Generations of business
More family members buy portion of Steiner Electric

By AMANDA VOSS - Daily News

Jan. 14, 2015


 (From Left) Rick and Gayle Steiner stand with their son, Robb, and daughter-in-law, Chrissy, near some of the equipment and pipes in the back of Steiner Electric on Friday afternoon in West Bend. 
Photos by John Ehlke

WEST BEND - Robb Steiner and his wife, Chrissy, bought 49 percent of Steiner Electric Inc. in January from Robb’s parents, Rick and Gayle Steiner, making them the third generation of the family to own Steiner Electric Inc., 2323 Sylvan Way, West Bend.

■ In 1962, Robert Steiner, Rick’s father, bought Burckhardt Electric and changed the name to Steiner Electric.

■ In 1973, Rick joined the company.

■ In 1984, Rick and Gayle became business partners with Robert.

“When I was in college to try the business and see if I liked working with my hands and working outside, I always had intentions of buying the business,” Robb said. “When you’re 19 or 20 you don’t know what that means and what that looks like. It takes some time, energy and effort to figure out what is best to do with your life.”

■ In 1995, Rick and Gayle, bought Robert’s portion of the business.

■ In 2000, Robb joined the company and on Jan. 2 Robb and Chrissy bought in.

Chrissy knew going into her marriage that Robb would eventually own the business that specializes in commercial and industrial electrical contracting.

 One of the Steiner Electric trucks near a loading area in the back of the building seen on
Friday afternoon in West Bend. 

Photos by John Ehlke

“I’m a supportive wife,” Chrissy said. “And I put the faith and trust in they’re exceptional at what they do.”

Rick and Gayle are taking their next step.

“We were looking into retirement and what the timing will be,” Rick said. “That’s what started the actual process of the succession planning.”

“At this point and time it’s kind of a five-year plan where Robb and Chrissy have 49 percent of the company with the idea in 2020 they would buy the other 51 percent,” he said.

Robb said that doesn’t mean Rick and Gayle were going to sell part of the business to Chrissy and him.

“There’s a lot of employees and careers at stake and they have to make sure Chrissy and I manage it properly and continue on,” Robb said.

Were Robb and Chrissy nervous?

“Absolutely,” Robb said. “There’s a lot at stake. There’s a lot at risk for my personal family, for them (Gayle and Rick) and we always have our employees in mind. We want them to have long sustainable careers and that means Chrissy and I have to mimic the success of Rick and Gayle.”

 The exterior of Steiner Electric in West Bend.  
Photos by John Ehlke

Rick said he’s proud this is happening. Robb is a fourth-generation electrician and third-generation owner of the company with 26 employees working on electrical maintenance, electrical repairs and energy management, among some areas.

“The Steiner name will continue in the community because it’s been here one name or another for some 70 years,” Rick said. “It was just the pride and the planning to minimize the risks. That’s why it’s a staggered purchase.” It’s wonderful, Gayle said.

“We’re blessed living in a town with all our nine grandkids,” she said.

There will be stability for Steiner employees, Robb said.

“They’ve seen Rick and I work together for many years now,” he said. “They know that going into the future that this is a stable place to work.”

Robb said it’s not exactly business as usual, but they are not changing their philosophy.

“We’re going to work hard on a daily basis to make sure our employees have a great place to work and pick up more electrical work in Southeast Wisconsin,” Robb said. “Whether it’s working with general contractors or with commercial industrial locations in the area.”