Brian Lounsberry-CEO of Motovicity-devoted a large chunk of a late-June day to an interview with THE SHOP magazine. This is the second of three parts from our conversation.
THE SHOP (TS): Based upon your experience as a distributor and also from your time actually working in a shop, what advice do you have for shops?
Brian Lounsberry: Well, this does come a little bit from both of those roles. I think shops-I’m not talking about online retailers-have to play to their strengths as shops. You’ve got to master what you’re good at.
The shop I worked at before I came here didn’t follow this rule and they’d been in the business for 30 years. They went out of business shortly after I left; I wasn’t the guy who broke the camel’s back, I was just a guy twisting a wrench, but I watched it play through.
So many shops try and be all things to all people that they don’t promote what’s good and they don’t focus on their customers.
That same shop I was at before, we focused on customers we didn’t have and ignored the ones we did have. That didn’t work and they went right out of business. They wanted a high-end clientele-they said ‘we’re going to work on Ferraris and Porches’-meanwhile we were working on Jeeps, Audis and Camaros. The high-end customer wasn’t coming in there because it wasn’t a high-end shop. And they scared off all their customers.
I watch so many shops try to do that. They try to be something that they’re not. What got them into their building in the first place and what got customers coming to them, that’s what they should focus on.
TS: What are some resources that you or other distributors offer that are often underutilized by shops?
Brian Lounsberry: Distributors have programs-whether it’s a website or a certain kind of shipping program-that are great extensions for their business but these are things that are often underutilized. From us, something that shops can utilize is our ASE-trained reps. They can offer answers to a slew of questions that aren’t just pertaining to the manufacturers’ tech training that they give us. Our reps actually have opinions on the products because they’re familiar with them.
When you call a manufacturer, they’re only going to suggest a solution within their own product offering. Whereas here, a member of our staff can pinpoint a best solution for you between the 180-plus brands that’s a very educated solution. So, as an example of what we offer, that’s a free service-you don’t have to pay for it, it’s already here.
TS: What should every shop know about two-step distribution and what it offers the automotive community?
Brian Lounsberry: I think every shop needs to look at who their WD partner is and what they’re focused on. What I mean by that is, is that business you’re buying from sharing your values and your company’s business model? Are they helping your business, or ultimately defeating it?
To give you an example, if you’re a circle track shop and there are circle track distributors out there, but you’re choosing to spend your money with somebody that’s a diesel place, you’re just losing in the long run. That WD that focuses on circle track is vested in the success of circle track. I can promise you that they’re using that money to help manufacturers understand new products that will wind up available to you.
A lot of people get caught up in who’s the cheapest or the most glamourous. But they have to ask themselves a question: are you helping yoru segment, or devaluing your overall business just to save a few bucks? Are you sourcing product purely on price? If so, then it’s unreasonable to complain about the lack of attention your business segment gets.
When you’re shopping for a WD, make sure it’s a business that’s a companion to yours.
TS: What should every shop know about keeping an inventory-do you have any inventory tips or suggestions?
Brian Lounsberry: Usually I always tell shops the same thing. For the most part, shops really have to watch their cash flow for payroll and rent-”they need to use it wisely. Stocking product is dangerous.
I always tell shops to stock the products they use on a daily or weekly basis. The reason I say that is because if you’re going to count on the distributor to always have it, you’re probably going to lose out sooner or later. Ultimately, manufacturers run out and distributors run out, so you’ve got to make sure you’ve got those products on the shelf. And then you’ve got to work closely with your distribution partners to make sure that the rest of the catalog that you make available to your customers is available to your distribution partners.
Do not tie up your capital into your inventory if you don’t need to. You need that money to run your business. There are distributors around tying up millions upon millions of dollars of product-why would you waste your own money to do the same thing? Some shops tell me, ‘well I can save another 5 percent.’ But they aren’t really. They are just tying up their available capital.
TS: What do you view as the biggest challenges facing shops today?
Brian Lounsberry: When I go to a shop and talk to them, they’ll sometimes say ‘you’re going to be so excited, I’m starting my online store!’ I always ask them why. Online stores have their own little niche.
If I was a shop, I really would be identifying myself on the value I bring, like advice, knowledge, installation and service. Or offering inspections and warranty work, or preventative maintenance on platforms that are not that do-it-yourself friendly. Or perhaps having a car show at your office that you’re really trying to focus on selling fast items-apparel, car care, oil. Maybe even get involved with the local track-take a trailer to the track with replacement parts like brake pads and rotors for the cars that are going to be racing. That’s truly a shop’s competitive advantage.
I guess my biggest point is, you’ve got to focus on making your company a value. You’ve to identify how to make yourself unique. It doesn’t mean make your own parts; it means add a value.