Independent Business Association of Wisconsin and Reliable Water Services: Gross Automation wins top award in Wisconsin Business Challenge

For More Information, Contact:

Christel Henke, 414-332-2933

[email protected]


July 18, 2011–Gross Automation, an electrical and electro-mechanical automation controls distributor in Brookfield is the $2,500 grand prize winner of the “How I Got My Business Out Of Hot Water” Challenge co-sponsored by the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW) and Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners.  SHOP, a clothing boutique from Shorewood was awarded a second prize of $500 cash and La Luna Foods, a specialty frozen food company located in Oak Creek won a third prize of $350 cash.

     Wisconsin businesses were invited to submit a short essay to share their compelling stories about how they got out of a ‘hot water’ situation and made their business even stronger.  Winners were announced at an awards breakfast meeting on Friday, July 15 sponsored by IBAW at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee.


Gross Automation (R.J. Gross and Associates, Inc. –Brookfield/Wauwatosa) – A major customer unable to pay their bill mixed with growing expenses and difficulty accessing a credit line put 20-year-old Gross Automation into deep hot water.  But an innovative move to purchase one part of the customer’s business allowed the company to swap uncollectable debt into the purchase price and add a business group that fit with their long-term vision.  The new acquisition helped the company grow with nine consecutive months of profitability and a more motivated team.


SHOP (Shorewood) – Three weeks into a long-term street construction project sales dropped 45% for this small clothing boutique which depends on walk-in traffic.  Major parking issues compelled the mother and daughter business partners to implement a creative online marketing strategy including a regular newsletter featuring photos of new fashion arrivals as well as special discounts, in-store events and trend blog. The team soon expanded these offerings to Facebook resulting in over 4,500 fans who have ‘liked’ the SHOP page.  Within four months customer loyalty increased significantly along with sales which were 69% higher in Sept. 2010 than Sept 2009.


Gross Automation Wins Wisconsin Biz Challenge, Page 2


La Luna (Oak Creek) – Armed with a family recipe and no connections in the highly competitive frozen food industry, a young married couple found themselves in hot water just trying to find a cost-effective professional grade kitchen space to start production.  All the potential facilities were too expensive or too far away and their manufacturing dream seemed impossible. Then the owners became creative and teamed with the private school they had graduated from which agreed to rent them facilities at a low fee. This enabled the business to begin production of their product and quickly move to the next level of expansion with specialty processors, distributors and retailers.

About Reliable Water Services

Reliable Water Services provides water heaters, boilers and water softeners to Wisconsin apartment building owners, restaurants and commercial enterprises where a steady supply of hot water is essential to business operations. The company currently has 3,500 customers in seven states and offices in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. More information is available at


About Independent Business Association of Wisconsin

Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW) has been a leading voice for small and independent business on both state and federal issues. A member-driven, state-wide, non-profit association, IBAW represents the many small business owners who employ thousands of Wisconsin workers.