Industry Profile

Gary Fairchild, Yale Materials Handling – Green Bay

Thursday, 20 September 2007 ( #328 )
Gary Fairchild, 55, is the president and owner of one of Yale's leading forklift dealerships. The keen sportsman joined the forklift industry through a sporting partner 32 years ago. Fairchild says John Steinbach, with whom he played racquetball, taught him all about forklifts. "John's financial position was far greater than mine so I asked what he did for a living," Fairchild says. "He told me he sold forklifts for Clark Equipment in Chicago. My first response was: 'what is a forklift'?" Steinbach's help paid off because Fairchild was eventually hired by Clarklift in Chicago North. He was an aftermarket salesman for six months before moving to equipment sales for nine years. Through the years, he made many contacts, including current Alta Lift Trucks president, Steve Greenawalt. Greenawalt was a product manager for Clark's narrow aisle forklifts in the late 70s. "He and I made calls to less-than-happy NP300/500 users [then]. Through that, we gained a friendship and I (gained) a respect for how he worked with customers in a less-than-terrific situation." In 1985, Fairchild and Greenawalt became co-partners in Yale Materials Handling - Green Bay. By November, the Yale forklift dealership had eight workers and annual sales revenue of USD500,000. However, business at the dealership declined and Fairchild recalls the day in early 1987 when Greenawalt asked to speak to him. "Steve said things overall were not too good, to say the least. He wanted to file bankruptcy for Green Bay." With the tenacity of an athlete, Fairchild refused to give up on the business. He bought out Greenawalt's shares in the dealership and came up with a plan to save the company. And it worked. The company that covers the majority of Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula has won 11 Yale Dealer of Excellence awards, has over 170 workers and an annual sales revenue of USD44 million. Its headquarters are in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and there are branches in Stevens Point, Marinette and Chippewa Falls. Fairchild also started a separate dealership in Minnesota, Yale Materials Handling - Minnesota Inc, which has corporate managers from Green Bay leading it, one being Yale Minnesota's general manager, Joe Mayek. Fairchild uses a sporting analogy to describe the company's success, attributing it to "individuals contributing to a team". "The plan [to save the company] worked due to great people here focused on pleasing customers with products on a level with most everyone at the time. I can't say enough about the people I work with now and [have] worked with over the years." Fairchild says materials handling may not be everyone's cup of tea. "Certainly, people outside of material handling don't understand our business, but that is ok." He relaxes by spending time with his wife, Sherry, and children, Chad, Tara and Kelsey. Fairchild loves cycling, exercising and flies a single-engine Cirrus SR22 airplane.