Getting to Know Super Automotive Products
By Jorge Mederos, CEO at Super Automotive Products
Please briefly describe the history of Super Automotive Products.
Super Automotive Products Inc., was founded in 1965 as a Warehouse Distributor for automotive parts. After a couple of years, the company expanded into clutch remanufacturing and brake relining. By 1970 the company had expanded its rebuilding operations into driveline, water pumps, and other areas, and ceased handling light vehicle parts, therefore becoming a heavy-duty distributor. In 1991 founder Cándido Gonzalez sold the business to his nephew and present day owner, Evelio Mederos. Under new management, the company has expanded throughout the island from two to eight stores (two with shop service), and chosen to focus mainly on serving medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles under our trade name Super Truck Parts.
Please briefly describe your company’s distribution structure: What do you sell, who are your vendors, who are your customers, etc.?
The island of Puerto Rico is 100 miles by 35 miles. Our limited market size makes it difficult to be a successful specialist. In order to grow we have expanded our product lines, as well as our customer base. We cater to owner operators, shops, government agencies and municipalities, as well as local and national fleets. We are fortunate to have built strong relationships with many vendors worldwide over our 50 years in business. This allows us to solve many problems for our customers. With our eight stores, our customers are always less than 60 minutes away from one of our locations.
What separates Super Automotive Products from competitors in its marketplace?
At Super, we are always investing in people, technology, inventory, facilities and training. Our experienced personnel, combined with our large inventory, strategically located stores with good access and parking, open bin showrooms, and up to date information systems, make us our customer’s first stop when they want to get their vehicles back on the road.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
Our customers appreciate our service level. They trust us to identify, and sell them quality parts and to procure them expeditiously for them if not in stock. We are seen as reliable.
How and why have your customers stayed loyal for 50 years?
I believe it is a combination of all the things expressed in the previous questions. It is difficult to be everything to everyone but we work hard at serving all medium and heavy duty vehicle owners. There are certain values, such as integrity, dependability, dedication, and respect that have characterized us through the years. Customers gravitate towards these and stay when they find them in a supplier.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about Super Automotive Products that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about Super Automotive Products we don’t know)
We are active in Social Media! Our Facebook page has around 25,000 Likes, and we have a lot of engagement from local and international followers.
What makes Super Automotive Products a great place to work?
Our organization is constantly benchmarking the company against others, inside and outside our industry. If you visit our branches you will notice a team environment that isn’t limited to the store, it is company wide. When hiring, we focus more on fit than function to preserve this culture. Our personnel feel listened to, and everyone has access to upper management.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
Recruiting younger employees into our company is a priority and a challenge. In order to attract younger talent we have had to make changes in the way we operate and the benefits we offer. We are changing the way we market ourselves, and allowing our culture to evolve into these modern times. Our industry is going through technological changes in how we communicate, sell, purchase, service, and manage. This younger generation is large, and will play an integral role in these changes.
Do you feel Super Automotive Products is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Our company is always listening to trends and making process improvements as well as investing in technology. Super Truck Parts strives to operate somewhere between the early adopters and the early majority. Our management team pushes/supports this position and it is accepted throughout all of the organization.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
To outsiders, careers in this industry may appear mundane, but they are challenging, and dynamic. Customer service is important, as well as technical knowledge and computer skills. Innovation will be driven by the youngest members in our industry. However, organizational change is not easy or quick. It takes a lot of effort. I challenge them to join/stay in the industry, step up and take charge!
What are your goals for the long-term future of Super Automotive Products?
I see us continuing to grow in our marketplace through the addition of product lines and service as well as expanding into other markets. Anyone who stays still will be overtaken very quickly in today’s business environment.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
1. Working summers during high school in the business (riveting brake shoes, doing inventory, working the counter) gave me a great understanding of the industry from the ground up.
2. When we acquired a competitor in 1998, we had to operate the branch with only two employees because the other six walked out. It was tough, but we managed to steer the investment into profitability by the third month. It showed me that we had the right team and tools to face any type of adversity.
3. Puerto Rico has been in an economic slump since 2006. Being able to operate successfully in this environment has given us a lot of confidence.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
Jerry Weiss who many years ago told me if I found a good employee to hire him/her even if I didn’t have an immediate job for them. Cándido Gonzalez, the company’s founder, who always strived to make his profit at the time of purchase. Evelio Mederos, whose work ethic I try to emulate, and is the gentleman I aspire to become.