Something in the Air

Greenheck Fan is poised to disrupt its industry with innovative concepts geared toward the next generation of products and consumers in the HVAC industry, and general counsel Marco Espinoza is front and center

Marco Espinoza, General Counsel, Greenheck Fan Corporation

“When I think of my biggest influences, I think of my parents. They moved from Bolivia to the United States in the 1960s with some medical training and not much else. They didn’t have any family to lean on, so the move was a real leap of faith and act of courage driven by the ambition to give their children a better life. My mother was a child/adolescent psychiatrist, and my father was medical director of a shipyard and an ER doctor. They both set the bar high for me in terms of work ethic and taking pride in your efforts.

Getting an education was a non-negotiable in our family. Looking back, I can’t remember being motivated by anything stronger than the desire to excel at school. I was naturally curious about the world, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I studied at Oberlin College for my bachelor’s and at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for my master’s, intending to work at an NGO and do development work in Latin America. A class on documentary storytelling sent me on a different path, leading to a nearly three-year stint as a TV photojournalist. It was an exciting job, never knowing what would be the focus of your work on any given day, but photojournalism as a long-term career was not for me. So I decided to go to the University of Wisconsin Law School to figure out what that would be.

After graduating, I became a tribal prosecutor for the Menominee Indian Reservation, a position funded by the Violence Against Women Act. One whole county in Wisconsin is the reservation—and in that county, tribal law, not state law, applies for crimes below the felony level. The job was rewarding but dependent on grant funding. I wanted a position I could build into a career. So I joined Greenheck Fan, a leading manufacturer of commercial air movement and control equipment. The company, started in 1947 by the Greenheck brothers, Bob and Bernie, in a garage in Central Wisconsin remains headquartered in the heart of Wisconsin with facilities and offices in Minnesota, Tennessee, California, Kentucky, North Carolina, China, Mexico,  and Delhi, India.

I remember asking my mentor in law school what the secret was to being both a successful lawyer and happy. He said the factor that influenced this the most was who your clients are. I picked Greenheck as my client, and it has been a great fit. Greenheck has strong core values and makes a fantastic product—there is a winning spirit here, born of a culture that values entrepreneurial thinking, teamwork, and continuous improvement. I know how fortunate I am to work here.

Before I got hired, I did research on Greenheck and realized they didn’t have a true in-house legal department managing the day-to-day operations of a growing domestic and international business. I started out as the international credit manager, which involved contracts, letters of credit, and managing the global accounts receivable portfolio. A few years in, I took over the credit manager position, assuming responsibility for both domestic and international A/R, allowing me to work with every business unit, and I interacted with all of our manufacturer’s representatives.

It was a great foundation for my current position as general counsel, balancing acceptable levels of risk and terms of sale with the need to be flexible and “The Easiest Company to Do Business With.” One of the things I’m most proud of during my time at Greenheck is the way we came out of the Great Recession a much stronger company by rallying around each other and sticking to our core values. I’m also proud of bringing Foreign Corrupt Practice Act compliance into the company, personally conducting training in China, Dubai, and India. Most recently, I was a part of the team that negotiated a first-time union contract for one of our facilities.

“Greenheck has strong core values and makes a fantastic product—there is a winning spirit here, born of a culture that values entrepreneurial thinking, teamwork, and continuous improvement. I know how fortunate I am to work here.” 

Marco Espinoza

An exciting development underway is our first joint venture [working] with a company in Mexico. This will be a new distribution model, with customers going to a storefront rather than working with manufacturer’s representatives. I’ve met with our partner several times. They like that we can communicate in Spanish. When doing business in Latin America, relationships matter. I think that our joint venture partner trusts that I understand what’s important to them in this partnership—and it’s not just about the financial aspects. Latin America has been a great market for us because of our approach to forming mutually beneficial partnerships.

We just had our visitors from Mexico come to see our new Education and Innovation Centers in Wisconsin. To see their reaction to the investments we are making was eye-opening. We’re clearly doing something no one else is doing. Our Innovation Center offers state-of-the-art testing for all kinds of metrics, such as sound and moving air efficiently. We are able to design, manufacture, test, redesign, and value engineer our products to the highest standards.

At Greenheck, we’re always trying to be proactive and anticipate where the market will be. We don’t want to be the Blockbuster; we want to be the Netflix. Greenheck is going to disrupt this industry, take our products to the next level of efficiency, and deliver advancements in air movement. With that level of disruption, we’ll take on our competitors and then the world.”