Story and Photos By Alberta Stojkovic
January 21, 2014
Chris Gabrelcik isn’t afraid of hard work and he doesn’t like to take no for an answer. The hard work and persistence paid off over the past few years as Gabrelcik’s business, Lubrication Specialties, Inc. (LSI) has seen an explosion of growth in customers and production. The business, located at 255 Neal Ave. in the News Color Press building in Mount Gilead, specializes in hard to handle lubrication problems, especially for trucks and vehicles with diesel engines.
LSI’s “flagship product” is Hot Shot’s Secret, which was developed for International Truck and Engine to fix the problem of “stiction” for the Ford Powerstroke 6.0 liter engine.
“Stiction” (pronounced stick-shen) is the problem of the gummy, sticky residue of caked-on oil varnish that builds up inside diesel engine injectors over time. Experimenting and finding the products to eliminate stiction in order to make truck engines run like new have been the first keys to LSI’s success.
In 2013 LSI assembled 100,000 bottles of Hot Shot’s Secret Stiction Eliminator. They count about 18,000 customers and 300 to 400 distributors. The facility moved from Co. Rd. 109 to the larger building of the former News Color Press in Mount Gilead and they have recently signed on such big name distributors as Tractor Supply Company, Auto Zone, Rural King, and Travel Centers of America.
But for Gabrelcik, the story is not so much about the numbers or the dollars, but about the track of his business and family’s journey.
“Solving problems is who we are at our core,” Gabrelcik stated. For him, that is how change and improvement is effected – along with “just that spirit of not stopping.”
Early success working with Truck and Engine International for Ford Motor Company
The Youngstown native begins his story with his work as a regional manager for Primrose Oil Co. in the early 1990s. That is where he learned the lubrication business and had a chance to see what worked. He found that a lot of businesses liked the personalized service he gave as he travelled. He also saw a lot of little specialty areas that no one was serving. These smaller areas weren’t getting a lot of attention like the big companies were.
Gabrelcik saw that having the products on hand and being able to fill orders for some of the smaller companies would fill a need. He also realized he was missing a lot with his family and six children by being on the road so much. He decided to start his own business from his home on Co. Rd. 109 in 1997. His goal in the beginning was “just to support my family awhile.”
He soon expanded to sell lubricant products out of a building he built beside his home. He continued to learn the business as he travelled and technicians showed him what they had tried. A major breakthrough came when he worked on a solution for Truck and Engine International, which made the 6.0 liter Power Stroke engine for the Ford Motor Company. After some trial and error Gabrelcik developed Hot Shot’s Secret, a diesel oil additive, to solve their problem of “stiction.”
Hot Shot’s Secret Stiction Eliminator has come to be widely used to eliminate the stiction problem for trucks. He could see it means a lot to the truck driver whose livelihood depends on his truck. He noted that the product name comes from the “hot shot” truckers who carry loads last minute over the long haul straight through to their destination.
Gabrelcik and his employees continue to experiment and have added products such as Hot Shot’s Secret Diesel Extreme, Winter Anti-gel, and Blue Diamond.
“It’s not just selling numbers. It’s helping customers and saving dollars for them,” Gabrelcik says. “It means truckers can use this product and 90 % of the time, not have to replace a fuel injector.”
After selling Hot Shot’s Secret on the web for a while he went to Tractor Supply Company (TSC) to see if they would be a distributor. It took him three years to even get an interview with the TSC manager. The manager told him to get a new label and a marketing firm before he would consider selling the product.
At this point they had three employees and doubled the size of their warehouse space on Co. Rd. 109. A big stumbling block for the company in 2007 was their Internet service. The satellite network he was using shut down his service to the business since he had excessive use of the Internet at the end of each month to process orders. He would then go to local libraries to use their Internet service to conduct his business.
He spent countless hours trying to get Internet servers to help him and they all turned him down. He got the idea of building his own tower and starting as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) himself. He got 80 signatures from neighbors and was able to get the Cooperation of Consolidated Electric, which had recently developed the Enlite Fiber Optic Network. They connected him to Skywirez, a new ISP in the area that got on board and installed the electronics on the tower to bring unlimited Internet not only to Lubrication Specialties, but to the whole rural neighborhood.
A Strong supporter of the Community and Morrow County
His Operations Manager, Brenda Lesko was hired two years ago. She says that having unlimited, high-speed Internet brought much greater efficiency to their business. The tower went up in July 2013. Processing orders and using credit cards are no longer problems for the business. As a side effect the community also benefited from the tower he built with Skywirez to bring in Internet service.
Lesko came to LSI after a career of 30 years working for The Ohio State University. When she started at LSI there were four employees. They have hired two more employees every six months and presently have ten employees and anticipate hiring ten more over the next couple years. Lesko says that Gabrelcik is very committed to hiring workers from Morrow County.
In spite of the recent phenomenal growth spurt in the company, Lesko said there is a relaxed feeling about work. Employees feel loyalty to the business and want to get the job done. She says, “Chris wants customers to be satisfied. He gives them options. If we don’t have a product he believes they need, he recommends something else. He will look at the whole picture rather than push a product. He also has the knowledge to advise them.”
Lesko is referring to Gabrelcik’s certification as a Lubrication Specialist (LSC) and Oil Management Analysis (OMA). He is one of only 292 people internationally to hold both these titles.
Morrow County Development Director, Pat Davies has worked with Chris and appreciates his entrepreneurial spirit.
“He’s a positive individual who shares his energy and enthusiasm freely,” Davies said. “Do you know he has hired Whetstone clients to do the labeling for their bottles? He is very committed to hiring Morrow County workers. He finds a way to make things happen.”
Gabrelcik summed up his experience in the past few years saying, “There is a lot of good will and excitement when everyone is working for growth and improvement.”
There is a sense that his only fear is that the business may lose the personal touch if it grows too fast. He still wonders that he went from working out of a garage to a multi-million dollar business. “There is so much negative talk these days from the right and the left, but this is still the greatest country in the world,” Gabrelcik commented.
Visit their website at www.HotShotsSecret.com. Phone is 1-800-341-6516 and locally, 419-947-2647. Lubrication Specialties, 255 Neal Ave. Mount Gilead, OH 43338.