Sam T. Evans Sr. opened a used-truck business in Ogden, Utah, in 1959 with his then 15-year-old son Sam T. Evans Jr. The company specialized in the sale of used trucks that were clean and mechanically sound, and quickly earned a reputation for fairness, quality, solid customer service and extra attention to detail. Those cornerstone principles have guided the company for 50 years as the Ogden store has grown into one of the West’s premier truck accessory centers. With a second location now in Salt Lake City, and in its third generation of family ownership, we asked Sam Jr., now retired, and third-generation owners Eric Evans, and Sheri and Val Clark to share with Restyling readers their views on the elements of success in today’s changing marketplace.
RE: It’s been a tough year for the automotive world. As a restyling operation, how have you fared?
Eric Samuel Evans: From my perspective as a young professional, we have definitely worked harder to get less, and sincerely value the loyalty of our customers. Without them and our continuing commitment to excellent service we would be at a great disadvantage. We have preserved our competitive edge by changing with the market trends and staying loyal to the manufacturers who meet our needs. For instance, most of our relationships with manufacturers exceed 20-plus years and we have benefited by a mutual commitment to the end user who is looking for highest quality at the best price regardless of the state of the automotive industry.
RE: To what do you attribute the success of Sam T Evans as a company?
Sam T. Evans Jr.: My father was a guy who had great integrity and stood by his work. I remember once a customer bought a used truck and then brought it back two months later with a burned-out clutch. No questions asked; we just put in a new clutch. It built into me that same desire to keep our customers happy. Our business is so based on repeat customers. He taught me well.
The success of a company in not only these times, but all times, means you must always put your customer first, know the market, know the products and be on top of your game.
Eric Samuel Evans: We keep coming back to the basics – diversification, customer service, manufacturers’ relationships and dedicated employees. We are always looking for new products that are related to our core business to help us expand existing market share and tap into new markets. To remain stagnant in this industry is inevitable failure, so we try to persevere by capitalizing on new opportunities and cutting-edge products.
RE: If you were advising another restyler about opening a second store, what would you say?
Samuel T. Evans Jr.: We’ve always believed diversification of product lines within market parameters is a must. Listen, get involved and know your customers’ needs. Eric, Sheri and Val all are perfect examples of taking the risk out of a decision by knowing the market. It not only takes an excellent internal organization to maintain success, but also requires manufacturers that support you. Without the team effort of a manufacturer’s support, you cannot meet the customer’s basic needs of service, quality and price.
Eric Samuel Evans: If I were advising a restyler about a second store, I would recommend that he or she identify a market niche. Concentrate on core product lines in an untapped market. Be able to answer the question: “What makes you unique and sets you apart from existing competitors?” It is important that you stay focused on products that can support year-round sales. You must be able to adapt to changing needs and preserve competitive pricing. Identify what is working in the first store and use this information as a base to build your second store. Maximize efficiencies through buying power, open communication and shared employee talent.
RE: What do you believe the industry needs to do – suppliers and manufacturers alike – in order to weather these current economic times?
Eric Samuel Evans: My advice on weathering these times is check yourself in. Go back to your roots. Be willing to work more and make less. Why did you start and what is your passion? What is your customer telling you? Can you easily adapt to find creative low-cost solutions to remedy your customer needs? Take calculated risks when opportunities arise and mine your current customer base to identify new product needs.
For instance, we have refocused our efforts on up-sales by emphasizing products that are fuel efficient. When a customer comes in looking for a single product like an intake system, we have had success in up-selling them to a tonneau cover and performance tuner as related products designed to improve gas mileage.
Creativity is an absolute must in uncertain times. The only way to survive is to keep overhead low, be aggressive in retaining customers and take extra time to close and service every deal.