Leadership 2.0, the University of the Aftermarket’s annual Leadership Development Program, officially began its second session this past Sunday at Northwood University’s West Palm Beach, Fla., campus. This week, several participants in the 2014-’15 class bring us their firsthand perspective on the experience. Today, we present blog entry No. 4 from Steffanie Savine, account executive/marketing director, The Marx Group.
Typically a Wednesday is a welcome reminder that the week is halfway over and is soon drawing to a close. However, while in the midst of Leadership 2.0, Wednesday seemed to come all too soon.
Brian Cruickshank, director of the University of the Aftermarket, kicked off the morning session with a roundtable discussion on the perception of brands and product quality. While many of us in the industry have frequent access to the opinions of our colleagues who work in manufacturing and distribution, we don’t always have the luxury of hearing the opinion of the person buying the parts. The five shop owners attending this year’s class were all in agreement that their most reliable measurement for the quality of a part is the brand. They know which brands are quality products. However, while they may have brand preferences, when it comes down to it, their purchasing decisions are made based on quality, availability and price – in that order.
The conversation about quality quickly turned toward weighing the pros and cons of national brands versus private label brands. While the shop owners tend to prefer national brands, they do have confidence in most house brands from the larger retailers. From the distributor’s point of view, as the Internet has allowed repair shops to cross-shop against multiple online retailers, a house brand can be a distributor’s way of insulating themselves from that. In addition, before purchasing online, the shops want to know what the product looks like; the more pictures an online catalog provides, the easier it is for the shop to make its purchasing decision. The bottom line on why all of this matters – shops don’t want to do the job twice.
The second half of our day focused on aftermarket finance and was led by Rick Guirlinger, a 34-year aftermarket veteran. Rick’s passion for the aftermarket, and for people, makes finance (dare I say?) fun. While yesterday’s finance session focused on understanding how to read financial statements, today’s lesson was more hands-on.
We reviewed a business case study, broke into our project groups, and worked to identify what caused the case study company’s sales to plummet. Each group provided recommendations on how the company could improve operations and restructure its leadership team. The biggest takeaway was that successful leaders build a team of highly competent people to get the job done.
The common thread in all of this week’s lectures, exercises and discussions seems to be people: the right people, all in the right seats on the bus. We are only as strong as the people on our team. The aftermarket isn’t only about parts, it’s about people.