By Truck Parts & Service Staff
SIX ROBBLEES’ INC.
answers by Andy Robblee
WHY DID YOU START THE BUSINESS?
The business was founded in Tacoma, Wash., in 1913 by J.A. Robblee (eldest of 12 children). Along with two brothers, they performed a variety of jobs including sheet metal, locksmith and bicycle repair. When J.A. passed away in 1930, the business passed to the six brothers employed at the time and was renamed Six Robblees’. My grandfather was one of the six and expanded the company to three branches. My father, J. David, succeeded him and expanded the company to 20 branches… I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill!
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISION?
After spending many years under the mentorship of Tom Ogren and my father, I took on the role of president of the company this January only to see the market wreak havoc. Until now, I’d only been in the industry during good years – having to readjust our expenses during this leaner year has been difficult, especially when employees are involved.
WHAT WAS YOUR BEST BUSINESS DECISION?
I won’t claim any tremendous success. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants who have made great decisions to join HDA (Heavy Duty America), CVSN (Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network, formerly NWRA) and Ascot Supply Company. These programs keep us competitive, provide networking opportunities and support and are great resources for future opportunities.
WHAT WAS YOUR WORST BUSINESS DECISION?
Easy: getting bogged down with the details of a project and not taking a step back to look at the situation from the 30,000-foot viewpoint. Everybody has a function in a team; I can’t hog all the jobs. My father has a great ability to see forward, it’s something I’m hoping to better develop as I transition into my larger leadership role.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO KEEP A COMPETITIVE EDGE?
Allow our people to shine rather than get in a comfortable rut. When they have passion and energy for a project, we have a high probability for success. We need to be open to all ideas and viewpoints, not necessarily choosing them, but allowing them to be voiced and examined. I need to correlate their passion to the needs of our business so we can experience an enjoyable work environment as well as create a profitable enterprise.
WHAT IS YOUR FIVE-YEAR VISION?
We need to continue to execute our current strategy as well as invest in future opportunities, be that in an expanded geographical footprint, deeper market penetration or incremental product lines – probably a combination of all three. All that and a Seattle Mariners World Series ring would be nice.
WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY?
To continue to stay profitable enough to keep the government from stepping in and bailing us out. Between them and the lawyers, I don’t think I get to make too many decisions for our company; they’ve already made them for me.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING THE AFTERMARKET?
Government regulation. Free enterprise is under attack. From labor laws to health care to burdensome taxes (local, state and federal). If you think selling brake shoes is rough, try selling the government on a good idea. I think we are in for a period of confusing legislation – confusing from the stance of “why would we ever want to do it that way?”
HOW DO YOU SEE THAT CHALLENEGE BEING RESOLVED?
We need to be as informed as possible and then take action. I think niche opportunities will open up as consumers either don’t like the current choices or find there aren’t any choices. The challenge is to be quick and nimble to address those opportunities quickly. We need to hold our representatives accountable.
DURING YOUR TIME IN THE INDUSTRY, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGE?
The change I’ve noticed the most is the speed of business. We can connect with customers on the other side of the world, process an order, have parts shipped out that day and delivered to that customer either the next day or soon after. An amazing thought when you consider what our economy looked like just 100 years ago.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNG PERSON CONSIDERING A CAREER IN THE AFTERMARKET?
Be patient – good things come to those who wait… and work their tail off. Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” People who are steady, productive and operate as a team player get noticed. Growing up in a hotbed of technology (Microsoft land), I’ve seen the lure to jump for greener pastures. Other industries (i.e. software, medical, legal, etc.) might be enticing and have some great jobs and opportunities, but the automotive aftermarket has those same great jobs – they’re just under a layer of asbestos.
HOW DOES YOUR BUSINESS CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMUNITY?
Sometimes it seems that our biggest contribution is training employees for success at other employers. Actually, we desire to be solid corporate citizens who are looked at as models of success in the various communities we operate in. In addition, our leadership team is very involved in a variety of faith-based charitable causes.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISH YOU KNEW WHEN YOU FIRST GOT INTO THIS BUSINESS?
If I could go back, I would have liked to have shown much more appreciation to those around me in the business. I have been blessed with a tremendous management team and group of branch managers. I am realizing more each day just how important these people are. I owe a lot to Tom Ogren who successfully ran our company for the past eight years. I owe a lot to Richard Metcalf, our controller, who is able to be much more than just a numbers guy. I think my dad said it best when asked who ran the company when he was gone, “The same people who run it when I’m there.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU EVERY DAY?
I am God’s creation and in response, I desire to bring Him glory. Additionally, I am a competitive person. It doesn’t take a whole lot to get me going. I wake up in the morning excited to get into work and find efficiencies, investigate investment opportunities and make progress on the things that didn’t get completed the day before.