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Supplier Highlight

Supplier Highlight

Supplier Highlight

Getting to know Grote Industries

Matt Forner, national sales director at Grote Industries

Please briefly describe the history of your company.

Grote Industries has been a family-owned business since 1901. Headquartered in Madison, Ind., we are a manufacturer of vehicle safety systems (lighting).

Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?

We have multiple OE and Aftermarket divisions. Our OE division sells to on-highway, trailer and body builder, off-highway, OE Europe. The Aftermarket division sells to U.S., Mexico and Canada (three separate divisions) and all have heavy-duty commercial programs service by a direct Grote Salesforce. We also have traditional automotive served by sales agencies. We also have a fleet sales force in the U.S. and Canada, four people direct. We don’t sell the fleets direct; we sell through distribution and to OEMs.

What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?

Our salesforce expertise, high-quality products, family owned and operated.

How do you believe customers perceive your business?

High integrity, top sales support and customer service, high quality, innovator.

How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?

We have a system sell approach rather than just a single part sale. We try to integrate all pieces together to create lower maintenance costs and solution provider to the customers problems.

What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know)

We have a customer training center in Friendship, Ind., about 30 miles from our plant that accommodates up to 10 people with overnight stays.

What makes your company a great place to work?

The family atmosphere. You are not a number but an individual person.

How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?

It is very important that we have a younger generation coming in. As most of us “old guys” know we have an aging workforce in our industry. It is critical to have the right younger people coming in with a passion for moving our industry forward. Grote has donated and supported Northwood University in various programs for continuing education. Grote has three individuals that have received the Northwood Education Award presented in Vegas every year.

Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?

Yes, Grote is very dynamic and able to move quickly on adjustments or issues. The family owned principles eliminates many “red tape” issues with adjusting to change. We have begun to institute flexible working schedules and try to accommodate to the needs of the employees

Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?

Yes, learn as much from the many experienced professionals that are out there today. Also, don’t move around from job to job, gain an understanding and experience of growing with a team at one company. Many younger generation move from company to company trying to move up or even avoid issues. This does not allow those individuals to with work through issues by finding solutions to their problem … don’t just leave the problem, address it and fix it. By working through issues, is how you truly grow and gain the ability to offer a value add to any company.

Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?

We must support the upcoming youth in our industry. They are our future. Bringing new fresh ideas can certainly help any organization look at things differently.

What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?

Deciding to move away from my hometown for a sales position with Grote — Chelsea, Mich., to Chicago. Taking an early promotion to move inside the office for Grote at our HQ in Madison, Ind. I moved from sales to product management, which gave me a much broader exposure to our company and the industry. Moving back into sales after gaining inside experience within Grote. This allowed me to be much more effective driving our sales to new levels.

Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?

John Minor – John has always taken interest in my career from when I started with Grote as a salesman in Chicago, but also covered his Midwest Wheel locations. He was always genuine and pretty much would tell the ways it was … good or bad. His perspective on how to build relationships through partnering has been invaluable through the years. I could bounce many ideas off John and get honest feedback both good and bad. We have become good friends and continue that relationship after his recent retirement.

Don Reimondo – Don has always been someone I could call and discuss any issue with good or bad and he would be able to help any issue. His long time industry knowledge on both the manufacturer and distributor side was always very helpful. He has become one of my good friends as well and we stay in touch even after his retirement from HDA Truck Pride.

Dominic Grote – He started with our company about a year before me in the field. We both came up through the sales organization and both went into product management and eventually he became our current president and CEO. Through the years I have worked beside him and directly for him. He has always been supportive and pushed me to become better and drive to improve. His friendship and motivation has helped me grow within the company and the industry. This is the only company I have ever worked for and after 27 years, I don’t plan on going anywhere else. This is a great place to be!



Distributor Highlight

Distributor Highlight

Distributor Highlight

Getting to know Vander Haag’s

John Vander Haag, president at Vander Haag’s

Please briefly describe the history of your company.

Our business began in 1939 in Sanborn, Iowa, recycling old cars and selling parts from them. John C. Vander Haag Jr. returned from Korea in 1955 and began dismantling later model wrecked automobiles for quality recycled automobile parts. Starting in the 1980’s we added medium- and heavy-duty recycled truck parts to our operations and then during the 1990s added new and rebuilt parts to our growing inventory. It was also in the early 1990s that we ceased selling automobile parts and also added service departments to our three operations. Currently our operation has grown to seven locations, with our eighth location scheduled to open near Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2020.

Please briefly describe your company’s distribution structure: What do you sell, who are your vendors, who are your customers, etc.

Our distribution structure is primarily direct with the customer, which is mainly driven by our recycled parts supply. We are an independent dealer, distributor and service facility that sells basically every part on a truck. We sell crash parts, drivetrain components, all the way down to the suspension. As part of HDA Truck Pride we handle many vendors. We source parts from the OEM and the aftermarket channels. With the broad geographic areas we cover, we have many unique and specific types of customers. In some of our locations a large segment of our customers are connected to agriculture, while our other locations are connected to the construction and transportation markets. Our customers cover a wide range of repair shops, small to medium sized fleets, down to owner operators.

What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?

Our quality recycled truck parts provide us a unique position in the market by providing an extremely broad coverage and types of parts. When we part out a truck for used parts, you basically have every part available a customer could need. Connected to our service facilities we also offer installation of these parts. Almost all our new, rebuilt and used parts are available to be searched and purchased through our website. We go to great lengths to capture clear and accurate descriptions and photos of the used parts online.

How do you believe customers perceive your business?

We hope our customers perceive value in the quality we strive to provide in our used parts. We are not known to be the least expensive, but we try extremely hard to offer the highest quality and stand behind our parts. We feel customers appreciate our how many ways we can be their one stop shop. From parts, to trucks, to service and beyond!

How and why have your customers stayed loyal to your business?

One of the biggest reasons is because of our team members. The quality of our process is based on the people we have buying, dismantling, inspecting, selling and delivering every day. The relationships built between our customers and our team are why customers keep returning.

What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know)

  • We have a little over 60 active stocking vendors for our replenishable parts..
  • We have over 75 service bays company wide.
  • We dismantle almost 2,000 heavy-duty parts units per year.
  • We utilize over 200 acres for storing dismantled parts units.
  • We upload over 1,400 photos every day to help describe our recycled parts.

What makes your business a great place to work?

The camaraderie between all of our departments and locations is a testament to the desire our team members have to make our business a great place to work. With multiple locations we are continually looking for ways to engage our team members and their family members through Christmas parties, social functions like pheasant hunting or fishing trips, and family vacations at the lake condo. In addition to how we interact with each other, we also strive to provide a safe and rewarding workplace.

How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?

The life of our business depends on the next generation(s). My motto is to look at business, and life, in ten-year intervals. We are intentional about filling the pipeline of leaders in our business so we have people starting, growing and stepping up to lead. Creating the expectation and stepping back encourages young leaders to be bold. There is no single answer to recruiting, so we try and think about multiple channels at the same time. Supporting our industry associations is a significant responsibility and allows our industry to work together to promote ourselves/industry to the younger generation. We are looking to technical schools as well as traditional colleges to find motivated and inspired individuals.

Do you feel your business is in the position to change with the times? If so how?

First by adding younger workers, and then by investing in education. We are setting up training curriculum for our service technicians and setting up training programs for our parts department. Second, we have embraced technology and are all-in with staying ahead of the curve relating to it. Third, our service capability keeps us relevant in each of our markets and makes us smarter at selling parts nationally where we do not have a presence for installation/service.

Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?

Be curious. Ask Questions. Understand what the customers need and be willing to change with them. The market is a powerful force, it can propel you fast and far if you are going the same direction. Understand how the parts work, do not be afraid to get dirty!

What are your goals for the long-term future of your company?

As a family-owned company, I anticipate finding a way for the next generation(s) to participate and potentially lead us forward. Along the way we will be seeking leaders to step up and help interpret and conquer the opportunities we encounter. Service will be key and we are taking steps in our education to be at the front of new technologies.

Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?

We joined GenNext for a number of reasons. The first one was for the education opportunities that are available with the Distributor Training Expo. Our team members come back with a lot of takeaways from it every year. We have also sent our up and coming leaders to the “Leaders of Tomorrow” reception at HDAW to allow them to network with other young leaders about the opportunities in the heavy-duty aftermarket.

What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?

One pivotal moment was when we purchased one of our locations (1992) and my father left the country for four weeks. I was 23 years of age and found out quickly what I did NOT know. I recognized that it was okay to admit I was learning, but I also learned I had to make decisions and move forward.  Second, we have had a building destroyed by a fire (2003) and an entire facility threatened by a flood (2011), to name a couple disasters. During these times I learned, or was reminded, how strong our team was and how important it is to focus on our biggest asset every day so we are ready for the tough times.

Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?

Working in a family business, my father, John C. Vander Haag Jr., has had a significant impact on me. I was able to work side by side with him for many years, but at the same time he encouraged me to push ahead, be independent and grow our business in a professional and ethical manner. He frequently recognizes the importance of associations and working together as the industry. Dave Scheer of Inland Truck Parts has been an influence for me as an example of an industry champion. His tireless promotion of our industry and desire to advocate on our behalf is world class!



Organizational Update

Organizational Update

Organizational Update

The Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN) and GenNext board of directors have announced a partnership agreement with HDA Truck Pride and the VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies.

The agreement allows the members of HDA Truck Pride, VIPAR Heavy Duty and Power Heavy Duty to become associate members of CVSN. The three groups represent more than 400 member companies, with more than 1,700 parts and service locations and close to $4 billion in parts and service at the final point of sale.

CVSN says this is a critical step to supporting the independent heavy-duty aftermarket by strengthening training and recruitment initiatives and building critical mass to continue fights in Washington, D.C., for legislation that benefits the independent aftermarket on technology (data standards, EDI) and heavy-duty access to information and right to repair issues such as Magnusson Moss and vehicle telematics.

As CVSN works to become the industry voice, the independent aftermarket community will become stronger than ever.

“I am beyond excited about this expanded partnership between our three organizations,” says Sean Ryan, CVSN president of Point Spring & Driveshaft. “The increased membership base gives CVSN the ability to continue to advocate fiercely on behalf of the commercial vehicle aftermarket distribution network in North America.”

The membership strategy allows both Tina Hubbard, president and CEO, HDA Truck Pride, and Chris Baer, president and CEO, VIPAR Heavy Duty, to have seats on CVSN’s board of directors.

“By partnering with CVSN on this membership initiative, we’re reinforcing the advocacy for the independent aftermarket,” says Hubbard. “Our members have much to gain from each other, and other CVSN members. CVSN’s focus on training, recruitment and legislation aligns with HDA Truck Pride’s strategic plan and long-term goals. It’s a critical step as we work together as one commercial vehicle industry.”

“The VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies and our distributors within their local markets are leaders in our industry, and we need to continually step forward to serve and ensure progressive change,” adds Baer. “This partnership demonstrates our commitment to that belief in support of a strong independent aftermarket which is essential to the success of all stakeholders.”

Adds Ryan, “With Tina and Chris joining our board, they will have direct access into shaping the future of our organization and can provide us tremendous insight and experience. I am humbled and honored to have been able to help play a small part in this.”



Supplier Highlight

Supplier Highlight

Supplier Highlight

Getting to know Velvac

Herb Brown, manager, Aftermarket sales and marketing at Velvac

Please briefly describe the history of your company.

Velvac is an 86-yea-old company that started with the manufacture of vacuum brakes. The original name of the company was The Vacuum Power Equipment Company.  We became Velvac in 1940 to align with the new product the Velvet Vacuum Brake.  Velvac began manufacturing mirrors for truck OEs in the 1950s as a Tier-1 manufacturer. Velvac is owned by Eastern Corporation.

Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.? 

Velvac is a three-tiered company. We supply parts to the medium- and heavy-duty truck aftermarket, medium- and heavy-duty OE and OE recreational vehicle markets. The two OE segments are served by internal sales teams. The aftermarket business is supported by a director of sales and marketing, national sales manager, sales support analyst, product manager and marketing manager, as well as 53+ independent representatives.  Our OE customers include all the large truck OEMs, Ford, GM, Trailer OEMs and almost all RV Manufacturers. In the aftermarket we serve all market: buying groups, national accounts, independent WDs, truck and trailer dealers, truck body upfitters and government suppliers. We have over 4,500 SKUs in inventory, with line item fill rates of over 95 percent in 24 hours. We ship from four warehouses, New Berlin, Wis. (corporate), Dallas, Anaheim and Ontario.

What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?  

Our mix of product with brake systems being coupled with mirrors and one of the largest offerings of air cylinders and valves to actuate those cylinders.  We are also supported by an engineering staff of 17 engineers, which is probably something most people don’t know.

How do you believe customers perceive your business? 

I believe customers find us to be a company that is easy to do business with due to our fill rates and turnaround time.  We have excellent quality products with warranty rates around 0.5 percent (not 5 percent but 0.5 percent).  Having 4,500+ SKUs in the offering makes it easy to place orders.

How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?  

Same reasons stated above.

What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know) 

Many of the aftermarket customers don’t know we are a tier one supplier to the truck OEMs or RV OEs.  We are IATF 16949 and ISO 14001 certified, with 17 engineers in New Berlin.

What makes your company a great place to work?  

Culture!  Jeff Porter the president and CEO of Velvac empowers his staff to drive change and improvement.

How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals? 

It is essential to get younger people in this industry. Look around at the cocktail hours at any of our events and you will see lots of grey hair/no hair people. What needs to be emphasized to new people entering this industry is that the general culture is enjoyable. You will make many lifelong friends all across the country if you stay with it.

Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?

Velvac is poised to change with the times because we are situated at a perfect size. Small enough to be flexible but large enough to have the support to make the changes needed.

Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?

Don’t worry about the fact that truck parts are not “sexy”!  Embrace your business with a passion, learn all you can and you will succeed!

Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?

My former product manager was in GenNext.  I have a new sales support analyst that I will have join GenNext.  We need to keep getting more young blood in the business.

What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?  

  • My first job in the industry was as an independent rep. You learn a lot about multiple products in that job.
  • My first corporate position was at Tramec Corporation. There I learned more about air brake systems than I have learned since.
  • Moving to Velvac and working for Jeff. I went from being in a sales position where my only job was to sell, to a position where it is my job to work on helping my company progress in who/what we want to be in the industry.

Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?

Too Many to list!  Doug Thompson (Sloan), Toby Harris (CVG), John Minor (Midwest Wheel), Armond Sikes (AA Wheel), Dave Settles (Weldon Parts) and of course my current boss, Jeff Porter (Velvac).