'll scream, sell, sell  louder than Mortimer did. Okay. And so I know where that answers that. And we were in a process at  the time we had acquired another product line for the heavy truck industry and we didn't have a place  to build it. 

    And so we were in a process of cleaning that, getting that company, acquiring it, and as I was  decided to sell. Well, we decided to sell November 18th, 2000. And let me think about this, 17. Okay.  And all of a sudden we were going so fast. I was fortunate enough to be in an industry that I sit on a  forum on the heavy duty board forum, 50 CEOs and presidents of guys that made truck parts. And so  they were a great resource for finding a banker that could help us sell blah, blah, blah. So there was a  learning curve on how to sell to private equity and how to sell your company through that process. And,  but it was just, I don't know, Tyler, why I decided I wasn't having a bad day that day and just decided out  if I get to sell the company. 

    No, I wasn't. It was just, I was just got it down a path. And that corporate office I was standing in  that day is now Leo Augusta Children's Academy because Minimizer built a new building, moved out of  town. And now that corporate office is Leo Augusta Children's Academy, a childcare facility and  education center. So I think I made a lot of promises over 30 years to the man above. Just help me out  here today. I'll make sure I pay it back and da, da, da. And so the Augusta is now fudging in that office.  And when we couldn't run Bandit during COVID so Stinar, we had to push Stinar into bankruptcy to be  able to buy it like GM during the recession. And so, like I said, I had a chartered accountant. He was  phenomenal at this process. We pushed him into bankruptcy, became debtor in possession, came out of  bankruptcy August 3rd, I sold on August 30th. Okay. So Stinar kind of coasted because we had to unravel  a bunch of Craig's shit, how to minimize it. So the 19 was really I'd walked through Stinar, because I sold  to him and we'd walked through when I was buying it, but I'd never walked through it. And first week in  19 I spent six weeks up there out of the gate. Just that's a whole nother podcast.

     

    Tyler Robertson: 

    All right. So you sold Minimizer. And by the way, I get asked that question all the time, Tyler, what are  you doing? When are you going to sell it? Are you going to sell it? Blah, blah, blah. And I just keep I can  say as a business owner, I'm sure you had this too. Your mind starts thinking different things. And I've  come to the realization that either one or two things is going to happen in my life with Diesel Laptops, either I'm going to sell it or I'm going to die. Those are my two outs. So it's really a matter of me making  a decision on, on when. I can probably take care of one of those, not the other. Right. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Right. But in favor it is, I was going to give it to my kids. Right. I was going to have the kids take it over  and I was going to have to make payments to me as I made payments to my father. Right. And the  hardest thing is to tell my twin boys Tyler and Trevor, you're not qualified to run this thing, man. And no  way in hell, I'm going to trust you to make a payment to me. And plus they, by that time they both had  their own businesses. Yeah. Okay. That was generational. That was the vision. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I as a parent, that's a hard one. Right. Like I think it sounds like you did it right. Your kids, they  picked a path and you're doing what you can to support them and being there for them. And I feel my  kids are only nine and 11. Right. So they got a long ways to go. But man, that's hard to ask your kids to  take over something you built. That's a hard stretch and generational stuff's tough. That's my family  business actually is from, but so you got Minimizer, you sell it and you mentioned two things, I guess I  want to talk to the audience about one is Bandit racing and then two is Stinar. So let's talk first though  about Bandit. Is that just because yeah, I can see that right. Trucks racing around a track. By the way,  very cool. We went down to your event you had in Charleston. I know COVID kind of closed things up  here a little bit for that whole Bandit racing, but what a tremendous experience I absolutely loved it. Did  it just kind of flow out of the minimizer promotional stuff? Is that where Bandit came and where's it  going? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    I always said that when truck racing comes to the United States, we got to be part of it. Right? Because  Minimizer with all of our products have lifetime guarantees on them and we tested, tortured mantra  that we had. And so it just happened to come about with champ. And then he just folded it up, took  merit towards money, our money, Continental's money made a lot of bad taste about truck racing. And  so, but that was road courses, road courses are great if you're European. Here in the states, we love our  circle track and the tighter the better. And so then I said, well, this is great content plus my sons were  racing at the time they enjoyed it. It was a great family thing. We didn't hunt and fish together, right. 

    This was something we could do together. And then it just, the following just took off. Here was  just the content generator and something to do on the weekends. And it full blown into we were  spending about $3 million a year in operating cost for Bandit. And so it just took off and other fleets  were getting involved and other like Mike Morgan, Mac Vader, he was just a simple diesel mechanic. I  apologize, not simple. But compared to the other teams that had haulers and multiple trucks and poor  Mike is throwing that thing on a flatbed, pulling it with a small toter, and he's bootstrapping the hell out  of it. And I couldn't ask for a better advocate for Bandit. And he did well. And as we grew it and grew it  we were talking to sponsors as you and others.

     

    And we had Bandag looking at it to come out as a tire sponsor. We were drilling retreads. I said,  I'll test them. I'll take the risk and a real quick, funny story. So we were testing down in Alabama before  a race and there was no outside walls. Okay. The only wall was a front straightaway. So a tire blew. I  wanted to make sure there was no wall. Right. Just give me fields if I got to go. And it was one of the  Bandag engineers. And so we put retreads on the front and we had them done up here. We hauled  them back with us down to the race. And the Bandag engineer goes, hey, Craig, back off, you're leaving  marks. And well really like, I mean like back off, like stop kind of back off. I just slow up a little bit. And I  came out of turn two and halfway down the front straight away the front right blew. Now I got to  remember we had Bandag and Bandag's parent company. Sorry. My mind just went blank. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I can't remember who it is either. 

    Well, the parent company. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    But yeah, the parent company, but anyway, right. And I went over the silk there were dead nuts  between turn three and four launched off like the Dukes of Hazard. 

    And when I dug in the truck is still going right. And I'm heading to the pit gate and I'm thinking,  God, this truck ain't stopping what the hell right. It was still in gear. So when I hit the dirt, shit didn't pop  out of gear. Nothing. I'm still rolling. Oh shit I killed the truck. I climb out of the truck and they come  running over the Bandag engineer and the other engineer and the Bandag guy looks down, just glanced  at the tire. And he goes, that's not our problem. And the other engineer, the parent company looks at it  and he goes, well, we're done, we're done testing. And he shut it down right there. Well, so they took  the tire back to, they took truck back to the pit took the tire off. The retreader. Well, not the rereader.  Yeah. The retreader, the Bandag retreader took a tire that had been run flat and had four patches in it. 

    Okay. You shouldn't have used that tire to begin with, right. Yep. And we had 25 more times to  test. And so they said we're done and because we got to take all these rims off. But anyway, so long  story short, we had interest and we're moving forward. And then all of a sudden we hit COVID. We had  one race during COVID. There wasn't a mask in the crowd. It's August of 2020. There wasn't a mask in  the pit and nobody died. But I did, we had to have a COVID protocol. We used the tracks and I told the  track owner. I said, dude, I said, if I started hearing helicopters and seeing black Suburbans, I'm getting  in my coach and this is your problem. Cause they're scaring the shit out of everybody in the world. 

    Don't go out and play in public. And so then we had a few races in 21 and then come down to  this year and I interview, we talked, we pooled all the teams and I said, guys, what do you want to do?  Mike Morgan is the only one that didn't have multiple haulers. We traveled 20, 25,000 miles a year.  Price of fuel. And these guys are small fleets. And they're going, you're going to raise the purse. No I  ain't raising the purse. And so we just put Bandit on ice until you know, it comes economically feasible to  race again. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    I mean, if I know anything about you, I'm sure we haven't seen the end of Bandit racing. So I look  forward to when does come back and then Stinar. A market you knew nothing about, I'm assuming  when you got into the ground support equipment market. So how has that been or did you know  something about that market before you bought a company?

     

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    No. We looked at buying Stinar, because we bought a company that's a mobile wash. You see it and it's  a little mail truck, had water tanks on it and a car wash brush and washed truck trailers. Washing the  trailers. You could wash the trailer in eight minutes, a little thing you drive around. They got the trailer  washes. You can go in, they use pressure washes or there's some standup units. But this was a pretty  cool thing that the guy had invented and he wanted to retire. We bought it from him, pick up on a  thousand bucks. So I thought it was a steal, but we couldn't do it at Minimizer. I had the engineers, but I  didn't have the facility. So that's why we were going to Stinar cause they understood hydraulics. 

    They understood wiring, they understood water, et cetera, et cetera. And to this day I still  haven't. That product is still sitting in the warehouse. I haven't got to it yet, but so that's why we are  acquiring Stinar for the knowledge. Not figure out support equipment or whatever. And then so like I  said in 19, me and Amy, my CFO, she was my controller at Minimizer came with me when I sold because  I needed somebody and she was the best choice. She wanted to work for a family company, not a  private equity. So she came with us and so the first three, four months at Stinar in 19 in one day we  closed it up. You're selling it, keep it, close it, keep it. And nobody's going to want to buy it. 

    And that's how it was. I always tell everybody Stinar was like, somebody stuck me in the middle  of the junkyard and gave me the old school toolbox, about this big with the rounded lid and said here  build a car and it's got to run. It wasn't a startup. I mean, I'm digging things out. I mean it was a 75 year  old company and 35 years ago, they were the number one ground support brand in the industry. And  the guy that bought it from the Stinar family just tanked it. And so now I got the pieces to the car laying  out in front of me. We're putting it back together. We just had to bring him into the 20th century. They  had LED you know, the LED lights were an option in 2019 LED lights were an option. 

    If somebody would not have took those, I would've been in every Napa store, truck parts store,  whatever, looking for incandescence in their box, underneath the counter. That was messed up. And  my, pretty much, my first week there, I was oblivious. My welding class in high school was I found the  best welder and I went behind the screen with him, went, all right, here you go. Get that weld done. I  didn't run a single welder. That was my welding experience and so hydraulics, I was in plastic, right. And  to this day, if somebody asked me to install a set of fenders after 30 years, God, please give me some  help. Because I don't think I could still do it to this day, but I could sell the shit out of it. Right. But  anyway, well we were up there. I was new to the thing and my personality's a little different. 

    These guys, the average length of employment at Stinar was 29 years. The average age at Stinar  was 61. The highest paid guy on the floor was $18 an hour. I'm looking at my guys, why the hell you  here? Why didn't you quit? Oh, oh, I like it here. My wife's got benefits because they didn't have  benefits. They had vacation, but no benefits. It's like why you still here? Ah, well then I found out why,  because nobody is holding them accountable. What's a better job than that. I go to work, get paid a few  bucks, and I don't have to really be accountable. And so I walked up to them. They were working on a  set of presidential stairs and they had a problem and I said, hey, what's up? Well, we got a thermal  expansion problem you probably wouldn't understand it. And I said, well I do only have nine months of  cooking school, so I don't know explain. 

    They made some changes and then shifted to Alaska to unlock valves. Well the presidential on  the presidential. So we build the stairs that the president gets on and off of Air Force one with. Well the  outrageous can only have 50 pounds of pressure in the event that somebody's foot's under it or  whatever. Right. And plus the pilots don't like it to go bam and bounce against their plane. And so the  lock valves, they took the truck out up in Alaska, used it on maintenance for something, brought it back  in 60 degree building. It was 40 below outside. Took it back out the next morning, the outriggers wouldn't come out. They'd locked. Now if they would've had the normal 300 pounds of pressure, they  would've came out. And so we got an issue and I said, oh, so the thermal expansion, huh? 

    Let me think about this. Would that be like if I heat up popcorn and it pops and would that be  considered thermal expansion? At that very moment, all the guys on the floor and to this day, the floor  that moved down to Blooming Prairie. When we moved the company, we're all still really good friends,  right? It's like business is business is business is just a different widget. Okay. And popcorn, thermally  expands when you heat it up. So, if you dumb it down for me, pretty good. I can keep up with you. And  so Stinar, it got to the point where we literally were working with a company in the heavy truck industry  that had a plant that was empty in Canada and they just finished a 10 year contract. They had the  people, they knew hydraulics, they had the engineering, blah, blah, blah. 

    They were going to move it to Canada. And that's when Minimizer, let me know that they  weren't going to renew the lease. I still own the buildings. They were going to move the company and  they weren't going to renew the lease. And so we were getting pretty close to being sold. And Amy and  I, she was in front of me. She lived in a small town too. We were coming back from Minneapolis and I  called her up and I got the email that they weren't going to renew you the lease. And I called her up. I  said, you know what, let's keep Stinar. 

    And I called her back 30 times in that hour drive and she wouldn't pick up. And the next morning  I found her at work and said, hey, no, we made a decision. It's gone. It's sold. It's out of here. And I said,  well, let's move it to Blooming Prairie because I'm going to have all these buildings and nothing to do  with them. Fuck it, let's give it a shot. And so here we are at 2020 right. So then that was in 19, we move  it down the end of 19 20, we roll into 20 and its different set of buildings that we're in now just to hold it  there and until Minimizer moved out. I'm talking to Delta, VP of ground support. They flew up at the end  of January and I was getting impatient because I had to fly out to HDAW in 2020 to go for, not for  Minimizer, but for something else. 

    And he goes, why'd you move it from Minneapolis down to here? And I said, well, dude, you  don't need to be in a big city to make things. And you get into rural America. It's easier. I know my  vendors down here and da, da, da. So end of January, Delta is telling me, okay, well we're going to  replace every single ground support equipment in the United States in the next five years from baggage  cars to stairs, to tugs, to everything. And I looked at him and I said, dude, there's no way that's physically  possible. Even if me and all my competitors solely work for you. And he goes, I know, but I have to tell  my boss something. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Sounds like a big company. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    And so yeah, totally big company. And hence I haven't heard from Delta since, because what happened in 2020, that shit just went away and thank God because it gave me time to clean Stinar up. 

    So it was a pandemic, but it helped us considerably bring them in the 20th century drawings and  shit like that. So would I do it again? Yeah. But the problem is the first time I did Minimizer, as we talked  about earlier in the show, now I had money in my pocket. Oh, we need a new saw. We need a new saw,  go buy a new one. I didn't bootstrap Stinar and I missed things. And so now I'm having to back up and go  back to the dirt again. And over the weekend I sent out a flurry of emails going, okay, people we're going  to get dirty on our marketing and how we're chasing our customer. And you'll see that coming out here,  hopefully in the next three months.

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I mean, that's the great thing about business is you always have these lessons that you've learned  and it's always that constant evolution changing the way you do things, finding new ways to get  business. I can tell you the same thing this weekend. I was like, you know what? I think I got a new idea  to go find more customers in a different way. And we've already been talking about it today. So it's that  constant evolution. I think it sounds like both of our brains are kind of always going 24/7 about how to  improve our business and do these things. And it sounds like you have a lot going on. So the book you  have out is this available to buy anywhere yet? Did I get an advanced copy or customers want to find it? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    No. I have copies, right. I mean, I don't know. I asked the guy, how do I get my book out? And he goes,  you of all people are asking me how to promote yourself. That's funny. And it's just I give it to my friends  and I sell it to naysayers or whatever. Right. I mean, basically just reach out LinkedIn or just come to  Stinars website and track me down. It should be in every airport, but I can't. So I've ordered, I got I'm  down to probably 200 left out of a thousand. God damn I'm giving away my fortune. But right now  there's a paper shortage. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    You know, there's a shortage of everything. Right. I can only imagine you're in the manufacturing side of  it now. I'm sure you're seeing that with a lot of things and everything. So you mentioned is Stinar,  Stinar.com S T I N A R.com. Is that the website? 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Yep. All right. Just check. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yep. And then LinkedIn, you're hanging out on LinkedIn all the time as well. I enjoy the content you're  posting on there. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    And self-promotion right. And I was, real quick because you get it. Not a lot of people get it. All right.  You have to self-promote and the book will tell you that, because nobody's going to do it for you. Every  ad agency in the world, all trust us. We'll get you. We're going to fuck that up so bad. Okay. You got to  do it yourself. Well, I was watching a documentary the other day on the history channel on Teddy  Roosevelt. In the very beginning before he was even president, every time he would do something, even  when he was with the rough writers, he had two journalists and a photographer tag along. Self promoting himself. Right. And I'm laughing. So that's not how they put it on the history channel, but  they said, oh he just documented all this stuff. That boy was self-promoting himself big time. Right. They  would send articles back to New York and they'd talk about Teddy Roosevelt right. And so it goes all the  way back to the beginning of time. Self-promotion but it's not arrogant. It's not self-centered but  nobody's going to do it for you. If you want to get your name out there, you got to do it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what I did in bootstrapping is like, I'm just going to put my story out here.  LinkedIn has been one of my best things I've ever done. Millions of views a year. It's all free. Helped definitely build my brand. It got me speaking engagements. It got me [inaudible 00:42:07] customers. It  got me more like its snowball effects. And it's, I think a lot of these people look at that stuff though, and  they try one thing and it doesn't work and they got to realize, no, no, this is not a one time thing. This is  like the next five years of your life building up this thing, trying to do that. And I see that with a lot of people, especially on social media today. So it definitely does work. Just takes some time to get there.  But Craig, I know we've been talking here a bit. I think I could talk to you for days at a time. We probably  do got to do another podcast one of these days about some of these other stories. And by the way, for  anyone that's listening, Craig's been nothing but helpful for me helping me. Cause I'm trying to  understand more of this ground support equipment industry. We do sell some of the customers Craig  was mentioning to. So I hit them up a couple weeks ago, month ago, and I'm like help me out, man. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Is that a hint to get the stuff you asked for? 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Hey. Trust me, we got a lot going on over here at Diesel Laptops, but we're definitely trying to figure  things out. I think like all of us, and I think it's an interesting thing. You have customers, our customers  are pretty much the same customers, so I'm sure there're some ways we can work together. And that's a  lot of why I do the podcast is to network with people, talk about things, learn their stories, all those  things. So it's all great stuff. 

    Craig Kruckeberg: 

    Like I stated in the book, Tyler, 5, 6, 7, 10 years ago, networking. What's networking. Right. Should I go  to join the Chamber of Commerce Joint Alliance? Now to me, networking is just go make friends, that's  it just go make friends. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yep. Well with that, Craig, I'm going to wrap this episode up a pleasure having you on here and learning  about the story of Minimizer, where Stinar's going hearing about Bandit. Tons of good stuff. If you want  to copy of Craig's book, it sounds like you got to hit them up personally on LinkedIn. So I would really recommend doing that. It's a good read. I think you'll learn a lot from it. There's a lot of good things,  good life lessons in that book. So with that, we're going to call it an episode. And as we end every  episode, it's not just diagnostics it's diagnostics done right. And that includes Diesel getting into the  ground support equipment business. We love what Craig's doing over there at the racing. So thank you  very much. Everyone watching, listening, like, subscribe, comment, we appreciate it all. We'll catch you on the next episode.

     

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    Ariel Ifill

    Ariel Ifill is an Internet Marketing Specialist for Diesel Laptops where diagnostics are done right. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina. Go Cocks! In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and cooking.

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