A legacy of hustle

How the Gales shaped their lasting impact on an industry

The two boys, no more than 5 and 8 at the time, learned about business early. How to work as partners. How to approach people. The value of everything. And, of course, how to hustle.

First it was on Miami Beach during visits to their grandmother in the late 1950s. Together, they worked the sand, collecting soda bottles they could return for 2- cent deposits. A larger nickel bottle was a home run. Some bottles were found; most were earned.

“You’re going to these people on their blankets, and they have empty bottles,” Ron Gale remembers. “So you just ask them, ‘Do you want us to take them?’ And let’s say you see a teenage guy who’s there with a girl on a blanket. Well, who’s going to say no to two little kids trying to make some money?”

The brothers Gale, Ron and Jan, might not have realized it at the time, but they were planting seeds under the South Florida sun that would grow into a series of businesses.

From hustling bottles on family trips, the budding entrepreneurs turned their attention to solving problems for neighbors in New Jersey – neighbors who would become their first loyal customers. The boys cut grass, raked leaves and shoveled snow.

“We did that together forever,” Jan Gale says, “and it was a fabulous experience for us. Just amazing.”

Before long, the boys would be in the middle of everything imaginable with the business their father and uncle ran. Their dad knew scrap metal inside and out and, among other things, taught the boys the value of items that could be sold or repurposed.

Sorting, grinding and burning was dirty, demanding work, Ron says, but “you learn the value of stuff, what something was worth.”

Fast-forward to 2024, and the Gale brothers are entering their 47th year applying those same principles of a circular economy as the founding partners of International Process Plants (IPP) and affiliated companies within The Gale Group.

Ross-and-Jan-Gale-as-Kids

Today, they’re still hustling and still solving customers’ problems, conquering challenges along the way – from knowing how to fix a broken lawnmower as boys to carefully navigating the global economy and knowing when to move in and out of various businesses before entering the used equipment market.

“Our early years together really built a fabulous foundation,” Jan says. “And when something’s built on a solid foundation, you can go as high as you can or need to.”

The fact that the brothers play off of each other’s strengths and passions also helps. As Ron says, “Jan was always much more operationally oriented than I was. And I was probably more into sales.”

Young-Ross-Gale

Ross Gale, IPP’s Vice President, calls it “a natural born curiosity” that makes his dad, Jan, and uncle so successful.

“We like to learn,” Ross Gale says of the family. “And we like to learn on the fly by talking to people, visiting plants. We always love to hear our customers explain their different processes, and then we can figure out how to correlate them with our other experiences.”

That desire to solve customers’ problems explains why The Gale Group has expanded over the years and found opportunities all over the world, from buying equipment in East Germany when the wall fell to now operating offices in 13 foreign countries.

Their newest company is Gale Process Solutions, the family’s first foray into selling new equipment.

GPS was born because of a shortage in certain used pieces of equipment. The Gales knew they could fulfill customer orders below competitor rates and ship faster. It’s something the family has been doing for generations.

“Nothing makes me more proud than when we are sitting in a meeting and someone asks, ‘What’s your background – a process engineer, a chemical engineer?’ No, I tell them, we learned from the street,” Ross says. “And we just do our best always to leave a customer happy. That’s what I learned from my father and my uncle.”

Jan is quick to add that the company also has been “extremely fortunate to have a very skilled group of people” working at The Gale Group, “people that know how to work together and make it happen.”

Some of those best employees, Jan points out, came aboard after the Gales acquired a plant and made a connection with a manager who was kept on to oversee the handoff to IPP. Given their experience in repurposing equipment, it’s hardly a surprise the Gales have made skilled personnel part of the circular economy, too.

The brothers also realize they’ve been fortunate to move in and out of businesses, walk away from certain deals and build one of the largest and most-trusted used process plants, systems and equipment dealers.

It’s a long way from hustling bottles on Miami Beach.

“I don’t know that you ever start out saying you know what this is going to be at the end of 40 or 50 years,” Ron says. “What’s the saying? ‘You ever want to hear God laugh? Just tell them about your plan.’ ”

The brothers are the ones laughing when asked about “a few of the bumps” along the way. During interviews, they might casually correct each other on minor details about a deal 30 years ago, but their mutual respect and love is hard to miss.

“There is an unquestionable trust between us,” Jan says. “There has never been a day in my life – ever! – that I didn’t know my brother was 100% behind me and had my back no matter what.”

Ron echoes the sentiment.

“We never had to worry if the other guy was taking more than his fair share. We never worried about anything like that. It was always, you know, how do we either get out of this jam or get into another deal?”

And if you know anything about the Gale family, that next deal is probably already in the works.

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