Listen to this year’s Truck Parts & Service’s Distributor of the Year nominees talk about their companies’ histories and the reasons behind their success and you’ll hear of numerous strategies, specializations and philosophies.
But you’ll also hear some fundamental rules and principles of doing business in the heavy-duty aftermarket stated over and over, albeit in slightly differing terms. Common threads include listening to customers, forming close partnerships with suppliers, staying on top of technology and industry trends and creating an environment of constant improvement.
These methods for dealing with the challenges that all independent truck parts and service providers face are tried and true. The Distributor of the Year finalists represent the aftermarket’s elite, and it is an honor to showcase their stories and words of wisdom in this issue (beginning on page 15).
Many of these businesses have been handed down through generations – no small feat given that nearly 70 percent of family-owned companies fail to reach the second generation and 90 percent don’t reach the third, according to consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP.
One finalist, Betts Truck Parts and Service, dates to 1868, when William Betts founded it as a spring manufacturer. The average company age of this year’s class of five finalists is 73. All have weathered downturns in the economy and, in recent years, have expanded at a time when consolidation is making competing as an independent, privately owned distributorship increasingly difficult.
Still, those leading these businesses have not relied on past success as an indicator of the future. In fact, consistently striving to better their businesses – through responding to customer needs, improving processes and systems and educating and re-educating themselves and their employees – is a common denominator linking them all, and is likely the key to their companies’ impressive track records. As Mike Betts puts it, “If you aren’t getting better you are getting worse – there is no option of standing still in today’s marketplace.”
To help the heavy-duty aftermarket in this endeavor, Randall-Reilly Publishing, the parent company of Truck Parts & Service, is allocating a portion of advertising revenue from this issue to Northwood University’s Heavy Duty Parts and Service Management Program, a two- or four-year degree-granting program. Home of University of the Aftermarket, Northwood is the only university that offers a bachelor’s degree in aftermarket management. It also provides three professional certifications and continuing education through seminars, online courses and in-house, customized workshops.
Mounting complexities in the aftermarket industry take years to master, and staying up to date requires constant training. The continued health of the aftermarket depends on programs like those at Northwood and on the passage of hard-earned knowledge from veterans such as our Distributor of the Year finalists to the next generation of aftermarket leaders. I hope your organization gleans ideas and inspiration from the examples this year’s nominees have set.