Tom Stewart Untitled 1By Tom Stewart

Carolina Rim & Wheel



The dictionary defines “predictability” as the degree to which a correct prediction or forecast can be made.

As we enter the second half of 2012, questions regarding this industry persist. How does the aftermarket look? How can we make accurate predictions going forward? And how can we use these predictions in both the near- and long-term?

Each evening we tune into the news to see the weather forecast for the upcoming day.

Sometimes the “experts” are dead-on accurate, sometimes they miss the mark altogether. The point is things always come up that are unexpected.

The heavy-duty aftermarket, like the weather, has seen highs, lows and everything in between. At HDAW this past January, there was growing optimism that the economy was slowly moving forward; and I largely believe this is still true.

However, slow seems to be the operative term, as we wait patiently for that recovery pace to quicken.

In a simple world we all know what it takes to run our businesses when the economy slows.

We do what we do best — get out and sell, increase our efforts to gain market share and watch expenses.

This has been the tried-and-true method for decades, but today we face a much more dynamic environment.

We as distributors make hard decisions when necessary, but it is important to remember, you cannot change the past. So let’s focus on the future.

There are outside factors that we all deal with every day — factors that we have little if any control over — which constantly change the way we do business.

Federal, state and local governments persistently look for ways to chip away at our profits, a little here a little there.

There are new regulations to take into account, such as the Affordable Health Care Act. It is unclear if it actually will be affordable in the end. And it very well could alter the way we deal with the true strength of our companies, our employees.

Is there an upside?

I believe there is. We must continue to partner with our suppliers, who face many of the same challenges we as distributors do. It is imperative to work closely with them in order to increase profitability and remain efficient.

We as distributors make hard decisions when necessary, but it is important to remember, you cannot change the past. So let’s focus on the future.

No one has a crystal ball, but we all can make educated, collaborative decisions that will allow us to more accurately predict what happens next.

I started this column with the word “predictability.” So what do I predict?

First, the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, and in between the staunch resilience of the independent aftermarket will continue to keep it strong and prosperous.

The only constant is change, and those most primed for success will be suppliers and distributors who embrace such change and are ready to react.

By adopting this attitude we can all learn to feel a little more comfortable with the “Predictability” of this industry’s future.

Tom Stewart is president of Carolina Rim & Wheel and the 2011 Truck Parts & Service 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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