Joel Gruber: Choosing a Focus
By James Florence, Senior Writer
SAN JOSE — After years of splitting his livelihood between two seasonal jobs, Joel Gruber came to a point where he had to choose between a paintbrush and a snowboard. “Over a six-year period following high school, I worked two jobs,” he explains. “During the summer, I was a painter, and during the winter, I was a ski lift operator up at Squaw Valley. It was an awesome time. Eventually, however, I realized I needed to choose a focus. Ultimately, I chose to go with painting. Since I had a lot of experience, I decided my best move would be to start my own business. When I started in 2009, I was basically a one-man operation; today, we have six crews going, so it has grown quite a bit over the years.”
Today, as owner of Gruber Painting, Joel says his favorite part of his job is hearing from happy customers. “As a painter, customer satisfaction has always been my main priority. Since I don’t do much of the actual painting anymore, I’m very focused on hiring the right people and training them to my standards. I love it when I get a call from a customer who tells me, ‘Everything is beautiful and you guys were so nice to work with!’”
A resident of Mountain View, Joel spends most of his time outside of work with his wife, Devan, and their two daughters. “My girls are still young, so my life pretty much revolves around them at the moment. Occasionally, I’ll fit in a round of golf, but for the most part it’s just family life. That’s what I look forward to at the end of the workday.”
When asked about a professional philosophy, Joel emphasizes the importance of employee care. “It goes without saying that you have to take care of your customers, but it’s also crucial to take care of your employees,” he says. “As a business grows, it becomes more challenging to maintain the quality of service. For us, the key has been to focus on our employees, because I know that if we take care of them, they’ll take care of our customers. That’s why we put things in place like health care and 401(k) benefits—they help us attract people who are serious about their careers as painters. Our clients are always happy with the quality of our work and the way our crew members treat them, so it has definitely paid off.”
When asked what his life might look like after his eventual retirement, Joel says he’ll head back to the slopes. “I always enjoyed being a ski lift operator, so when I retire someday, I’ll probably go back to doing that. That’s my retirement plan: live in the mountains, work a minimum wage job and just have fun.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Amarin Thai Cuisine in Mountain View.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Snowboarding at Squaw Valley. During the six years I was there, I definitely did some crazy stuff. Busted my knee, smashed my face up…I broke myself a lot up there.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Relax on the couch and play video games with my daughter.
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