This week, in partnership with the University of the Aftermarket, we offer you an inside look at the Leadership 2.0 experience thanks to participants in this year’s session. Leadership 2.0 is a two-week, residential aftermarket-focused education program hosted by The University of the Aftermarket at Northwood University. The program is designed to develop the leadership and business skills of the next generation of visionary industry professionals. In today’s blog from the front row of Leadership 2.0, we hear from Shiva Menon, director of product management, Dorman Products.
The 2016-’17 Leadership 2.0 class met again for the second and final week today in Raleigh, North Carolina. The ambience in the Hyatt lobby today was as jubilant as a reunion – much different than that first night six months ago when we all met for the first time.
Tonight, it was filled with smiling friendly faces, calling each other out by name. It was like that six-month gap between the first and second session did more to bind us together than create any separation, thanks to continued project discussions and (for some of us) meeting up at AAPEX.
Before heading out for dinner, we had just enough time to catch up on professional and personal fronts. There was talk about vacations, weddings, job promotions, new roles and, of course, the constantly evolving aftermarket industry. A calming sense of belongingness prevailed as we shuffled into several cars to head out for dinner and to hear our guest speaker, the recently retired co-president and chief operating officer of O’Reilly Auto Parts, Ted Wise.
Dinner couldn’t have been at a better place than Angus Barn, an independently owned restaurant that has not only withstood the test of changing times but also thrived, becoming one of the top 50 highest-grossing independent restaurants in the country. In many ways, the aftermarket too has seen its challenges but has always managed to come out stronger. This came across clearly from Wise, an aftermarket veteran of 45 years.
After the sumptuous three-course meal, we were taken on a beautiful journey as Wise recalled the days when he opened the first retail store for O’Reilly Auto Parts. Wise, who began his career at O’Reilly as a delivery driver, championed the implementation of the company’s dual market strategy to service both wholesale and retail business – a concept unheard of at that time.
As more and more WDs opened company-owned stores, there was a dire need for training and networking. This led to the inception of AWDA University, whose main objective was to teach the traditional members how to be better retailers in areas such as merchandising, product training, hiring and cashflow management. AWDA University would ultimately became the University of the Aftermarket.
Wise told the group that he lives by three values that helped him the most in his long career – loving every job he ever had from delivery driver to corporate executive, learning from customers and competitors to create and sustain the unique culture that O’Reilly has come to be known for and finally always putting customers ahead of all decisions. It’s knowing what the customer wants and developing meaningful relationships that set O’Reilly apart even in the face of rising online sales of auto parts.
When asked about the advent of online sales and potential impact on parts stores, Wise answered wisely that when there is price parity, what brings the customers back to a parts store is the relationship, parts knowledge and availability.
As we were wrapping up for the evening, Wise concluded his speech emphasizing the need for networking. This was a great way to begin a week of meaningful conversations about the aftermarket, and more importantly an opportunity to learn from one another.