Continental Girbau at 20 – Vision & Teamwork
Upbeat music pulsed as Continental Girbau Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish laundry equipment manufacturer, Girbau Group, launched its 20th anniversary celebration on Sept. 23 in a hangar filled with vintage aircraft from World War II and other eras in the history of flight.
The AirVenture Museum of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, WI, provided a heroic backdrop for the program, which drew nearly 150 people including staff, guests, customers, vendors and a global network of distributors who help sell the company’s products across the U.S. and in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Today’s Continental Girbau’s U.S. sales operation has grown into the company’s largest single-country market, according to Mercè Girbau, president and co-CEO of the third-generation family company. She journeyed from the company’s base in Vic, Spain (near Barcelona) along with several headquarters executives, to join in the festivities. Others in the audience included leaders from the U.S. operation, such as President Mike Floyd. He kicked off the presentation with a description of the U.S. division’s humble beginnings. “It’s a significant occasion because you know 20 years ago we were a startup company,” said Floyd, who welcomed local dignitaries, including Oshkosh Mayor Steve Cummings. “Many startup companies don’t make it two years, much less 20.”
Floyd credited the teamwork, skills and determination of his veteran staff with turning the company’s vision of success in the U.S. market to a reality. “Let me tell you something: The reason we’ve made it 20 years is not anything that I’ve done personally,” Floyd said. “It’s what my staff has done, what our organization has done, what the Girbau Group has done to support us. It’s a team effort. You’re going to be surprised how long our team has hung together. We have many people this evening that have been with me, or us, for 20 years. They were there on Day 1.”
Of the six employees who staffed the company in the beginning, five are still working there and the sixth has retired, Floyd said. The company now employs more than 40 people. At the beginning, Continental Girbau was located in a small space in a modest neighborhood – a far cry from the 90,000-square-foot office, parts and equipment-demonstration complex it now occupies at 2500 State Road 44.
In an interview prior to the program, Mercè Girbau seconded Floyd’s assessment of his staff’s focus on teamwork and service to grow the company. “We recognize the great job that Mike and his team have done in North America because we started from zero 20 years ago, and now we have a big company with more than 40 full- and part-time employees,” she said. “This is our main subsidiary, our main company, apart from the headquarters. In fact, the states is our best market.”
Girbau, who shares executive duties with her cousin Peter Girbau, added that helping customers solve operational problems has fueled growth. “It is not only selling machines; they have developed many solutions,” said Girbau, whose company produces equipment ranging from coin-op washers and dryers to a full line of small-to-midsize washer/extractors and dryers, ironers, feeders and folders, plus tunnels up to 12, 110 lb. modules. “They are selling concepts. And these give much more value to the customer. This is very important for us.”
Customers and guests were invited to see these machines during a company Open House and Facility Tours session earlier that day at the headquarters, which is located about a quarter of a mile from the museum where the celebration was held. Several dozen guests mingled and enjoyed punch and hors d’oeauvres in between tours of the site, which includes a large storage facility for machinery that’s ready to ship when orders arrive.
In addition to its headquarters, other examples of Continental Girbau’s growth and diversification in recent years includes the establishment of:
Continental Girbau West LLC. This facility was launched in 2008 as a West Coast regional distributor of company products. Based in Los Angeles, the office’s main focus is on helping California customers with coin-op, on-premise and industrial laundry design, planning, equipment selection, installation, training, spare parts and more. The facility’s revenue has quadrupled since it opened five years ago.
Sports Laundry Systems. Founded in 2012, this program provides laundry equipment for use in athletic facilities. Sports laundry systems are specifically designed to disinfect and clean items such as uniforms, warm-up clothing, practice gear and more for professional, collegiate and high school athletic systems.
Girbau Industrial. Launched in 2009, the group focuses on providing a full range of wash aisle and finishing equipment to industrial laundries. A partnership forged earlier this year with Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc. helps the company provide a full complement of equipment, including large tunnel washers for healthcare or hospitality laundries.
Mercè Girbau said this approach reflects the company’s focus on helping customers at various stages of development. “Our slogan says, ‘Growing Together’ and we have the possibility to start with somebody who starts a laundry. As they are growing we can continue growing with them, offering new products, new solutions for various capacities. We like to be loyal to our customers and to build a long-term relationship.”