It’s time for those end-of-year talks with reps and product suppliers, whether they occur at your shop or on the trade show floor. Important topics, of course, will include new applications, price, availability, delivery options, manufacturer support and price again.
But as more and more performance products hit the market from all over the globe, there’s another discussion speed shops and engine builders should be having with the people who provide the parts they sell and install—namely concerning their quality.
As an independent business, the quality of your work is paramount to future success. We all know bad news travels 10 times as fast and 10 times as far as good news, and if you happen to install a substandard part on a high-performance machine that breaks at an inopportune time, people are going to hear about it.
Regardless of your installation ability, it only takes one or two instances of product failure to turn that dream deal you got on an order into a nightmare.
“Ask the manufacturers if they truly do make the parts, or if they buy them and put them in their own packaging. Ask lots of questions on materials and quality,” recommends Jeff Stacy of FK Rod Ends and Fragola. “People are figuring out there are a lot of low-cost products that get put in nice packaging. This does not make them high quality.”
Of course, this can be easier said than done at times, particularly in a tight economy when profit margins are slim and competition is coming from all directions. The good news is that in this industry, drivers love their cars, and not only understand paying a little bit more for quality products, but in most cases demand it.
Reputable manufacturers understand it as well.
Steve Matusek, founder and president of Aeromotive Inc., explains how his company uses real-life racing experience and engineering knowledge to identify needs and offer solutions. But he doesn’t stop there. He then considers whether the cost of making a quality product is something the market will support. If it will, he makes it. If it won’t, he doesn’t.
“We identify a problem, figure out a solution, do the math and determine whether or not we can afford to execute and whether the market can accept the product,” he explains.
In a recent roundup of the latest shop equipment, all five manufacturers contacted for the article made a point to stress the importance of quality tools—the higher ROI they provide and the better work they allow installers to perform.
“If we can offer a single piece of advice it would be to buy quality tools, store them in a well-organized toolbox and keep them the rest of your life,” says Brian Graham of Graham Tool Co.
When you think about the lasting impression you want your work to have—both on your customers’ enjoyment of their vehicles and the long-term reputation of your business—it quickly becomes apparent just how important quality is. So spend some quality time with manufacturers and suppliers, asking about the long-term performance of their products.
If their quality is up to par, it’s a conversation they’ll enjoy having. And if it isn’t, you’ll have saved yourself a major headache.