Whatcha Gonna Do?
While business is not moving along at blazing speed, the state of the aftermarket at the mid-point of the year is pretty good.
It is nice to sit here at mid-year reminding ourselves that we survived some very tough times. Don Reimondo, CEO of HDA Truck Pride, says, we’ve accomplished that by doing things that are necessary for real growth, if only the economy would cooperate.
But I think there are things aftermarket companies need to do try to insulate themselves from the vagaries of the economy.
This can be as simple as watching inventory closely, being careful about adding staff and monitoring expenses.
There are opportunities on the horizon that you need to start paying attention to now.
For example, have your counterpeople and technicians been trained to understand new emissions compliant engines? Vehicles with those engines are coming off warranty and will be showing up at your facilities soon.
If your folks are not trained, you run the risk of not only not getting the engine business but losing other business.
How are you going to protect yourselves from the economic ups and downs?
Fleets and owner-operators are looking to simplify things and are seeking a single source that can provide all their maintenance and repair needs.
Natural gas powered vehicles, which I have written about before, are another thing to consider. I heard from a lot of you after that column appeared in April. Some of you asked for more information, which I am happy to report I will be providing later this year.
But others were insistent that natural gas was a passing fad.
But natural gas is about more than lower operating costs. It is also about lowering our dependence on foreign oil.
It is part of the whole green movement that is seeping into business.
Andrew Winston, founder of Winston Eco-Strategies, speaking at an event at the Meritor remanufacturing facility in Plainfield, Ind., explained that sustainability is a business driver. “The logic for green is overwhelming,” he said. “It is about profitability and business strength.”
If you have not embraced the idea of green, you are a step behind. There are things you can be doing in your facilities today to cut down on your energy consumption and save money.
Another way to insulate your business from the ups and downs of the economy is to look at venturing into ancillary product lines or adjacent markets. Have you considered carrying products for pickup trucks or other light vehicles?
Bill Wade of Wade & Partners sees this as a potential growth area since many of your existing customers own pickup trucks in addition to their Class 6 to 8 vehicles. Think one-stop shop again.
And at the risk of offending some distributors, I am going to suggest, as have many others in the industry, that you at least consider the possibility of adding some sort of service component to your offering.
The proliferation of ways to purchase parts including online and from non-traditional sources like AutoZone, is going to put increased pressure on parts margins and parts-only operations may feel the squeeze.
I am not suggesting that you dive into drive-in service today, but don’t immediately dismiss the idea either.
We’d all be happy if the economy picked up speed and business boomed again. But I don’t think you can afford to sit around and wait for that.
You need to start doing things today that will make your business prosper regardless of economic conditions. So whatcha gonna do?