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Executive Interview

Executive Interview With Randy Pindor, President And COO, B’laster Corp. 

In today’s Executive Interview, Pindor talks to aftermarketNews about the key strengths that set B’laster apart from the crowd, as well as the company’s plans for the future and its role in keeping a passion for vo-tech alive.

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Amy Antenora has served as editor of aftermarketNews since 2002 and has worked in the field of journalism for two decades. A graduate of Kent State University, Amy also earned her AAP designation from Northwood University's University of the Aftermarket in 2009.

Randy Pindor was named as the new president and chief operating officer of B’laster Corp. in November of 2017. Pindor has served on the B’laster leadership team as executive vice president, sales and marketing, since 2014. In his role as president, Pindor is focused on the day-to-day management and oversight of the company, including the key functions of finance, operations, sales and marketing. He also is in charge of implementing the company’s strategic initiatives. Pindor has 25 years of marketing and business leadership experience. He earned both his bachelor’s degree and a Master of Business Administration degree from Baldwin Wallace University.
 
In today’s Executive Interview, Pindor talks to aftermarketNews about the key strengths that set B’laster apart from the crowd, as well as the company’s plans for the future and its role in keeping a passion for vo-tech alive.
AMN: Your appointment at the company is a great illustration of one of the company’s key differentiators. Talk to us about the unique ability of B’laster to be nimble.
Randy Pindor: Four years ago, when we established our new leadership team, one of the first things we did is talk to our customers and reps to find out our strengths and weaknesses. One of the positive things that always, always boiled up to the top was “nimble, flexible, dynamic.” If a customer says, “Hey, can you guys do this for us?” Our response is: “Give us a day.” It’s a unique benefit of being a small company, privately held, with no one to report to and no shareholders to please. We can do what we need to do to make things happen. So that nimbleness is a huge benefit and strength that we have.
AMN: You’ve only been in your new role since November, but do you have a set of plans and goals laid out in your new position?
Randy Pindor: In December 2016, the leadership team updated and relaunched a five-year strategy and vision plan. Having been heavily involved in that process, I’m still following that plan, but I’m doing some other things on top of that.
There are a few key pillars of our strategy – overall financial growth, international growth and portfolio enhancement. If you know PB B’laster, it’s our No. 1 product, and it’s the marketplace’s No. 1-selling product in its category. We’re very proud of it and continue to focus on its growth. However, we also want to diversify through an expansion and extension of our portfolio.
And on top of that strategy, I’m really focused on our culture. I come from the marketing/ad agency world, where culture is everything. I’m trying to enhance our culture and ensure it’s set up for our future success – get the right people in the right seats, with the right vision, and everyone on the same page.
AMN: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities you see in your particular product category?
Randy Pindor: Competition is a big one – from online, from our competitors and among retailers.
Another challenge is educating consumers about the ways cars are changing. Wheel bearings don’t even have Zerk fittings anymore. Things are changing so quickly. We have a phenomenal grease line, including PB Grease, a penetrating synthetic grease. But some cars don’t need wheel bearing grease.
There are millions and millions of cars that do, but what happens 10 years from now? These are the kind of the concerns we discuss.
Lastly, we look at bigger picture industry shifts. We ask ourselves questions like, what does the marketplace need? Is it something for autonomous cars, or something for battery cars? Is it something for cars that are made out of plastic and fiberglass and resins instead of metal and steel? What is going to be the future car?
AMN: Given that we’re still in that aftermarket sweet spot with average vehicle age being 11.5 years now, is that older vehicle helping your business?
Randy Pindor: Yes, that is certainly a factor. All those old cars on the road are what we need. We don’t need new Teslas on the road; we need old Chevys on the road.
The building segment is up, the economy is up, so that’s helping us, too. We track our market share with NPD, which is Point of Sale data for the automotive retailers, and we’re at approximately 70 percent market share. So, we’re doing really well, but you can’t sit on today. I’m looking at tomorrow.
AMN: Let’s talk about ride sharing for a moment. I just went down to a show down in Orlando and I took Uber every day. It occurred to me, you’re taking a vehicle that’s primarily used for everyday transportation and you’ve turned it into a severe-duty vehicle without the severe-duty parts. There are millions of these vehicles that may be used all day, every day for a purpose that they really weren’t intended. Do you see some benefit to your business?
Randy Pindor: What you say is true and, yes, there is some benefit in that respect. However, because it’s so new, we don’t know what’s going to happen in five years for the guy who started as an Uber driver today. What happens to that car when it has 200,000 miles? Because usually, unless you go Uber Black, they’re not great cars. Are they going to the junkyard? Are they being repaired? Are they doing oil changes? We don’t know that yet.
The other concern is that, in metropolitan areas, people are Ubering instead of buying and fixing a car. One guy is handling the driving for 10 people. It’s a do-it-for-me (DIFM) audience instead of DIY. That’s another shift in the marketplace, and it’s why many customers tend to focus
on the commercial business.
AMN: Along those same lines, the looming technician shortage, getting young people interested in cars and repairing cars and considering that a viable career option is a big deal right now. I was on your website and I noticed you have something called B’laster University. Can you tell us about that?
Randy Pindor: I could talk for hours on this. I’m a vo-tech kid. I had auto mechanic classes in 11th and 12th grade, but then I went to college. I didn’t follow the blue-collar vocational path, but to this day, I still get my hands greasy.
Seeing the technician shortage trends hit me hard. B’laster U grew out of an idea to support the people who use our product, help them get through school and make sure they understand how to do things correctly.
If you’re a vo-tech instructor, you sign up and we give you products to use in the shop, so you don’t have to go and spend your budget on it. Your kids get to use the products. We create videos to use as supplemental educational tools. For example, the video we had out the first year was about the difference between lubricants and penetrants, including how to use them and what to use them on. It’s showing them how these products are like a specialty tool.
Let’s say you go to your tool shed or the tool carriage house in a shop looking for a 3/8 impact wrench. You need it for a reason, right? If you need an impact driver, it’s to do something specific with it. Well, in some cases you specifically need a silicone lubricant, but in others, you need a lithium grease instead.
Then the last video we did was about how to read Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to help these students understand their importance, how they are made and how to find the right information on them.
After watching the videos, the students take a test online and, if they pass, we send them certificates along with stickers or banners to use in their shop. And it’s that kind of program – to help these kids along, teach them things, and hopefully get more people into these fields – that we really lack in the vocational world. There are not enough people out there doing it.
We launched B’laster U about three years ago now. We go to trade shows, we talk to the instructors, we speak at conferences about our program. Instructors are adopting it with great enthusiasm. They love it, and so do the students. We get pictures all the time of these kids with their banners, holding their certificates, showing that they passed. It’s a good thing for the kids.
AMN: B’laster went through a significant rebranding in 2015. Tell us about this. Has that been an effective change for the company?
Randy Pindor: It has been effective. Our sales are increasing and so is brand recognition. We hear from people all the time that they see and love our cans as well as our billboards, ads, etc.
Being able to drive this rebrand was part of my arrangement coming to B’laster originally back in 2014. I spent months and months doing some analysis and brand research. B’laster is this little company in Cleveland, Ohio, with distribution everywhere. And we have this product, PB B’laster, our No. 1-selling penetrant with 70-some percent market share, with the ugliest can in the marketplace.
And everyone said, “Don’t do it, don’t change that can, you’re going to lose customers, why would you do this, you own the market…” But we had to think of other things. We needed line extensions. We wanted our portfolio to have a cohesive look. No one knew who we were.
So, what you see now is our new brand. Along with the new brand, we partnered with Teflon and also now have better efficacy in our products. The brand is all about quality. We’re also, as you can probably guess by our image, slogans and taglines, a little bit …
AMN: … Irreverent?
Randy Pindor: Yeah. We have a tagline, “Don’t bust your knuckles, bust your nuts.” That’s for mechanics, the technicians. If you have ever tried taking off a muffler clamp and it snaps on you, your knuckles are bleeding for days. So, we have these fun but meaningful taglines. We also call ourselves “rust belt warriors” because we’re from Cleveland, we’re from this gritty city, our stuff’s made here and it works here – and if it works here, it works everywhere.
Before we didn’t do much advertising. We were kind of quiet on the marketing aspect. We did a lot of trade shows. We did a lot of promos and merchandisers and that kind of stuff. The rebrand was the beginning of this long-term vision of what B’laster is going to be, and it fed a reenergized marketing and sales campaign. Now, we have a goal to bring B’laster to the world.
 
AMN: The company expanded into Mexico and Canada recently. Do you have plans to go global?
Randy Pindor: Yes. We’re doing it slow and steady. My whole theme this year is slow and methodical. We were crazy the past two years. We had more products, more new SKUs, more retailers, more expansion … more everything than we ever did in 57 years. It all happened in the past couple of years. And as a marketing and sales guy. I’m usually all for more SKUs, more this, more that. But I admit it was wearing us thin. When I took on the role of president, I wanted us to slow down. We’re growing in North America right now, including up in Canada and down in Mexico. We do sell to a few other places as well, but we’re not charging hard yet. We’re charging hard
 in Canada and Mexico.
AMN: You’ve mentioned that you don’t want to give away too many details, but earlier in the conversation you said something about an unbalanced portfolio. Are you planning any new product introductions this year?
Randy Pindor: Yes, at AAPEX last year we launched a grease line. We now have four traditional greases: a tacky red grease, a heavy-duty grease, a general-purpose grease and a marine grease. It’s a waterproof marine grease. I’m a boater, so that was my little pet project. It’s the best waterproof grease on the market.
We also launched a PB grease line. We blended a high-end synthetic grease with our PB B’laster. That comes in a typical 14-ounce cartridge for a grease gun as well as an 8-ounce jar with a brush applicator for anti-seize applications. We also mixed PB B’laster with lithium grease for an aerosol spray.
This complete grease line – the four traditional greases plus the PB Grease set – is our new product launch this year. Our focus this year is to get it into wider distribution. It’s just starting to hit the market, but
it’s amazing how much it’s selling already. Again, our model is our value proposition: a great-working product at an honest price from a trusted brand.
We have a few more innovations in the pipeline that we’re really excited about as well, and those will launch either later this year or in 2019.
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