Everything you may have missed during this year's virtual HDAW

Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) was one of a select few industry events that went off without a hitch in 2020 thanks to its pre-pandemic timing in January.  This year's event unfortunately wasn't as lucky, but despite being shifted to a virtual setting due to COVID-19, the event once again proved to be one of the best for independent aftermarket businesses.

With sessions focusing on the challenges created by COVID-19 as well as other issues that have plagued the market for years, HDAW 2021 was loaded with takeaways and high-quality content to help aftermarket businesses be more agile and adaptive to changing market conditions. 

And when combined with the news from Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue — which once again proceeded HDAW — January's event this year again showed why it is important for business owners and leaders to participate in the independent aftermarket's biggest week.

As usual, HDAW kicked off with its recognition of some of the industry's best.

Total Truck Parts' President Marc Karon was honored for his storied and impressive career in the industry as the newest inductee into the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Industry Hall of Fame. And Cook Brothers Truck Parts, led by third-generation owner Henry Cook, president, and Robert Seyerlein, vice president, and Mike Venuti, vice president, were announced as the winner of the 19th annual Trucks, Parts, Service Distributor of the Year Award.

Karon was in good spirits accepting his award.

He also quipped at one point that he wasn’t sure if he deserved the award, joking that it has typically been awarded to people near the end of their career. Karon said, “That is not me. I have way too much left to do.”

The team at Cook Brothers' said the DOTY win was the culmination of many careers dedicated in service of the independent aftermarket.

“Everyone knows that employees make the company but very few companies actually operate under that premise. We do and always have,” says Venuti. “This award shows that a family owned business can rise to the top without sacrificing the values the company was built upon.”

Keynote speaker Steven Bryan was excellent in his fireside chat with FinditParts Founder and CEO David Seewack. Bryan, the founder and former leader of Vigillo, used his keynote address to look into our near future and offer illuminating observations on how technology adoption occurring today will have dramatic impacts on how we live in the years to come.

Bryan also touched on the changes forced into our lives by COVID-19 and how so much of what we're doing now out of necessity we'll likely continue doing post-pandemic out of convenience, preference or other reasons. 

But Bryan also was hopeful and optimistic:

He also believes COVID-19 is driving incredible innovation into business and says leaders who are willing to investigate and leverage those changes will quickly reap their rewards. “I don’t think we’ve even begun to see the businesses and products and services that will come out of this,” he says.

Bryan was followed by Lindsay Duran, chief marketing officer at Zilliant. Duran discussed the science of business-to-business (B2B) selling and how independent distributors can position their businesses to remain competitive in a digital B2B environment.

Duran told attendees that while turning a brick and mortar sales operation into a dynamic digital sales operation is not an a easy task, it's also not something that has to happen immediately. Customer purchasing trends and customer service expectations are unquestionably changing, she said, but most customers are still haven't totally abandoned traditional purchasing channels either. She said the key, at least today, is making sure one's business can support customers wherever they choose to do business.

“Your traditional and digital channel strategies need to align to make a cohesive customer experience,” she says.

Duran also touched on the importance on consistency in e-commerce pricing, a topic Trucks, Parts, Service addressed in greater detail earlier this week.

Duran says the most important thing for distributors to remember when building a digital sales presence is to keep one’s focus on customers and their ideal purchasing experience. She says distributors do a great job developing highly informed, capable sales teams to support their customers in the field and says when customers interact with a distributor online they expect a similar experience.

John Blodgett of MacKay & Company also presented at this year's event, showcasing much of the same aftermarket data he regularly presents to the industry during HDAD. Doing double-duty this year, Blodgett was the bearer of good and bad news. He confirmed that yes, 2020 was a terrible year for most of the market — though maybe not as bad as it could have been — but added early projections for 2021 are much rosier. The aftermarket is expected to grow by double digits in the U.S. and Canada this year.

“We anticipate the market is going to get back to 2019 levels,” he said, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly six percent through 2025. COVID-19 isn’t over yet, but Blodgett said it appears the market has stabilized and appears capable of managing the pandemic until it recedes.

Finally, there was SOLD, Service Opportunities Learning Day. Always an event filled with great takeaways, this year's lineup of speakers including Fullbay's Jacob Findlay, CEO and founder, Ian Tonks, a certified trainer of the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and Brie Anderson, owner, BEAST Analytics. 

Findlay's presentation focused on data, and how service providers now have access to incredible amounts of information about their business that can be analyzed and used to improve employee performance, up customer satisfaction and increase their bottom line. Findlay admits this can sound like a daunting challenge for a business that otherwise has no experience with data analytics, so early in his session he described the difference in metrics and which measurements are most likely to move the needle in a business.

Once shop owners get into diesel metrics, they realize they’re all not created equal and should be grouped into two categories: lead and lag metrics. A lag metric is something that measures what you actually want but you can’t directly influence. A lead metric is something you can directly influence and it predicts the lag metric. “The trick to getting what you want is to find the lead metrics you need to change that will get you there,” he said. 

Tonks' presentation was a little different, as he detailed what the Entrepreneurial Operating System is and how it can be leveraged to improve a small business. Described by Tonks as a holistic system supported by a simple, practical set of tools, EOS was created to help entrepreneurs get more out of their operations. 

“EOS is a holistic system simplified into six key components, and to the degree that you can simplify your myriad tasks on a daily basis into these six areas, EOS’s promise is that your business will be more scalable, profitable, efficient and that your personal life will be more focused and fun,” Tonks said. The six key components EOS addresses are vision, data, process, traction, issues and people.

As for Anderson, she prioritized digital marketing and why aftermarket service shops need to have a digital footprint of some kind. Anderson's presentation was particularly useful because of how grounded it was. Anderson said service shops don't need to throw huge amounts of money into their digital marketing — in fact, a lot of what she suggested has no expense other than time — but they can't continue to ignore it anymore.

“How do you make sure your shop … is the one that shows up?” asked Anderson. “For perspective, the [phrase] ‘truck repair’ is searched at least 22,000 times every single month in the United States. How many searchers are you capturing?”

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