Getting to know C&W Truck and Trailer
Joe Falsetto, C&W Truck and Trailer
Please briefly describe the history of your company.
All three business partners used to work at Drive Train Industries, and shortly after the company was purchased we decided to go on our own. Our business is based in Fort Collins and we serve the Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming markets.
Please briefly describe your company’s distribution structure: What do you sell, who are your vendors, who are your customers, etc.?
Aside from the shop services DTI offered we went back to the same vendors we had while at DTI. We are a small local warehouse distributor, and because of our membership in HDA Truck Pride we have the ability to be direct with almost every major OEM brand.
We currently stock the following brands: Atro-Bushings, Automann, APSCO, Ace Manufacturing, Eaton-Bezares PTO’s and hydraulic pumps, tanks and accessories, Baldwin, Bendix, Bepco, Betts, Buyers Products, ConMet Hubs & Seals, SKF-CR, Dayton, East Penn-Deka, Dana, Donaldson Filtration, ECCO, Meritor-Euclid, Extreme Cams, Flexfab, FPPF, General Truck Parts, Eaton Fuller, Grote Accessories, Grote Lighting, Gunite Slack adjusters, SAF-Holland, Horton, Kit Masters, Prestolite-Leece Neville, MEI-AirSource, Haldex, National Seals, Wagner Lighting, Marathon Brakes, Monroe Shocks, Bosch-OTC, Proline brake products, Stemco-Kaiser, Titan Tire Chains, Timken Bearings, Trucklite, Tectran, Trico and Clear Plus wiper blades, Velvac, Warren Distribution-Chemicals, Weller, Pig Products, MS Carita, Gates Belts and Hydraulics, American Forge and Foundry.
We sell to municipalities, truck repair shops, owner operators, school districts, oil and gas industry, construction, small OEs, dealers, mobile repair, equipment rental facilities, refuse-trash haulers, and pretty much anyone that walks through our door.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
I think what separates us from some of our competitors is the experience factor at every level of our company. Steve Back (co-owner) is our outside salesman was our former sales manager at Drive Train, and he has relationships with the local customer base as well throughout different states. He never quits and is 100 percent customer focused and has been for the 30 years that I’ve known him. Our inside sales team is led by Steve Duszak (co-owner), one of the best countermen in the business. He too has contacts all over the country and that has enabled him to help our customers with anything and everything when it comes to truck and trailer parts. He has two countermen that are former mechanics and shop supervisors, and between the three of them there is an immense amount of technical experience sitting on the other side of the phone or the other side of the counter. For myself, I was the purchasing manager for over 15 years with Drive Train, and before that I was in outside sales, assistant store manager, counter sales, and started as a delivery driver when I was going to school. Per employee our average years in the truck and auto parts business is well over 30 years.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
I think customers are starting to see we are serious about having inventory on the shelf when they need it and that we’re trying to do business differently. We have opened on Saturdays and most of our customers have our cell numbers in case they need something after hours. I feel as we move on that we’ll be perceived as the “go to” people for truck parts in our area.
How and why have your customers stayed loyal to your business?
We are focused on getting the customers what they need and I think consistency and fair dealings lend themselves to loyalty. We always want to be consistent and fair when we’re dealing with all customers.
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)
Something our customers wouldn’t know, that for me displayed commitment and dedication in our team. For the first seven to eight months of business only the three owners were working, and although we were doing pretty good for just starting out, we didn’t take a paycheck until near the end of the third quarter. It’s not impressive, but we just wanted to make sure we were being smart with our resources and giving our all back into the business.
What makes your business a great place to work?
Our business is a great place to work as we have multi-talented people to draw on for resources. We also can change or adapt procedures as we want or see necessary to improve our company. As owners we’re more aware of how vital every employee is to our operation. That one detail leads to true appreciation for our employees. We want them to genuinely know we value their input. If they see a better way of doing something, we welcome innovation and process improvement suggestions. Their voice is heard.
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’s extremely vital for our business because of the average age in our company. We are asking customers for suggestions and are encouraged when we find younger talent. We also look at the counter people in the auto parts business and truck dealerships that we feel could shift to heavy-duty truck parts.
Do you feel your business is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
On one hand, yes, our company continues to look for new customers as the market and economy changes. Our philosophy is to provide excellent service and find the parts the customers need. We also have expanded our Hydraulic hose, PTO, and pump offering. As well as additional brake and suspension products. Our customers also help us with identifying inventory needs. But on the other hand, no, because the traditional methods of conveying this information to customers is changing and has changed for the younger generation. We are currently working with an outside company to help us with this task alone.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
Learn as much as you can from the older generation as there is a tremendous need for the younger generation to replace gray haired ladies and gentlemen. Patience is critical. The aftermarket heavy-duty truck parts business is more of a time process. Because the counter people don’t have the VIN at their disposal learning the ins and outs of the business requires time on the job.
What are your goals for the long-term future of your company?
Build a larger customer base and expand the products that we offer with our current and future customers. Make sure we have the right vendors for the long haul. Add good employees as we move forward. Grow the company but maintain small business mentality.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
Answers from Steve Back:
- I worked with Gates for five years before being recruited by DTI and accepting a sales position. This gave me the vendor background that was so critical in the way I approached sales thereafter.
- Becoming sales manager in 2005 and having the opportunity to coach people and help them grow in their positions.
- Starting a new business of our own in 2019 after Drive Train was purchased.
Answers from Joe Falsetto:
- Literally deciding to keep my job at DTI when I was in college vs. the other job I was working. College was great, but my focus wasn’t there, and I wasted a lot of time and money. Hard work and commitment has been my path.
- When I interviewed for the purchasing manager position, I was offered a piece of advice that helped me to this day. The advice was to basically calm down when it came to the inventory issues and not carry it over to the people I worked with. I used to get pretty “worked-up” when it came to inventory availability, accuracy, lost sales, etc. and that didn’t help. This awareness changed how I approached our people and situations thereafter—for the most part.
- Change is frustrating! After we were purchased although the company buying us was and still is a great company the changes were similar to a speed boat turning vs. a big ship turning. That kind of turbulence was just too much, and you realize happiness at work is so critical. So, starting our business seemed a more logical choice because we knew what worked and we had built relationships for almost 30 years. Many doors were opened and the way things presented made the transition an obvious decision to move forward with.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
Answers from Steve Back:
- John J. Burke. He started Drive Train in 1945. I had the privilege of working with all five of his sons. Jim Burke Sr. guided the company from 1987 to 2005 and did a fabulous job. He like his brothers all grew up in the business and shared his knowledge with all employees. He never had a door on his office and always made time for employees or customers.
Answers from Joe Falsetto:
Steve Back and Mark Potter. They both were so instrumental in teaching me the “yin and yang” of the business. You need profit to run the business, but without sales and everything sales encompasses, nothing happens. Jim Burke Sr. and Jeff Burke had early influence when I started going to industry trade shows and listening to people in the industry