A Brand New Year
For the most part the truck parts after market did okay in 2011.
It is nice to see people upbeat for a change. Two years of some growth have a way of doing that. It seems like the stars have aligned to make things a bit easier for distributors and repair garages.
A steady recovery in the general economy, an aging truck fleet, the increased cost of new equipment and even some recent legislation have combined in a way that means distributors are selling more parts and repair garages are fixing more trucks.
We all are very pleased about that.
But now is not the time to coast.
I think it is time to move out of survival mode. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to maintain a steady course and keep doing the blocking and tackling that got you through the downturn, but you also need to start looking at ways to grow your business.
There is no silver bullet, as Dave McCleave, director of aftermarket/technical service for Hendrickson International, recently told me.
There is no one thing that will guarantee that your business will grow. However, there are areas you can explore to see if they fit with your company’s value proposition.
Now is not the time to coast.
A simple place to start is with your inventory. Are you carrying not only the parts your customers need but enough of them?
Some of you pared back your inventory during the downturn and were reluctant last year to bring the levels back up.
I am not telling you to go wild with adding inventory, but remember he who has the part on the shelf when the customer needs it, wins that customer. Not only for that sale, but potentially for future purchases as well.
You might even want to consider adding product lines you did not carry before so you can tie your current customers even more closely to your business.
If you have put off an investment in technology, I strongly urge you to rethink that strategy. Trucks are not going to get less complex and the first wave of vehicles with emissions-compliant engines are coming out of warranty.
If you want a chance at the parts and service business that comes along with them, you need to make sure you have the tools, equipment and a trained staff in place.
Several of the folks I spoke with for the cover story were adamant that distributors need to add service of some sort to their portfolio.
Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but one thing is certain it could not hurt distributors to align themselves with independent repair garages, as some of you are already doing through your marketing groups.
Business as usual may get you through 2012, but the bigger question is will it keep you in the game long term?
I am guessing it won’t because the one thing I know about the truck parts aftermarket is that doing what you’ve always done is a sure way to become extinct.
It’s a new year, so take a look at some new opportunities. I am positive you won’t regret it.