Getting to know Fleet Brake
John Bzeta, president
Please briefly describe the history of your business (a quick summary is fine).
The history of our business goes back to 1914 when Henry McCoy moved to Edmonton from Montreal and opened a blacksmith shop in downtown Edmonton. In 1923, the advent of the Model T coupled with Alberta’s rough roads provided Henry with the inspiration and opportunity to open a spring manufacture and repair business. The original family carried on the business of providing heavy-duty truck services for the next 88 years. In 1978, Fleet Brake was created by the Bzeta family and over the next several decades parts sales, truck service repair and maintenance operations were expanded both geographically and in product offerings. In 2011, the Real McCoy Service Centres was acquired by Fleet Brake. With a 104]-year-old legacy of serving the commercial vehicle business, Fleet Brake is positioned well for the next 100 years.
Please briefly describe your company’s distribution structure: What do you sell, who are your vendors, who are your customers, etc.?
Fleet Brake’s distribution structure is diverse, spreading from coast to coast across five time zones. Operations include PDCs, OEM trailer dealerships, parts and service operations and web stores. Our customers, depending on channel, include end users, associates, retail chains, dealers and manufacturers. We have export customers globally with several in the United States. Our vendor partners support our many sectors including manufacturing, commercial vehicle, industrial, automotive and MRO.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
Our largest competitor is ourselves. Our differentiator would be best described as flexibility, passion, diversity and recognition that the customer is the boss.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
Having the name Brake in our name creates the impression we only sell brakes. Hard to blame our customers for that, but our sales and marketing efforts are changing that trend.
How and why have your customers stayed loyal to your business?
Our business is still a people business. We have been fortunate to have great people that have been working for us for years and consider Fleet Brake home. Customers like consistency and understanding and our team provides that. As our business and offerings grow, it allows us to provide innovative solutions to our customer’s 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)
In the independent heavy-duty aftermarket, other than Traction, Fleet Brake is the only business that operates in two languages and covers Canada nationally from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. In addition, we also are an OE manufacturer of suspensions and other proprietary products supporting the commercial vehicle industry.
What makes your business a great place to work?
Fleet Brake is still a family business and we treat our employees like family. We spend more time at work than we do at home and we try and make the environment as positive as possible. There is an energy at most of our locations that you don’t feel at other businesses. I take great pride in that.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
Our leadership team is one of the youngest in the industry. People want to work at challenging and fun employers. While what we do is still work, we try to encourage innovation, leadership and entertaining job roles.
Do you feel your business is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Change is encouraged at our business units to drive innovation. At Fleet Brake our greatest weakness is our greatest strength, flexibility. We were disrupters before it was cool to be called disrupters.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
As you enter this industry you will find that it is slow to change, reluctant to innovate, and relies on past performance for its future success. Get to know your employer’s systems, procedures and people prior to attempting to “change the world.” Change for change’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. Take your time, identify improvements, then intelligently lead them to real change. Our industry needs competent, driven individuals like you.
What are your goals for the long-term future of your company?
I take seriously that hundreds of families rely on Fleet Brake and its stability. I also believe we are seriously under compensated for the value we provide. Long term, I intend to grow intelligently (hopefully) but not at the expense of financial stability. Through the prosperity and strength of Fleet Brake, we can continue to provide real and unparalleled support to our customers.
Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?
Originally, we joined so Steve Hanson and Edward Kuo would stop pestering and humiliating me. Since Fleet Brake has been involved, it has been an incredible benefit to engaging and training our future leaders. In an industry that doesn’t focus on staff development, GenNext provides leadership to change that trend.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
I believe it comes down to courage. I have been through four economic downturns and have taken large risks to grow my business. During those challenging times I opened several locations and acquired several struggling businesses. Discipline is still required during these times. It is amazing how inefficient you discover your business is when times are tough. We have improved our operations tremendously during these challenging times. I continue to try to remember that fact when times are good. Self-belief. I like to use the line “Let the world say NO to you, do not say NO to the world.” I have been said NO to more times than I can remember but I keep trying. Believe in yourself and your plan and don’t let them bring you down. Listening. Learning involves listening before speaking as much as possible. This is a skill I have been working very hard at although people that know me would say I need more work.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
I used to attend meetings early in my career and I would place myself near strong leaders and try and listen. Although there are many the key ones were:
- Wayne Keller: An incredible business mind and he possessed uncanny relatability
- Joe Pardo: What a guy. He taught me the importance of personal business relationships
- Wayne Stockseth: International businessman that taught me force posture and no boundaries.
- Dave Settles: A kind and thoughtful leader with a deep caring for our members at HDA Truck Pride and the industry in general. He taught me compassion and to try and think prior to speaking.
- John Minor: John taught me accountability and responsibility for our industry. He reminds me that our competitors are also our peers and friends.