We’ve just returned from the Auto Care Association’s Spring Leadership Days conference in Bonita Springs, FL. The event attracts industry leaders who address trends, issues and goals for the coming year.
Following the Spring Leadership Days was the Young Auto Care Network Group (YANG) Leadership Conference, a series of panels and speeches from some of the auto care industry leaders. Below are some observations and wisdom from those panelists.
John Washbish, president & CEO of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, joked that he started out as a child prodigy, and has since spent a lifetime in the auto parts business.
Washbish shared his “Four Tenets of Success,” noting how his business competes not via price, but through service. He equates employee satisfaction with customer service, nothing that unhappy employees will rarely provide exceptional service.
As an outstanding example of how much employee happiness can influence customer service, Washbish told a story of how a longtime employee of his was out delivering parts to a repair shop, when his truck broke down. Rather than cancel the parts delivery, or risk the delay for another truck from the warehouse to rescue him, the employee took it upon himself to run the last 2.25 miles to deliver the parts. The parts arrived only about 20 minutes past the expected time of arrival, and the shop owner was stunned. Having employees who exceed expectations in ways like that, he said, buys lifetime customer loyalty.
Donna Long, SVP and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Dorman Products, spoke about trends in technology – from the Internet of Things, to the Connected Car – that will affect the automotive aftermarket. She quoted GM’s Chairman & CEO, Mary Barra, who said, “I believe the industry will experience more change in the next 5 years than it has in the last 50 years.”
Dorman Products was founded in 1978, and is now a leading aftermarket supplier of dealer-exclusive parts. Long talked about the importance of cross-functional work, saying she routinely hires non-IT employees into IT, and appreciates the benefits of working with people whose ages range by decades. “Young people are fearless. More seasoned professionals put dollars and cents into it. It’s a good blend,” she observed.
Next up, we joined a panel discussion about listening to the customer. From left, Marty Gold, from Gold & Brown, moderated a talk between Andy Massoll, co-owner of Curt’s Service Center, and Dwayne Myers, co-owner of Dynamic Automotive.
When Marty asked about how Massoll and Myers choose between “good/better/best” parts, the two indicated a commitment to using the best parts, which last longest and make it easier for the work to be warrantied. Myers noted that OEM parts are easiest for the techs to install, when space is at a premium, and parts sometimes have to be shoehorned into the vehicle. The pricey OEM parts fit perfectly every time, he said, which makes techs want to use them every time, joking, “Techs are the biggest crybabies,” and he quickly added, “We’ve both been techs.”
Massoll noted that he trusts his parts providers to make a recommendation on the best parts for the job, saying, “I expect a lot out of them. If I demand, they’ll deliver. Everybody wants to be the first call, and a lot of them are selling the same product. Service is the difference.” Even still, he reviews his parts costs, line by line, each month, to keep an eye on what he’s paying vs. what others are charging. Any time, he’d rather spend more to get a higher quality part because, “Nothing costs more than doing the job twice.”
From everyone at Openbay, here’s huge thanks to the Auto Care Association for hosting a great event and connecting leaders working across the vast auto-care industry.