EngineLabs: What are the biggest mistakes engine shops make with regards to inventory?
Lounsberry: Two mistakes that an engine shop can make with regards to inventory are an over emphasis on purchasing direct from the manufacturer, and not properly vetting their WD partners. Manufacturer buy-ins can be expensive and tie up cash, causing a trickle-down effect that impacts a shop’s day-to-day business. Additionally, the majority of manufacturers are set up to manufacturer and ship bulk quantities; meaning modest orders don’t often get the attention required to ship in a timely fashion. When an engine shop partners with the right WD who has a vested interest in the brands they use, that shop can actually free up capital to better operate their business, making smaller, but more frequent and efficient purchases. But the trick is to find and properly vet a WD that can be a true partner – one that has their customer’s long-term interest in mind, like adjusting their stock according to the engine shop’s needs.
EngineLabs: Are there advances in shop software and online ordering that can help a shop save time and money?
Lounsberry: Yes, online ordering is a very efficient way to save time and money – especially when it comes to product research. While there are plenty of software programs out there, simple online ordering probably applies to the vast majority of engine shops looking to buy parts, accessories and internals.
EngineLabs: How has the wholesaler-retailer relationship changed for engine builders over the past 25 years?
Lounsberry: One of the biggest changes to occur to the wholesaler-retailer relationship for engine builders has been that of specialization. For years it was all about being everything to everyone. And while that is still important, today we find more engine builders specializing in particular vehicles like BMWs, Corvettes, Subarus and GTRs. As a result, more wholesalers begin life specializing in the same or similar markets. For Motovicity, it wasn’t all that different. In fact, it was our specialization in performance parts, not cosmetic add-ons, in the sport compact market that kept our business growing and evolving into larger markets like modern muscle, all the while, stocking and selling true performance parts (pistons, valves, clutches, tuners, etc).
EngineLabs: So much of engine building is now customized, so does the wholesaler really fit in today?
Lounsberry: Whenever a business specializes in custom builds or packages, consistency and reliability from suppliers become more important than ever. If the wholesaler is doing its job of listening to the customer and keeping the right inventory in stock, then the wholesaler very much fits in.
EngineLabs: Should engine builders specialize, or do you see more shops trying to appeal to wider markets by covering more brands and performance disciplines?
Lounsberry: Businesses should always focus on what they’re good at. Specialization benefits engine builders by creating a brand based upon their proven skills and success. However, some engine builders may be concerned about limiting their customer base. Ultimately it depends on what that engine will be used for (drag racing, vs. road course, vs. street performance, vs. circle track, etc.). That being said, some engine builders have proven to specialize in something like forced induction and have then been successful in building great engines across several different types of performance requirements. It ultimately comes down to the skill set and expertise of that engine builder. In this industry, reputation and word of mouth are everything.