John Untitled 1Take Yourself Seriously

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. – Vincent Van Gogh

When asked to do a guest column for Truck Parts & Service, I was advised to talk about what distributors want to hear.

One thing I have learned over these years is that our industry does not believe in itself.

The independent aftermarket always has had a paradox in which our greatest strength also is viewed as our greatest weakness. The entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and independence of my peers is used against them when compared to other distribution channels like the OES and large consolidating retail aftermarket players.

Some of our suppliers claim these larger partners bring greater value to the channel and therefore receive preferential pricing or support. We are told, “It’s all about the volume.”

The independent aftermarket reacted to this perception by forming buying groups to consolidate volume. Unfortunately, these buying groups are viewed by management and their members as competing with each other.

They are benchmarked against each other rather than focusing on ensuring the “volume” concern vendors had with the independent aftermarket is eliminated.

We need to believe in ourselves.

As a result, our channel now is given excuses like, “they have a central warehouse,” or “you can’t guarantee me the volume.”

In addition, some vendors subvert the buying group model through backdoor programs, direct sales, etc.

I don’t say shame on the vendors, I say shame on us.

The issue is that our industry does not believe in itself and therefore is not given the respect it deserves.

For years I have preached that there needs to be a single buying group with a commitment to the systems and infrastructure required to offset the supposed value proposition of the OES channel.

These structures are technology, true B2B EDI systems, PDCs, central billing, training and accreditations.

Then, instead of worrying all the time about why a competing channel has a better price, we can worry about taking care of our customers.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The value proposition an independent businessperson with the right infrastructure would bring, would justify the lowest acquisition price in the industry.

As my friend from St. Louis would say, “We are not being adequately compensated for the value we provide.”

This confidence and courage needed to fix the independent aftermarket needs to be applied to our own businesses. How many times have you heard, “you are just a small customer,” “you only have one location,” “you can’t service me on the other side of the country” or “you can’t deliver what the other guy can.”

Like many of our self-defeating thoughts, it whispers quietly in our ears and its toxin spreads insidiously. Before you know it, you’ll start to believe in the story and trust it to be true.

Our staff members who communicate with our customers need to be trained and believe in the unique value we provide.

Most of our customers are small businesses that have superior service to their larger competitors, just like us. We need to make them understand that fact.

Price is important, however, it is critical to ensure the independent aftermarket is winning the value argument with our customers and our vendors.

We need to believe in ourselves and take our businesses seriously.

I have to go paint now.

John Bzeta is president of Fleet Brake headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is the 2011 Truck Parts Distributor Of The Year.

The views expressed in the Guest Editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Truck Parts & Service magazine.

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