The Distributor of the Year award stands as the independent aftermarket’s most respected and highest honor. Top performing distributors are chosen by peers, manufacturer representatives and other industry leaders.
Five distributors are chosen and highlighted in the August to November issues of Truck Parts & Service. One finalist is then chosen and announced in January at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A lot of truck parts distributor companies can trace their origins back to humble beginnings.
Blaine Brothers might be the only one that can trace its start back to a single truck.
It was 1979 when the original ‘Blaine Brothers’ — Rick and Fred Dally — starting stocking and selling truck parts out of the bed of their 1969 Ford pickup. The entreprenuering duo was green in distribution but knew the area, and saw a need around Minnesota’s Twin Cities for a mobile distributor who understood the impact delivery speed made on customer satisfaction.
With their inventory on wheels the duo quickly earned a reputation, and soon added a building to support a burgeoning customer base and its product needs. The brick and mortar facility only further strengthened the brothers’ delivery capabilities, and customer satisfaction rates.
It is the latter that continues to drive the business nearly four decades later. Now led by second-generation owner Dean Dally, Blaine Brothers, Inc., features four separate business entities with nine locations across two states. It employs more than 250 people, and other than new and used on-highway truck sales, offers nearly every product and service required in the commercial trucking industry.
The diversified distributor also is now the 2016 Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year.
Blaine Brothers’ broad selection of services can be traced back to its founding. The Dally brothers rooted their business in providing quality service and building partnerships with their customers, and it is because of the latter that the former has grown.
Blaine Brothers refuses to let its customers down.
“We work on our customers’ schedules, not ours,” Dean Dally says. “When their trucks or trailers are down we do our darndest to address the situation quickly and get them back on the road. We know how important that is to them.”
That starts with the company’s three distribution facilities in Minneapolis, Scanlon and Clearwater, Minn. Together the facilities offer a complete offering of medium- and heavy duty truck parts, as well as drive in, bench, mobile and on-site service, customized fleet maintenance, a 24/7 towing and recovery unit and a sales and rental division for spotter trucks used at shipping hubs and terminals.
The locations also are supported by Blaine Brothers TRUCKALINE, a service business specializing in full service alignments, frame and suspension service. Together the quartet makes up what Dally believes is the strongest parts and service operation in the region, and a business that truckers and carriers can rely on regardless of their specific need.
“We want customers to be able to come to us for anything, at any time,” he says.
But as impressive as its line card is, Blaine Brothers’ biggest asset isn’t what the company can do, it’s the people who do it.
Dally says Blaine Brothers’ staff is engaged and invested in both the success of their employer and their customers; and it is that commitment that has allowed the company to evolve from a one-truck operation into the multifaceted service provider it is today.
Dally heaps a lot of praise on his management team for developing such a dedicated group.
“I couldn’t do a speck of this by myself,” he says.
Among the efforts he attributes to his leadership team are regularly scheduled supplier-led product and service training sessions, team-building programs, supporting employee empowerment in daily operations and an open-door policy that encourages employees to offer proposals and suggestions to improve the business.
Each action not only strengthens the relationships between Blaine Brothers and its employees, but also between its employees and its customers. Blaine Brothers wants to be its customers’ partner, and Dally says his employees make that goal a reality.
In fact, the company’s hiring practices are built around that concept. Blaine Brothers hires for attitude, aptitude and integrity.
“That’s what you have to have to build relationships [with customers],” Dally says. “When a customer comes to us with a problem, I want our guys to give them an honest answer for how to fix it. Good or bad, at least then they can deal with it.”
He adds, “I never want to be told that’s not the way we do business.”
It has recently become clear customers appreciate the straightforward approach.
Blaine Brothers has received three straight nominations for the Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year, and this year set a record in customer-submitted nominations for the annual award.
“Blaine Brothers always has the parts we need at the right price,” says one customer. “They are simply the best at what they do in the area. They are always our first call.”
Adds another: “We can count on Blaine Brothers for excellent service and parts availability to keep our fleet safely on the road and minimize down time. The staff at Blaine Brothers is knowledgeable, friendly and shares our concerns for safety. We consider Blaine Brothers an integral partner in our daily operations.”
The company’s aggressive growth and evolution strategy undoubtedly helps it maintain such strong partnerships. There is almost nothing Blaine Brothers cannot or will not do to serve a customer.
Many steps in the business’s diversification can be traced back to a customer request or a service Blaine Brothers determined to be lacking in its market area.
“We are always talking about different opportunities and things we can do,” Dally says.
Recently, those opportunities have been found both in-house and through acquisition. In late 2013 Blaine Brothers purchased both TRUCKALINE and Hydraulic Specialty — a distributor and service provider of hydraulic components and repair in Fridley, Minn.
Blaine Brothers’ fourth business, North American Trailer, also more than doubled the footprint of one of its locations with a new state-of-the-art building in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., that opened earlier this month. The trailer operation also has locations in Scanlon, Minn., and Stanley, N.D., and is an authorized dealer for Fontaine, Fontaine Specialized, MAC, MAC LLT, Country Side LP tanks and Vanguard trailers.
Internal changes in recent years include updated processes for inventory optimization, expanded supplier-supported training courses, a full-scale update of its phone, website and computer systems, the introduction of its fleet management product and — thanks to previous HDAW presentations — the redesign of its parts showrooms.
Nearly every improvement has been owned and implemented by a team member.
Parts Manager Phil Howard, who led the inventory and showroom updates, says he and his colleagues are driven to give customers new products and give Blaine Brothers the best opportunity to earn new business. Whether it’s parts or service, towing or trailer sales, any change that helps Blaine Brothers’ customers ultimately helps its employees as well.
“At the end of the day we’re all a big team,” Howard says.
And Dally says he couldn’t be more appreciative. It is that commitment that has allowed Blaine Brothers to leave that old Ford truck behind and truly thrive.
“Our guys are willing to take the bull by the horns and I love that. I love seeing things happening; bringing more value to the table,” he says