Mile After Mile

Gene Damron, vice president/general manager of Page Brake Warehouse, is the 2006 Truck Parts Distributor Of The Year.

From time to time, Damron will be writing a column for Truck Parts & Service providing information or offering an opinion about what is happening in the heavy-duty aftermarket.

Mile after mile-at the Page Group we believe it’s more than our slogan. It’s what characterizes our organization and it represents the independent distributors’ entrepreneurial spirit within an ever-changing industry.

Despite a successful history, the inevitable question of the aftermarket’s future always lingers, particularly when the changes within our industry are coming faster than ever before.

The change driven by new technology and regulation can create challenges, but innovation and the ability to adapt to change may be among the greatest attributes of independent distributors.

In addition, we are in an era where “mega” seems to be the status quo. The consolidation of independents and dealers, along with the number of national chains synergized by their mere size, are benefiting at the expense of traditional independent distribution.

Store ownership contributes to success, yet “mega” may pose a threat to distribution as we have known it.

The economics of scale consume national fleet volumes, infringe on segmented service areas and set new efficiency benchmarks, while some independent distributors face loss of their core values and personnel shortages that obstruct future growth and their logistical ability to service expanding markets.

Further complicated with succession and financial restraints, some mature independent distributors consolidate as their exit strategy.

Industry transition causes us to reflect, particularly after closing our company’s 60th year of business, so I did the unavoidable and questioned select associates about what differentiated the Page Group from its competition and what had ensured our longevity and success.

Much of what we have to learn is not necessarily from the ideals of management, but from the principles that have been transferred successfully throughout the corporation.

I was relieved when I did not receive the traditional responses of quality products, competitive pricing and a superior workforce.

What I did receive was a common echoing of the following qualities.

The first was adaptability. Our ability to respond to outside influences efficiently is particularly important with new products, technology and competition as we strive to be a solutions provider for our customers. It represents the entrepreneurial spirit and the aftermarket’s ability to succeed.

The second was execution. This results from team members being prepared, equipped and empowered to make an impact. Everyone wants to believe that they can influence the success of their company.

Every action by every associate is either building or eroding the company’s advancement. Progress depends upon a common vision, customer growth incentives and the necessary equipment and technology.

Next was commitment. This is more than making weekly customer visits or being supplier aligned. It means being a facilitator and a recognizable partner to both the customer and supplier alike.

In addition to distribution and through a series of recurring positive performances, the best distributors have become the catalysts of product knowledge and industry initiatives, in part by their voluntary efforts within industry associations such as the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network.

The last is passion. This is possessed by a limited number of associates who assume the responsibility to make a difference. These individuals determine the well-being of the aftermarket, they seize the entrepreneurial spirit, absorb innovation and ensure the recurring ability to adapt and execute with enthusiasm.

I was encouraged by the responses and though they may not be all-inclusive principles of success, I believe they represent substance and differentiation.

As long as the individuals within our organizations find value and convey a distinction in character and services through their innovation and adaptability, the aftermarket will continue to succeed mile after mile.

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