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Organizational Update

Organizational Update

GenNext and the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN) have opened registration for the 2021 Distributor Training Expo.

The annual event, which was postponed this year due to COVID-19, is set to return July 23-25, 2021 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.

The one of a kind Distributor Training Expo is designed to pair aftermarket distributor inside and outside sales professionals with their supplier partners for high-quality, engaging training content. First introduced in 2016, the Distributor Training Expo has received rave reviews each year and continues to grow. The 2019 event welcomed more than 200 distributor sales professionals and two dozen supplier companies.

Next year’s event has been capped at 200 distributor attendees, so interested businesses are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Distributors must be members of GenNext and CVSN to attend.

For more information, and to register, go to https://miregistration.net/gncvsndist/#registration.



Distributor Highlight

Distributor Highlight

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



Supplier Highlight

Supplier Highlight

Getting to know Kit Masters

Kate Diecks, regional sales manager at Kit Masters

Please briefly describe the history of your company.

Kit Masters was founded in 1996, in the garage, by the father and son team of Keith and Darrin Swanson. From then sons Craig (quality control and engineering), Brian (sales manager), and Trent (customer service and marketing) and dozens more highly valued employees have paved our success. In 2003, Kit Masters constructed a 16,000 sq.-ft. state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Perham, Minn., (15,600 sq.-ft. bigger than our original facility). In 2004, with our business model proving successful, we doubled the size of the plant. With continued growth, we again doubled the size of our facility in 2012, and again in 2018.

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

Kit Masters manufactures and/or markets the industry’s highest quality completely remanufactured fan clutches, fan clutch rebuild kits, thermoswitches, solenoid valves, fan blades and belt tensioners for the heavy-duty and medium-duty markets.  Kit Masters targets warehouse distributors and dealers in order to reach fleets, repairs shops and owner operators.

What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?

As an aftermarket manufacturer of fan clutch products, we are in a unique position to understand the primary causes of fan clutch failure. In order to remanufacture a fan clutch, we have to tear down the failed fan clutch. For us, this is an opportunity to perform failure analysis. Once you understand those issues, you can engineer solutions through component quality or material choices and/or engineering function improvements

How do you believe customers perceive your business? 

Our hope is that our customers perceive us as providing high-quality solutions and a trusted partner that supports and helps grow their businesses. Our goal is to do all this being easy to do business with.

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

Our business model is to provide quality solutions to our customers. This is extremely important to us, because our customers trust we are proving the highest quality products that they are selling to their customers who put their trust in them on delivering a quality product. End users look to the distributors and dealers to provide solutions and reward the companies that consistently demonstrate they provide service. Kit Masters focuses on helping our customers provide these solutions to their customers. We accomplish this through consistent education, online resources and industry leading customer service.

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 own another company called Swan Machine, which is a high-precision, high-throughput machining company. Owning this company vertically integrates our manufacturing, allowing us to control our own quality, cost and supply chain.  This helps us provide the highest quality, lowest cost products to Kit Masters’ customers.

What makes your company a great place to work? 

Kit Masters is a family-run business with family values that understands the importance of work/life balance. Whether you are an employee or customer of Kit Masters you are treated as family, which makes you want to work harder, do better and provide the best service possible.

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

Kit Masters recruits quality, hardworking, honest employees. It is extremely important to Kit Masters and the growth of our company to constantly recruit these individuals.  We find GenNext a valuable organization to get our name out within the industry to help recruit the next generation.

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

Of course, change is constant. As the industry evolves, we need to be on the forefront of recognizing these changes and embracing it as it pertains to our product offerings. We are continually working on growing our product offerings and manufacturing products that last longer and continues to solve the common causes of failure within the OEM product

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

This industry is exciting. If you’re willing to work hard and get involved it can be a rewarding long lasting career.

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

Kit Masters joined GenNext, because we believe in their goal to educate, mentor and recruit the next generation in this industry. We want to support that mission and through the Distributor Training Expo we have been able to help educate and develop relationships with the up and coming generation, which allows us to better service our customers.

What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are? There are not necessarily “moments” that got me to where I am in my career. There are a host of things that lead up to me entering and staying in this industry.  For me it was the ability to know when to change, be confident and thoughtful in the decisions made and learning from everything and everyone.

Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you? I can’t pinpoint one person in this industry that has helped me.  I am fortunate that I’ve been able to take something away from everyone I have had the opportunity to be around.  Whether it be the president of a company, a mechanic or counter person they have all taught me something that has made me a better manager, employee and asset to my customers.



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!