Our heritage harkens back to the post Depression Days of the mid-1930s. My grandfather, John D. Gould emerged from the depression with four things: his beloved wife; his cherished son, John D. Gould, Jr.; his home; and his Canadian island. He also came out of the Depression with a fascination for manufacturing – not the Stock Market which he played heavily during the Roaring Twenties. His first “dabble” into manufacturing was an attempt at applying the process of anodizing aluminum to industrial applications. It took less than a year for him to figure out that that was a bad idea. However, during this venture he was exposed to something called a solenoid valve which was used in the quenching stage of anodizing. The entrepeneur in him visualized broad uses for these electrically operated valves. My grandfather contacted an inventive fellow he knew named Bat Hauisien and said that he would like to develop a variation on the common solenoid valve and start making them. My grandfather also knew he would need some financial backing to get started, so he met with his neighbor, Elias C. Atkins to discuss his venture idea. Mr. Atkins’ company manufactured saws. Mr. Atkins offered to finance the initial inventory to produce solenoid valves and rent out part of the Atkins Saw Company plant to my grandfather for valve production. In exchange, Mr. Atkins would be a 51% owner to my grandfather’s 49%. Thus, Atkomatic Valve company was founded in 1936 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Atkomatic Valves were primarily designed for commercial and industrial applications involving hydraulics. The valves would handle up to 3,000 psi.
1936 - 1948
From 1936 through 1948, my grandfather was President of Atkomatic Valve Company. In 1949, Mr. Atkins was approached by Mr. Edward J. Bennett. Mr. Bennett made Mr. Atkins an offer for Atkomatic Valve Company which Mr. Atkins could not refuse. Then, Mr. Bennett approached my grandfather and said that he would like my grandfather and father to continue with Atkomatic Valve Company under the new ownership. However, instead of making 50% of the gross, my grandfather would now get 50% of the NET. Well, my father, John D. Gould, Jr., had only been at Atkomatic for two years and had a brand new baby in the house – ME. My grandfather thought long and hard about Mr. Bennett’s offer (maybe 5 minutes) and told him to Go To Hell. Mr. Bennett reminded my grandfather of the 2-Year Non-Compete clause in his contract and the two gentlemen parted ways.
In May of 1951 the partnership between father and son was founded as J. D. Gould Company. Their first hire was the Chief Engineer, an inventive Pearl Harbor survivor named Bill Russell. Bill had been working as a draftsman at Hoffman Steam Specialty in Indianapolis. Bill’s brother and brother-in-law were the next two hires. Now J. D. Gould Company was ready for production. Prototype in hand, my grandparents drove to Rochester, NY. While at Atkomatic, my grandfather remembered having his hat handed to him by one of the meanest, most critical customers he had ever known. The guy told him, “Get that junk out of my office and don’t come back until you really have something to show me.” Well he thought he “really had something to show him.” However, he knew he was going to see one of the meanest SOB’s he had ever met with basically an unproven commodity. He told my grandmother, “Wait here, this will only take a couple of minutes before he throws me out on my keester!” Two hours later, my grandfather emerged with a $10,000 order. Production could now begin in earnest.
1950s and 1960s
The 1950′s and 1960′s brought the many trials and tribulations of a start up. Incidentally, J. D. Gould Company joined the Fluid Controls Institute in 1963. One thing that had held true at both Atkomatic and J. D. Gould Company was the fact that there are broad uses for solenoid valves. The valves could be used on air filtration systems, gasoline dispensing pumps, automotive assembly line lifts, on safety spray down systems in mines, commerical dishwashers and laundry equipment, just to name a few. I’m sure everyone here has seen a solenoid valve in operation, probably in conjunction with your products and hopefully its a Gould Solenoid Valve. The next extremely significant year in our company’s history was 1971. I joined the business on June 14th of that year after a week’s vacation from college. As much as my grandfather wanted me in the business, my father DID NOT. According to my father (who graduated from Princeton with a History degree), “what was an English Major from Wabash College going to contribute to his company?” I could see the potential for friction and I proposed that, “if after six months, either I don’t like working in the company, or one or more people in the company don’t think I fit, then I would resign.” That was almost forty years ago.
During the 1970′s we made two important decisions: we incorporated in 1976; and shortly after incorporating, we did away with exclusive territories much to the chagrin of the the manufacturers’ representatives who were mostly sitting on their butts and collecting commission. I demonstrated to top management that our valves were used in three distinct segments of our industry: plumbing, process and instrumentation. Let’s say a manufacturer’s rep calls on customers who want to monitor their processes. The rep wants to build a panel for monitoring and he wants to sell all of the components used in the process, too. Obviously, that rep’s concentration is on the process industry and he is not calling on 2/3 of our market.
The early ’80s brought our first 2 loss years. Our marketing emphasis was now through a nationwide distributor network and some OEMs. Our main thrust in the late ’80s was production automation. We needed more control and flexibility in our machine shop. In the past, the foundries for our bronze and stainless steel parts were machined at the foundry. This was always a huge bottleneck. Typically, lead times for castings were 16-18 weeks. By machining the castings in-house we could cut that time almost in half. This situation was exacerbated by having a shipment from Grand Haven Foundry come in with pipe threads 5 degrees off. In 1988, we got our first CNC machine, an Okuma Vertical Machining Center. We designed a trunion and hooked up an indexer and then hooked a stronger indexer and then hooked up the right indexer and began machining all of our castings in-house. Unfortunately, a four-year span from 1987 to 1991 saw the demise of our founders. My grandfather’s last day at work was his 90th birthday on July 11, 1984 and he died on January 17, 1987. In August of 1989, my father was diagnosed with cancer and fought the good fight until March 31, 1991. He was only 68. I took over as President on October 1, 1989.
During the 1990s, my emphasis was on sales. Believe it or not, an outside sales manager was hired for the first time. We encouaged distributors to keep an ample stock of valves and to have a well-educated sales force on the many uses of solenoid valves. My wife, Susie, helped implement a factory school for training sales people. Also, at the end of the 90′s we got our first ISO 9001 certification. Part of the ISO process was developing our Quality Policy which is: J. D. Gould Company, Inc. is committed to continuous improvement, producing quality products by a capable workforce using proven vendors to satisfy our customers’ needs.
And now to the current decade. Like many companies, we have significantly reduced the size of our workforce. What with “Just-In-Time” inventory controls and overnight delivery service being commonplace, there has been a gradual deemphasis of stocking valves, servicing valves in the field and general “cold-calling” on users (no one has time to see you). These were normal distributor activities which have gone by the wayside with greater use of the internet and the number of “ordertaking” jobbers which seemed to have sprouted from the roll-ups of the 90′s (Fergusons, Hughes, Motion Industries, etc.). To counter all of that, we have increased our prescence on the internet and we are granting minimal resale discounts to “order takers” masquerading as distributors. Throughout our existence, we have had such venerable competitors as ASCO Valve, Skinner Valve (now Parker-Hannifin), Burkert, Magnatrol, etc. How do we stay competitive with them? The short answer is flexibility. In the time it takes them to form a committee, we’ve got the problem solved. To maintain our competitve advantage, we better: 1. Sell a Quality Product and make sure it can be shipped 2. Have Super Order Turns – Currently averages a day and a half 3. Create Niches – How many companies make a 2″ 316 Stainless Steel SV? What does the future hold for J. D. Gould Company? As a small business, the company can react quickly to change. We have weathered the 2007-2009 storm and have our heads above water. Gould Solenoid Valves are rugged, dependable and durable. This is not an accident. Our products reflect our business. Every successful business has a foundation of intangibles. The backbone of our business is that you cannot teach people, inherit from family or expect: 1. LOYALTY 2. PASSION 3. INVENTIVENESS My company is here today because there are some of these traits in each of our employees, customers, suppliers, and, yes indeed, even our competitors.