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Leaders Offer Words Of Wisdom During Challenging Times

Being great communicators, staying calm and embracing flexibility are top of mind for industry leaders.

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While the world as a whole unites to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic through extensive safety protocols and remote work, we at aftermarketNews are monitoring the situation closer to home in our own aftermarket community. AMN reached out to key leaders from a number of aftermarket organizations to seek their advice for best leadership practices and words of wisdom during challenging times. As you will see by the honest and inspiring messages below, being great communicators, staying calm and embracing flexibility are top of mind for industry leaders as we navigate this rapidly evolving situation.

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John R. Washbish, MAAP, President and CEO Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance Inc.

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now? 

Right now is a time to be a leader. We have an opportunity to assist our team members and a duty to help our customers.

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time? 

Every day we make it, we will make it the best we can. 

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change? 

That the Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper family is one heck of a group! From our warehouses, to our jobbers, to our technician customers – everyone is treating each other like the family of independent businesses that we are! We are agile and up to the challenge! Our wonderful channel partners are committed to our success and firmly have our back.

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Kevin Judge, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Automotive Aftermarket, NTN Bearing Corp.

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

Be safe. NTN Employees are now working from home. We have asked them to remain engaged with business. Sales people will communicate via phone, emails, participate in meetings via Go-To, Skype etc. Internal staff members all took their laptops home and will participate in meetings via Go-to, answer calls from salespeople, vendors etc. The key is communication, be available, responsive to the customer needs and be safe. Customers relations are open for business, they have a small crew at the Mt. Prospect office and all others are working from remote locations. The DC is implementing a “pod” environment for pulling, packing and shipping orders. 

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time? 

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Dr. Robert Schuller 

This automotive industry has been through gas crisis, recessions, wars, conflicts, 9/11 and others, but the resilient automotive aftermarket people have survived and prospered. 

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What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

The ability to communicate, share, provide information, guidance at the click of a mouse. Auto Care yesterday provide a wonderful a handbook on line for employees regarding working remotely. Very well done.

Patrick Sommerfeld, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Wells Vehicle Electronics

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

Be optimistic and calm. Over-reacting at any time can be harmful and times where extra pressure and stress are upon us can then exaggerate any challenge. 

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

Happiness and health should always come first. Embrace the changes upon us and the innovation we will have as the world moves through this and adapts to our new normal. 

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

Don’t react too fast, communicating all that you hear and see. Many of the fast changes we are bombarded with turn out to be incomplete or in accurate. Don’t ignore the news but give much of what is said a time to filter itself.

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As leaders we are here to serve, and we do not serve ourselves, our families and our associates well if we are not optimistic and prepared to embrace to fast change. 

Ernst Prost, CEO at LIQUI MOLY

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

These are difficult times and nobody can tell how the situation will be in 3 months. For sure, we will see companies going out of business. LIQUI MOLY is a strong brand and financially sound. I promise that no employee will be fired, neither here in Germany nor anywhere on the globe. Rather I will surrender my own salary. We are currently discussing with our business partners how we may help them to mitigate the impact which the crisis has on them. If we stand together, be it within LIQUI MOLY, be it with our business partners, then we will overcome this crisis. 

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

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Keep calm but be prepared to take bold decisions. Panic does not help, neither ignoring the situation does.

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

It is amazing to see how quickly all the administrative staff adapted to working from home and how prudent the colleagues in the factories act to keep the production running. Our team in the USA lead by Sebastian Zelger stays in touch with their customers by phone and digitally. People are determined, they are improvising and developing new ideas. Everybody is aware that this is a special situation, and everybody works hard to navigate the company through this storm. This is why I decided not to cut costs by laying off staff but to pay a crisis bonus to all employees instead. In the end it is very simple: if the company takes care of their employees, the employees take care of their company. It is this solidarity which will get us through the crisis.

Brandon Kight, Vice President – Marketing, MotoRad

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

First and foremost, with our employees we are stressing the importance to stay calm, avoid outlets of misinformation (social media, etc.), and maintain a high level of thoughtfulness and respect for fellow co-workers and others in the community. We are educating them on disease-prevention measures (e.g., frequent hand washing, limited face touching, coughing techniques) and asking them to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of any kind of illness. With our customers we’re making sure to communicate all of our efforts to keep our employees safe and their service levels high.

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Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

I think for most people, it’s times like these that help us put things into proper perspective. To look beyond our relatively small, personal areas of influence and to remember that there are things that are much larger than ourselves that are out of our control. Personally, I attempt to make every effort to focus on the Gospel. I find this quote from Franklin Graham extremely helpful: “Fear cannot take hold unless it is fed. If we dwell on a perceived threat, panic will take over. If we dwell on Christ, peace will prevail.”

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

Communication is key. There’s simply no such thing as overcommunication. Here at MotoRad, we have been intentional to have daily leadership discussions to share any key insights/updates that have come to light. We then disseminate any pertinent information via larger departmental or company-wide teleconferences to ensure that everyone is informed of the rapidly changing events and the possible ramifications.

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R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, President, Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) 

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

I’m conveying that every one of us is in the turmoil and the aftermath of this global crisis together and that no one is alone in any aspect of it. I’m confirming this is a health issue that is morphing into an economic issue, too. My discussions with staff focus on the fact we as an organization are not in a financial crisis and my discussions point to strong finances and deliverables that our team is being counted on to deliver for industry. 

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

Again, the fact that every one of us is in this together and that no one is alone in any of it!

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

Having managed a team and an industry through the recession of 2008 and served in the military during the Gulf War has taught me the value and the need for flexible leadership – not simply management…but leadership!

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David Prater, President, Automotive Distribution Network

“The current situation with the COVID-19 threat is something none of us were prepared to deal with. That being said, we feel we have moved quickly to both minimize the potential health issues while taking advantage of technology to keep our members and customers informed and the business moving forward.

“As an example, we recently moved our spring CEO and vendor meeting to an online event with webinars to cover the information and topics we needed to review at our meeting. We still feel nothing really takes the place of interpersonal communication; however these online meetings will convey the information and still do our part to keep everyone safe.

“We had already implemented a very comprehensive online training platform which in itself will allow industry leading training to be available to our customers, counter people and sale staff, and we have seen a sizeable uptick in the use of this program across the channel.

Like everyone else we look forward to this health scare ending as soon as possible and wish everyone the best.”

Randy Pindor, President & COO, The B’laster Corporation

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now? 

Of course, do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. We have increased the cleaning of our office, plant and warehouse, and many of our office folks are working from home for the protection of everyone. We remind people regularly to wash their hands (and provided hand sanitizer for when they are in a pinch) and to stay home if they are sick. Before all this happened, we actually updated our sick leave policy to make sure our plant, warehouse and office employees all had paid sick time. We are also bringing in lunches for people so they don’t have to go out and get food. 

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Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time? 

B’laster is known for our flexibility and now we have to be flexible with ourselves and our customers right now.

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change? 

Communication is key. We are monitoring the situation daily and updating our employees regularly on actions we are taking. We are also listening to their concerns and doing our best to respond. We’ve reached out to our customers, too. It’s a very fluid situation and we have to stay on top of it. 

Ben Smart, Head of the Independent Aftermarket for North America, ZF Aftermarket

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now? 

Key employee advice is focused on the official advice of utmost care in hygiene, clean hands regularly and try to avoid touching your face as well as social distancing. Utilization of video and voice technology has made it easier to have non-essential staff work from home and ZF was an early adopter in banning international and domestic travel. Our advice to customers has been one of support, we have very little product coming out of China so we have been able to maintain high levels of availability for all of our customers. We are now looking into how we can support our customers’ customer, the workshops, in what may become a time of great difficulty and hardship

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Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time? 

I have often used the phrase ‘evolve or be left behind’ now more than ever this is relevant. The virus will change the commercial and domestic landscape forever, I imagine some of these changes will further down the road be seen as positive. One which comes to mind is companies opinions on working from home, this practice is still frowned upon in some businesses but by having WFH thrust upon them they will begin to see the benefit in terms of profitability and importantly employee well being

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change? 

Communication is now more important than ever, open communication to all levels of the organization ensures that businesses are not only moving in the same direction but also on the same path. No one person can manage all areas so it’s important to have cross functional frequent meetings and agree how everyone has access to the same information.

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Paul Kokalis, Group President, Fontaine Modification

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

We are open for business and continue to provide our workforce with a job and a paycheck for their families. Additionally, we believe that this approach is the best way to serve our employees, our customers, and the U.S. economy in general. At the same time, each facility has the authority, responsibility, and support to make sure that our employees have a safe and healthy workplace.

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

Remain calm and steadfast. There is so much information available today, and it is not all accurate. When you take action, be sure it is based on accurate data and information and not ‘reacting’ to one particular article or piece of information. We are in the middle of a major health crisis that will have a significant short-term impact on our lives and our economy. How we deal with it will either allow us to work through it with least possible negative impact, or if we all panic, turn it into a crisis of epic proportions.

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What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

Stay calm in the face of uncertainty.

Roger Perlstein, Vice President – Sales and Marketing, Kinedyne LLC

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

I continue to be very positive about the health of our economy. The underlying fundamentals of our economy are still the strongest in the world. Economically speaking, we are one of the healthiest nations on the planet. It has always been unrealistic to assume that the bull market could go on uninterrupted, so a recessionary period was predictable, and the most flexible businesses are prepared for it.

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

It’s the nature of these viruses to run their course in a relatively short period of time. As the weather improves, the number of people impacted will diminish. So, while the next two to three months are likely to be very challenging across every sector of our economy, the impacts are likely to be short term.

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What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change          

I have tremendous sympathy for people whose jobs are at risk or whose livelihood is in peril, and we have to do everything we can as a country, as employers and as fellow human beings to help. But I am confident that by summer this will be behind us and we’ll be better prepared for the next time.

Jon Douglas, President, MAHLE Aftermarket

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?  

Don’t panic. There is no shortage of opinions for a situation we know very little about.

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?  

My grandfather’s slogans of, “good or bad, this too shall pass” and “do the best you can with what you got.” This from a man who survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, the polio outbreak, civil rights movements, and much more.

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What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?  

Take extra precaution from the start, it does not pay to second guess what additional measures you should have taken.

Daniel Schildge, CEO, CRP Industries

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

We are communicating daily with our employees, emphasizing safety for them and their families. We are also emphasizing the importance of finding ways to keep the business operating safely. Our customers are counting on us to deliver exceptional service and we need to figure out how to deliver that service, regardless of circumstances.

We are also emphasizing the need to be looking ahead, rather than just reacting. We all need to improve our situational awareness, so that we can make better and faster decisions, leading to more effective actions. We need to anticipate and plan for future scenarios that are likely as well as the unlikely ones that have major implications.

Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

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“Things are never as good or as bad as they seem.” Our mind races in one direction or the other. It is up to us to recognize that, and reign in our imaginations. 

Another maxim that comes to mind is the old cliché: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

Whenever faced with a crisis, I relearn something that I picked up in my days in the Navy. Take a deep breath and pause before you respond. While we need to respond quickly, we must respond thoughtfully. Panic will get us nowhere.

Beth Skove, General Manager-Marketing, Aftermarket DivisionNGK Spark Plugs (U.S.A.), Inc.

“It is important to be transparent during times of duress. Over communicate, share information that is relevant. It is ok to admit you don’t have answers and that a situation requires constant monitoring and there may not be immediate resolution. People need to remain flexible. Decisions made today can be overturned the next day.”

John Bohenick, CEO, Cloyes Gear & Products

What are some of the key pieces of advice you are sharing with your employees and customers right now?

We are keeping aware of updated information regarding the spread of the Coronavirus and recommendations from CDC and other related government agencies. We are regularly communicating this information to our employees with focus on ways to avoid getting in contact with the virus. We have also implemented screening questionnaires to any visitors to any of our locations. Regarding customers, we are providing updates on our operations and how we are maintaining support for their businesses. So far, we have been able to provide very good support for our customers.

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Are there any words of wisdom to live by that have been particularly helpful to you at this moment as the world navigates this challenging time?

Accept the seriousness of the situation, follow all recommendations guidelines, focus on family and health, stay calm, and be courageous.

What’s been the biggest lesson you have learned thus far during this time of fast and significant change?

From my time playing football in college, we had a term called SUDDEN CHANGE, we used this term to trigger a different mindset when the current situation changes dramatically, it was a wake-up alert to be quickly accept the sudden change, be calm, focus on what was confronting you so you can use all your energy on the solution. For all of us, this has definitely been the biggest SUDDEN CHANGE in all of our lives, so we need to quickly change our mindset on dealing with the change and using all of our energy to work on the solutions.

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