Taking Chances Leads To Great Success - The DL S3E02
In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Bill Wade, the Founder of FleetPride and Partner at Wade & Partners. Years ago, Bill had an idea and he took a chance at making that idea happen when he founded FleetPride, revolutionizing the distribution of heavy duty parts. Tyler and Bill talk about then versus now, taking chances, challenges faced, and more.
As always thank you for watching and listening!
For the full transcript, continue reading.
CONNECT WITH BILL WADE AND WADE & PARTNERS:
Website - https://www.wade-partners.com
Phone - 630.768.1227
Email - email@example.com
Transcript for Taking Chances Leads To Great Success - The DL S3E2:
Tyler Robertson (00:06):
Welcome to another episode of The DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson, also the CEO and Founder of Diesel Laptops. And this is the podcast show, where I get to talk about everything passionate to me. And that usually revolves around one or two things, entrepreneurship, or our industry we serve, which is the commercial truck and equipment market, mainly. Right?
Tyler Robertson (00:26):
So I want everyone just to take a real quick, think back to your childhood. Do you remember those points in your childhood where your parents told you something and it seemed absolutely crazy or not important? And then as you got older, you start to realize, you know what? My parents are actually pretty dang smart.
Tyler Robertson (00:44):
And now, as an adult, I have kids. I have an eight year old and a 10 year old. And it's funny, it's like the cycle repeating. I'm telling my eight and 10 year olds things that are actually really important, life things they need to know. And I can tell they're brushing me off. They're like, "Dad, whatever. You're old, you don't get it, times have changed."
Tyler Robertson (01:01):
I'm here to tell you, times really haven't changed. So I'm bringing in someone today, that has a vast amount of experience in our industry and in our space. And I want you to really listen and really learn what he has to say. Right? This is how you get better at your business, right? So with this, the person I brought in today, let me just give you his background before I introduce who he is. All right?
Tyler Robertson (01:28):
So his background, he was the CEO of some leading manufacturing companies in our industry. Duracon Lighting, who does light truck accessories. FAG Bearing. They do heavy industrial components. CR Services/SKF, we all know those guys. He's held senior management positions at companies like Stant, which is now Gates. Parker Hannifin. These are some big companies.
Tyler Robertson (01:52):
He's also the Founder of FleetPride. Yes, that FleetPride that has 400 plus locations and is doing their part to grow this aftermarket parts industry. Love him or hate him, Bill's kind of the reason that they're there today. So we're going to dive into that story here in a little bit. All right?
Tyler Robertson (02:10):
Not only that, but he's been around, he does numerous talk, speaking, articles. Just truly someone in our industry that you need to know, if you already don't know who he is. A lot of you listening, probably who know who he is. So with all that, I want to introduce to Bill Wade. He is also now the managing partner of Wade & Partners, a consulting firm. But he knows this space. So Mr. Wade, hopefully, I introduced you properly to the audience there.
Bill Wade (02:35):
More than charitably, that's for sure. You could have just said he's old.
Tyler Robertson (02:41):
I was saying it in the nicest possible way.
Bill Wade (02:43):
Tyler Robertson (02:43):
You know what? It's funny, it's funny. My kids tell me, I'm old, all the time. I'm like, "Look, I'm only 43. I'm not that old yet." But apparently, I'm ancient to those guys.
Bill Wade (02:51):
I have kids older than you. That's just terrible.
Tyler Robertson (02:56):
Hey, there's always new people coming into this space. Right? I think, I really want people to kind of understand the history here a little bit. Because sometimes I think people, and I said, "love them or hate them," right? With FleetPride. I think a lot of people look at them like this huge threat, this huge problem. And other people, obviously love them.
Tyler Robertson (03:11):
They obviously sell a lot of parts and they're growing. They've continued to grow fast for a long time. And there's an origin story here, that a lot of people don't know about. But you're the guy that knows the origin story of FleetPride. So I would love for you to share that with the audience to kind of get us going here.
Bill Wade (03:27):
Okay. It is kind of an interesting thing, because when I got out of college, the one thing I wanted to do was work for Leo Burnett, which was a big advertising agency here in Chicago. One small problem, nobody told Leo. So I ended up, I shouldn't say it that way. But the next five years, I worked with my dad, who was the publisher of magazines, such as Fleet Management News, Auto Body Repair News, High Performance News and Products, Automotive Aftermarket News, and all the show dailies.
Bill Wade (04:07):
So in five years, I really, really learned a lot about, a broad sweep of the aftermarket, what it was about and what have you. And that was the best five years of my life, working with him, I could learn every day. My small problem was that his partner, they had been partners since before I was born. Therefore, they had been partners longer than he was my dad, and I couldn't stand him. So, even though he was trying to do the right thing, it didn't work out.
Bill Wade (04:45):
So I left and I went to work for a manufacturer and so on and so forth. So, you fast forward to the late '80s or, yeah. Or late '90s. And I'm starting to think, you know what? I believe that this business is now ripe for some sort of consolidation. Since I had been a manufacturer and been on the manufacturing side with two or three big guys, and family run businesses and what have you. I thought, geez, that's what we'll do.
Bill Wade (05:22):
And so I looked around, and I found a guy named Fred Mancheski, who was the chairman of a company then, named [Eckland. 00:05:29] He had been running around, acquiring small family manufacturing companies. And so I thought, he's my guy. And I knew him. So I went out to Connecticut and I said, "Fred, I'd like to really get involved with you. Let's do something together."
Bill Wade (05:56):
He didn't want to do that. But I figured out one important thing, that's not where the fun would be. The fun would be on the distributor side, because nothing had been done in the distribution side of the business towards consolidation. Nothing, really. So I had been working with a bunch of private equity guys from here in Chicago, Madison Dearborn Partners. And I went in and I pitched them. Oh, I had this great story. They sat and listened.
Bill Wade (06:33):
And then they said, "You know what? That's not really what we do. Distributors don't have enough brick and mortar for us. They don't have machinery." So they said, "But we understand what you're saying here. Why don't you go out to the West Coast, to Los Angeles? There's an outfit out there called Aurora Capital. And they seem to know what this is all about."
Bill Wade (06:59):
So I hightailed it out there. I got a chance to talk to their partners for about 10 minutes. And after 10 minutes, the chairman slaps his hand down on the table and says, "This is exactly what we do."
Tyler Robertson (07:16):
Okay. Wait, wait. Let me stop you there. Do you know anything at all about running a retailer of truck parts at this point? Or were you mainly on the manufacturing set?
Bill Wade (07:23):
Oh, no. I was a hundred percent on the manufacturing side.
Tyler Robertson (07:26):
So you know nothing about this, and you're like, "Hey guys, we need a bunch of money so we can go start consolidating and rolling up a bunch of retailers?"
Bill Wade (07:34):
Right. Now, the good news is. Then, as sometimes now, the money guys didn't have any idea what the real business was all about. So to them, heavy duty was heavy duty. They didn't realize that there were all of these layers in there. So, that was fine. So I thought, geez. I went home to my ... I was living in Denver, because I had been working with Stant, and it had been sold to Gates.
Bill Wade (08:12):
So I was living there and working with Gates, which is a wonderful company, and I loved it. And my wife said, "Well, how did that go?" And I said, "You know what? I think I'm going to have to do this. They said, yes." She said, "They said, yes to what?" I said, "To my idea." She wasn't quite sure what my idea was, but that's okay.
Bill Wade (08:34):
So I turned in my notice the next day, as of April 1st, what a great day to start something.
Tyler Robertson (08:44):
Bill Wade (08:46):
But fearlessly, because I knew nothing. Here I go. So, my plan was to find some of my customers. The guys that I've been calling on, the members of CFS, the members of different associations that I had been calling on, and I knew well. And I was going to pose this idea. How about I buy your company, and we put it together with Charlie over there and Ralph over here, and we'll have a nice big company and everybody will be happy? I got 10 guys. In the next month, I got 10 guys to say, "Yes."
Tyler Robertson (09:29):
See, that just amazes me, that you phone 10 people like that, and they're like, "Yeah, sure. I'll give up what I own to be part of this bigger thing." It must have been an exciting time for them at that point, or a new thing or?
Bill Wade (09:41):
For all of us.
Tyler Robertson (09:41):
Bill Wade (09:41):
But the thing was, then, as now, the business was changing. And so nobody exactly knew how distribution was going to go. These were all family companies, all very successful guys. And I was going to give them all, A, I was going to buy it for cash. B, I was going to give them the chance to reinvest in the bigger company, along with this bunch of other guys who were their pals.
Bill Wade (10:18):
I mean, we all got together at CFS. So I got 10 of them to say, yes. And I totaled it up, and it was going to take about a $100 million to do this. I didn't have a dime. So I borrowed $100 million.
Tyler Robertson (10:39):
Wait, wait, wait. You literally went and signed the dotted line to say, "Hey, I'm going to go and debt $100 million, to go make this thing work." And this is 20 some years ago, that's a big chunk of change.
Bill Wade (10:51):
It was a lot of money, especially if you have zero. So, what I did is, we arranged for all the financing. So we started April 1st. June 1st, I had all the letters of intent, all squared away. From June to August 1st, we did the legal stuff and the due diligence and all of happiness. August 2nd, roughly, we all met in Los Angeles. And when I think about it now, this is insane.
Bill Wade (11:32):
Our law firm was Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. We had the whole floor of the building they were in, in Los Angeles there. And they had all these conference rooms with glass walls. So I could look down this way, and see five families sitting in five different conference rooms. Look down this way, and there's five families sitting in five different conference rooms, with these racks in the middle, and people running in and signing things.
Bill Wade (12:01):
And I'm running from room, to room, to sign this and that and the other thing. Geez, we heard from the EPA on this guy. And you know, a lot of this, that was pretty fast to pull it together, so a lot of it was kind of close. A lot of it was very close. These guys had been up 48 hours, the lawyers and everybody like that.
Bill Wade (12:26):
So I go first to the Stockseth family, who owned SLM down in Texas. Then over to see Billy Cole, then over to see Ray Faye, and then over to see Townsend, and so on and so forth. Sign, sign, sign, sign, sign. By 3:00 in the morning, FleetPride was there. It was put together.
Tyler Robertson (12:55):
So, boom, like it didn't take long to put that together. And now, FleetPride ... I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take decades, right?
Bill Wade (13:03):
Oh, no. No.
Tyler Robertson (13:04):
Yeah, it sounds like a very fast process that got pushed pretty hard. I just know, the EPA, like phase ones you've got to do on the buildings, and all these inspections and due diligence.
Bill Wade (13:13):
Tyler Robertson (13:15):
And so I get it. And times 10. So it's a big thing. So the company exists? How many locations are there, like day one in this new FleetPride?
Bill Wade (13:23):
Well, during that time, I had also put together a very small headquarter staff, and moved from Denver to Chicago, which was going to be our headquarters. I got my daughter to, she's actually FleetPride employee 000001. And there was five other guys, Steve Crowley from VIPAR was one of them.
Bill Wade (13:53):
And so we put this five guys together, and I mean these guys were churning. Todd Dunn was one of them. A guy named Gill Day was one of them. But everybody was working 20 hours a day, to get this thing squared up. So, we go from five employees and zero revenue one day, to 2100 employees and about $200 million in sales the next day.
Tyler Robertson (14:25):
Yeah. That's just insane. I mean, that's a whole nother level of running a company, right? I mean that's just, it's crazy.
Bill Wade (14:31):
Yeah. It was nuts. Except for one thing, all 10 of those families were still invested in FleetPride. So, that meant that I could call on anybody with any problem, and that was part of the original program. I figured that if I could get guys that were really good at something, we could use their overall talent, in all those other locations.
Bill Wade (15:02):
We had at the time, I want to say 60 or 70 locations. I had actually been to most of them. So I mean, you talk about flying around, it was nuts.
Tyler Robertson (15:16):
Well, tell me about the first couple months or years. I mean, I can just imagine, a new company formed, a bunch of people involved. I mean, I can't imagine, you never ran a company or had been involved in a company like that, that had that many employees. And it's just a lot of, I'm sure different systems and different ways of doing things. And how are we going to buy this?
Tyler Robertson (15:39):
There must have been a million things to walk through. Was it just chaos all over the place, figuring things out? Or how'd you get through it?
Bill Wade (15:46):
No, actually, it actually worked out well, because I knew that this was going to happen. So the exec VP was a guy named Tom Gilday. He was the one of the five smartest guys I've ever known, and he was a computer wizard. Biggest thing, computers. He took care of that. That second guy was in charge of purchasing, Steve Crowley, knew every manufacturer in the business. Steve and a bunch of the old owners, got together and took care of that.
Bill Wade (16:21):
Marketing was handled by a guy named Chuck Bowman, who had worked with me for 20 years. He knew the business inside and out. So we actually had a leadership. We had leadership that could manage this thing. But my key idea was not to make a model and then imprint it nationally. My idea was to take the brilliance of David Townson and his Tanker shop up in Connecticut. And apply that kind of brilliance and see what we could do with Billy Cole, down in Bluefield, West Virginia.
Bill Wade (17:10):
Or go down to Texas. The Stockseths's knew all about what was going on in the oil field. And by the way, when we bought them, we got five dealerships. So for the first time ever, I got to go to the International Harvester Dealer Meeting, as a dealer. And see how screwed up they were. And that was part of my ideal, was that the independents were going to have to do more than just have an association with the OE's, and the OE service channel, starting to get kind of tough.
Bill Wade (17:58):
I felt so much better after I saw the disarray at International. International treated their dealers like scum. Of course, some of our manufacturers treated some of our distributors like scum, but that was, you know. At any rate, so that was the idea. We were going to install a brand new thing at the time. CU-See-Me cameras. They are little cameras, like the one we're using here, on each counter. So that when somebody brought in, I don't know, a used part to be rebuilt.
Bill Wade (18:38):
How do we know that the core is any good, if we've never seen the part before? Well, you could put it on the CU-See-Me. Somebody, in those 60 branches, had seen those before. And they would say, "Oh Yeah, that's a mac, whatever. Look for a crack next to the bolt hole on the backside." You know? And that was ...
Tyler Robertson (19:00):
That was the way to share information back then. I mean, this is, I don't think people realize, this is like pre-mobile phone, pre-internet, being really highly used everywhere era. So I get it.
Tyler Robertson (19:11):
One of the questions I have for you. Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, realizing, man I'm $100 million in debt to somebody? Or did that-
Bill Wade (19:18):
Oh, Jesus. Yes. Oh, yeah. But see, the way it was structured, it wasn't really me in debt, because I was off the hook once we put the thing together, kind of.
Bill Wade (19:31):
But I do remember, and I will never forget a Wednesday, when my CFO, Todd Dunn, called and said, "We're not going to make payroll on Friday."
Tyler Robertson (19:43):
Bill Wade (19:45):
"What? Now, we have 2200 families that are looking for a paycheck on Friday. What do you mean? What happened to all this $100 million shit?" You know?
Tyler Robertson (19:58):
Bill Wade (19:59):
Well, it turns out that people doing exactly what we wanted them to do, had put a cash burden on us that we had not quite caught up with the reporting system yet. So somebody down in Texas, had sold the State of Texas, a whole bunch of international trucks. They did exactly what we wanted them to do. They probably sold them for a decent profit. Did exactly What we wanted them to do.
Bill Wade (20:34):
International needs to get paid in 15 days, the State of Texas pays you in 180.
Tyler Robertson (20:40):
Bill Wade (20:40):
See what the problem was?
Tyler Robertson (20:41):
Bill Wade (20:43):
You talk about learning about cashflow. We covered it on Friday. I didn't sleep that whole time, I don't think, because we had to. I learned about mezzanine financing. I learned a whole bunch of new tricks.
Tyler Robertson (21:01):
You get to learn really quick when your backs up against the wall and you're thrown into situations you didn't see coming. Right?
Tyler Robertson (21:06):
It's always those unknown unknowns, that kind get you to gotcha. You're kind of like, "Ooh, I wish I would've known that, I would have done things differently."
Bill Wade (21:14):
Yeah. But if I had known that ... Well, I don't ... So anyways, that was one of those times that you talk about. As we were going forward, I was really feeling strong about the idea. We bought up a few more, so that by the time we got to December, we had what? Three or four more.
Bill Wade (21:35):
And now we were 14, 15, 16 previous owners. And they still had their own name, it still said Cole Truck Parts, it still said Automotive Service out of Phoenix. It still said SLM, down in Texas, a FleetPride company. That was my concept. And you'll see that a lot of the original concepts, for whatever reason, they turned away from. Mostly the reason is, I wasn't there anymore and somebody else thought they had a better idea.
Bill Wade (22:14):
So in January, one of the guys at Aurora Capital comes to me and he says, "How can we make this thing go faster?" I looked at him and I said, "Faster? We just went from zero to now $250 million in sales, in fewer than six months. Faster?" "Well, you know we've had a window of opportunity." Oh yeah. Whatever.
Bill Wade (22:44):
So I found that there was another guy, another bunch, which was a bunch of HDA guys, Heavy Duty America guys. And they had started a thing called HDAPS, Heavy Duty America Parts Service. And this was the Jim Stones of the world. It was the guys that I had called on, I could not get to go with me, but they signed up with this other guy. Well, that's great. And stick with me here.
Bill Wade (23:20):
There was a third guy, called [TRANS-COM. 00:23:22] And TRANS-COM was the one that had signed up Tom Ketchum's outfit, out in California. Three different approaches. Our approach was to pay cash and let you invest. TRANS-COM's was to put them all together and do what they called at the time, a poof IPO. So they'd put them together and took it public, day one. And then, the third guys, HDAPS, put them together and decided to finance it through public debt markets. So three different ideas, all with the same, relatively the same goal.
Bill Wade (24:10):
In a fairly short period of time, the poof deal collapsed. And that was just sad, because there were some great guys that lost their ass, lost the family business in that. I'm sorry. Some of them were able to rescue themselves out of that mess, and good for them. The HDAPS guys had all of this public debt floating around out there.
Bill Wade (24:41):
And I wish I could take credit for this, but I can't. The private equity sponsors for FleetPride, went out and bought up all the debt, and they bought it at a big discount. And before you know it, we knew we owned them.
Tyler Robertson (24:59):
Yeah. No, it's just amazing to see three different strategies, all kind of converging near the same point in time, independently.
Bill Wade (25:08):
Oh yeah, especially since it had never been done before. And now, within the time period of six months, three different bunches of guys tried the same general idea with three different financing's, three different everything's.
Bill Wade (25:25):
One of them cashed out right away, and the other two got together. So, that's fine. So we get together, and now on our first birthday, August 2nd. FleetPride is $530 million and is comprised of 27 family companies. One year.
Tyler Robertson (25:49):
That's just crazy to put something together in such a short time period. You know? Because I can't even imagine that happening today, more or less, 20 some years ago.
Bill Wade (25:59):
Well, if it happens today, I won't have me as part of it, I'm too old. But it really was fine, because think of all the brain power we ended up with. 26 family companies that were doing well, we didn't take any orphans. We didn't take any strays. We didn't take any turnarounds, not one. So, that was 26 different markets where we were very well off.
Tyler Robertson (26:28):
Yeah. I can just imagine. I know inside my own company, 200 or something employees. It's hard to even get 200 employees. Like, you know you have an expert in the corner over here, and you've got a guy in the other corner, or gal. Like how do you bridge that gap? So I can only imagine the complexity that you guys went through, growing that, and that's awesome.
Tyler Robertson (26:45):
And I hope what people realize from that, is it started with an idea, right? And you don't necessarily need to have the cash to go do it. You need to have the gumption and be able to take the risk. And be able to know the right people and put things together, and things like this can happen in our space. The truth of the matter is, the story you said has played out in our industry time and time again. It's playing out now with the Mobile Maintenance Operations.
Bill Wade (27:09):
Oh, yeah. Dickinson.
Tyler Robertson (27:10):
Look at Dickinson rolling up and now it goes to Cox. Right? You've seen that play up. I see it happening in the parts manufacturers, look at Dorman, they just bought Dayton Parts. You think those guys are done? Heck no, they're going to go buy more parts manufacturers and keep rolling up.
Bill Wade (27:24):
I was part of that one too. Dickinson is an ... I'm glad you brought that up. Those guys are smarter than hell. They see the next thing. When they came up for sale, we were in there, I was in there. We were unsuccessful. But I'll tell you what, they're going to be successful beyond words because they're so damn smart, and they see what's going on.
Bill Wade (27:55):
They invest in what's going on. But most of all, they're keeping the people around. People say, "Well, we can't find workers. We can't find this, we can't find that." Well you can, if you treat people okay. And that's why they're going to be in great shape.
Tyler Robertson (28:11):
So Bill, I listened to one of your other interviews you did, I think it was with Jamie Irvine, with The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. And you made a comment in there, and it's the same thing I've always said. And I've come more from the truck dealership world, not as much the aftermarket side.
Bill Wade (28:24):
Tyler Robertson (28:25):
And it's funny, I was in that space for 15, 20 years. And what I found, was every time I ran across a dealership building, or a department in that building that was highly profitable and had great customer satisfaction and great growth. You know what it always came down to? Is their employees have always been there for a long time. They knew how to work well together, and they had a very strong leadership team.
Tyler Robertson (28:53):
And it was the complete opposite, every time I ran into a department, and I actually enjoyed taking over roles inside companies, where their departments were kind of junky, they had problems. Because I was like, "Oh, this is easy fix. I know how to fix this. I'm a look like a hero. Right?
Tyler Robertson (29:07):
Is it like that in the independent world? And in your experience, has it been that same way, when you have that great leadership, you tend to have low turnover and a highly functioning department? Or have you seen it differently?
Bill Wade (29:22):
Well, FleetPride today is nothing like FleetPride was we started. Because the guy that's there now, I think he's the seventh CEO. I was the first one. Two of my guys were CEOs, [Leese 00:29:41] Stockseth and Todd Dunn. So, you know, there's been several guys that had the same idea and purely had it. And not picking on anybody, but private equity likes to bring in their own guys. That's fine.
Bill Wade (29:56):
I don't give a damn if I was going into the Florist business, the first thing I'd do is find some Florists and let them run the thing. I would stand there and learn, I would hope to learn. But I wouldn't come in there and say, "I like petunias. We're going to pick up a petunia line. Or we can get a really great deal on petunias." No. That's not the way it's done. Find out what the customer wants.
Bill Wade (30:27):
These guys have been serving those same customers for 20 years. They know those parts inside and out. The guy that told me to look on the backside of the steering box to find the crack around the bolt hole. Where do you think he found that? That wasn't in any book. That was because he knew what he was doing. So the key, and this would be for whether you're part of a big group or not. The key is to have those people around.
Bill Wade (30:57):
And it's not just independents, look at Rush Services. Rusty knows what the hell he's doing. And what he really knows, is that his guys know. He's got a guy. He's got what? A hundred and some dealerships, they all have a guy. They all know their customers inside and out. There's no rush deal. He knows how to do that.
Tyler Robertson (31:29):
Yeah. I better learn that lesson too. I just need to get the hell out of my employee's way. I pay them a lot of money. I pay them for their expertise, their experience. That's why they're here. And I think you hit the nail on the head. A lot of businesses, especially small ones, can't do that. The owner, or whoever's been there forever, can't get out of their own way, which then causes them to hold back.
Tyler Robertson (31:46):
But I'd like to switch gears just a little bit. I found some articles you wrote a little bit ago. So these are actually both from 2014, so I'm not sure if you remember them or not. I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast this morning. If you can remember these, that's going to be great. If not, no big deal.
Tyler Robertson (32:02):
The first one was titled The Role of the Heavy Duty Sales Function is Shrinking and Being Redefined. You make a couple of great points in this article that you wrote. One is, "how to serve the small accounts profitably is still the holy grail." And I can tell you, Diesel Laptops, our core customer base is the small customers. And you are right, it is the holy grail if you can figure out how to do it in scale and do it profitably. And I don't care what industry it is, it definitely can be done.
Tyler Robertson (32:32):
But one of the things you really highlight in there, is these sales reps that work at these heavy duty parts sellers. You write, "They must increase their value with the supply chain benefit solutions." Right? So in there, you talk about finding inefficiencies and those things. So can you talk about, has much really changed from 2014, when you wrote this, to 2022 today? Must reps increase their value in order to keep getting that business? Or is what you wrote here, not really stood with the test?
Bill Wade (33:02):
The only thing that's changed is the people that didn't pay attention are gone. You can't live today, unless you follow that fairly simple set of. If you look at the reps today, working for either manufacturers or independent manufacturer's reps. First of all, it's a much smaller student body than we used to have. The days of the donut patrol are over.
Bill Wade (33:33):
It used to be, to be a great rep, you just stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and showed up early in the morning, took care of everybody. Went and made sure they had price lists and asked if there was anybody you could go make a joint call with. And if there were, then you'd go out and do that, take them to lunch. That was it.
Bill Wade (33:59):
Today, that's not it at all. Today, you have to be a business consultant. Today, you have to have a sense of what the government is doing. You have to have a sense of where technologies are going. And not just the technology of your parts, but the technologies of other parts that are changing the vehicles and business that you're actually calling on.
Tyler Robertson (34:27):
So let me just explain for the audience here, how our truck parts, the heavy duty sales rep today. And maybe I'm wrong here. So I guess, well, I'm going to say what I think they do today. Let me know if you think I'm wrong here.
Bill Wade (34:39):
Tyler Robertson (34:40):
What I think they do today, is they get their box of donuts or they get their sales flyer for the month. And then they drive around and they walk in there, and they throw it on the counter. And they're like, "Hey Bob, do you need any parts today?" Bob's like, "Nope.
Tyler Robertson (34:54):
They're like, "Okay, well I'll see you tomorrow or next week or whenever I come back through on the road again." And that's usually the extent of what's going on. Am I wrong? Or is that still how you think a lot of this works today?
Bill Wade (35:06):
No, you are wrong. But, if you had been here eight years ago, you'd be exactly right, and that's what I mean about things changing. All the guys that try to do that today, they're gone. They're just not worth it anymore, because the value of a sales rep ... And they're making more money than they ever did.
Bill Wade (35:31):
Agencies, sales agencies are some of the strongest companies in the business. The big ones like NA Williams, down in Atlanta, fantastic operation. Hundreds of guys out there in the field. They have detail people, they have trainers. They have everything that a manufacturer used to have. When I was running a CR, and we had a line called Scott Seals, and I loved them to death. We had 40 guys in the field, just to do heavy duty. 40.
Bill Wade (36:13):
Today, I'll betcha, I don't know, but I'll betcha they don't have more than 15. When we had them out in the field, they were doing training at the distributor level, the fleet level, the mechanic level. Today, that's been replaced with video training or ... There's been replacements made, because they can't afford to have that many people out there. So it is different.
Tyler Robertson (36:46):
I'm glad you said that too, because one of the ... This just happened to me, like two years ago. I'm meeting with the manufacturer and it's at a conference that we're at, and we're up in their suite, talking to them. And they had a stack of books there, and each book had a customer's name on it. And I was like, "Oh, what's that?" And they're like, "Oh, well, what we do." He goes, "That's a presentation for that customer."
Tyler Robertson (37:05):
I'm like, "Oh, you have a different presentation for each customer." He's like, "Well, yeah." I'm like, "Well, explain it to me." He goes, "Well, what we do, is we have a system where we have all the VINs. We bought a VIN database and we have a VIN decoder. And we've coded all of our parts to year, make, model.
Tyler Robertson (37:21):
So we pick a customer on this little web tool that we have. And it automatically makes this PDF that tells us for each customer, what parts we have that fit their equipment. And we know the usage and how many they go through. And when we actually go see a new customer, we don't walk in with a sales flyer, talk about what are you doing? We walk in and we say, 'Here's how I'm going to save you $20,000 next year.' And it's all laid out for them."
Tyler Robertson (37:45):
So it's good to hear that you see it as well, where companies are evolving. And I think it goes back to what you're saying, find the inefficiencies, provide value, and you will get those customers for a very, very long time.
Bill Wade (37:57):
Sure. Because look, we all serve the same customer. It's the guy that owns or operates a truck. We all serve the same guy. Some guy throws the box away, he's a good guy to know. But you know, it goes up and down. Associations, it goes up and down, large companies, external service providers, internal service providers. And I think there's going to be different classes of trade that are evolving right now. Right now.
Bill Wade (38:32):
And you're one of them, by the way. The idea, 10 years ago that something beyond motor and their electronic manuals was going to be around, was silly. Now, if I think about it, there's about 15 companies like yours, not doing exactly the same thing, but applying technology that's never been applied to this problem in some way, shape, or form.
Bill Wade (39:10):
There's a guy like SmartEquip, who's trying to be a backbone for the lease rental fleet. There's you, there's Price Decks,, there's whoever it is. Everybody's got an idea and all of you guys are bright enough and ballsy enough to go after it. And that's the fun of this.
Tyler Robertson (39:32):
Well, we always stay around here. "Don't be full stupid, just be half stupid." So we have no problem throwing a bunch of money at something, if we think there's a reason to do it. And you know, what you mentioned, and just to explain to the audience, we feel that people should be able to figure out the part number they need to buy. And have availability in pricing without having to pick up the phone and talk to somebody.
Tyler Robertson (39:52):
And they should be able to figure that out, coming right from a fault code. They should be able to look up the parts themselves. They should be able to go from a fault code to the part number in less than three minutes. And these are all things that you would've said five or 10 years ago. I'm like, "That's impossible. You can't do that."
Tyler Robertson (40:06):
It's actually amazing, once you start looking into the technology and asking why not? All of a sudden, those why not's, turn into yeah, we can do that. When you start really thinking about it. And you're absolutely right. It's great to see a lot of companies coming at it. Very similar to what happened, it sounds like 25 years ago, coming to the same conclusion. Just we're going to take different stabs at it. Some of us are going to win, some of us are going to lose. Some of us are going to consolidate. We'll see what happens.
Tyler Robertson (40:28):
Like SmartEquip. They just got acquired by Ritchie Brothers. So, obviously there's a reason, a lot of us are spending time and money to go solve this complex problem. But in today's world, you should not have to pick up the phone and call around to five different places. And spend an hour of your time, to figure out, who has my part and what's it cost and when can I get it? It's time for us to move on past that.
Bill Wade (40:47):
Right. And yeah, you're exactly right. Now, let's think about this for a second. As I see it, and this is just me. There's no reason for us to be involved at all. The truck or the tractor, or the trailer, or the piece of equipment knows what it's doing, and I'm going to personalize it.
Bill Wade (41:15):
So it's running down the road. And let's say that it knows that the belt is slipping, so it's not charging the batteries properly. So it knows that. What can it do? Well, it can go to the Qualcomm Unit and say, "Hey, yo, I got a fault code here. I need to tell somebody." Qualcomm Unit says, "Yeah, I'll do that."
Bill Wade (41:38):
They can tell the fleet management operation center. They can tell the nearest dealer, if that's what that fleet is running with. They can tell the dealer then, what the problem is, what the unit number is, and when it'll be there. The dealer then, can get that part. If he has it, or if he needs to get it from the web somewhere, he can get it.
Bill Wade (42:07):
So that guy comes in, the thing is fixed and he is out of there. And Oh, did we forget something? We didn't. We weren't involved. The truck said, it diagnosed itself. It ordered itself fixed, fixed itself and got out of there.
Tyler Robertson (42:25):
You are a 100% right. We look at it and go, "Well, why do distributors even exist?" Right? And when you really think about it, they exist, one, so you have product available in that market. They exist so you have knowledgeable people that can represent your product and help sell it to customers. And then you need someone to actually deliver that product to the user, right? Like those are the three primary reasons why companies have distribution.
Bill Wade (42:50):
Tyler Robertson (42:50):
There're other reasons, I know. But a lot of those advantages are getting eroded now, because what you just talked about is technology coming in and saying, "You know we may be the knowledge resource for you, not that person on the parts counter." And by the way, those guys are retiring and leaving the market. And a bunch of people are coming in that don't know much.
Bill Wade (43:09):
Right. You know, we used to say, and I still think it's true. That the fleet business, the heavy duty business is a relationship driven business. I still believe that. I further would tell you that there's fewer than 250 guys that make all the important decisions in this business. The rest of us deal with the derivatives of those decisions.
Bill Wade (43:37):
A distributor, well, when I started FleetPride, a distributor's primary reason to be there was to break bulk. It was for us to order a hundred and send you 10. That was the primary reason for industrial distribution. Not anymore. Today, the primary reason is to look at the end user piece of equipment and make sure that that thing has everything it needs to operate at top efficiency.
Bill Wade (44:12):
Who gives a damn if there's a case deal anymore. When was the last time somebody ran a, I used to love these things, sweepstakes and all of that crap. It's just not part of the deal anymore. The part of the deal is now, to figure out how to best service a monolithic customer base, one truck at a time. One truck and one delivery at a time.
Bill Wade (44:42):
Because what? Because our customers, read it Amazon, read it however you want to, are doing that. Amazon is the greatest invention since Henry Ford. And I'm not wrong, that's just a fantastic operation. But what are they doing? They're taking my garage. I live in a barn here, so it's a little different. But they're taking my barn and treating it as though it were a General Motors plant, because we both get the same service.
Bill Wade (45:13):
We both get just in time, not just in case, just in time delivery. I can track my part, literally from the boat in China. As Blockchain is used more and more in this business, I think the efficiency that will spill out of that will be worth 10%. 10% is a lot.
Tyler Robertson (45:41):
It is. And you know, Bill, I wanted to say. But man, I tell you, I do these podcasts. I tell the guests, Hey, we're going to go like 20, maybe 30 minutes. And I'm like, Man, I've been 45 minutes into this, and I think I could talk to you for hours here.
Bill Wade (45:53):
Well, we can do it another time if we have to. But-
Tyler Robertson (45:55):
Well, that's what I was going to say. I need to get you back on to really dive into some of this. Because I think you're absolutely right. And I think you see the world in a very similar way, we see it.
Bill Wade (46:04):
Yeah. Well, because you guys don't see it the way it was traditionally seen. You showed up and said, "You know what? Mm, we think we can do it better." It's not the way it's done here. I unfortunately, had a heart thing earlier this year, or earlier last year. What I learned about was the medical system in this country. And it is a spectacular hot mess. We've got technology that is, I find it just almost inconceivable, the things they can do.
Bill Wade (46:48):
I also watch the billing part of it, or the economics part of it, or the commerce part of it ready to collapse. I watched the doctors, the people doing the work, who are spectacular and well trained in all of that. And I watched them held back by an idiotic approach to the whole thing, it's called our government. Now, I'm not picking on anybody. I'm just saying, if the government moved as fast as the people operating, it would be a whole different thing.
Bill Wade (47:26):
In our business, if distribution could move as fast as the tools that they could have, tools like yours. And we didn't even talk about this. The tools like yours, we could squeeze so much inefficiency out of this business, and I'm not talking about getting rid of people. I'm just talking about taking the people that know what they're doing. Taking the people that are sensitive to the customer and putting them in a spot where they are like snipers, instead of working in the laundry trucks. We put them up on the front line and really utilize them. That's what I think.
Tyler Robertson (48:09):
Well, here's what I'd like to do. So I've got to wrap this episode up, just to keep it under some time constraints. But what I'm going to do, is I'm going to send you a couple, the general public doesn't see this. Even some of my employees haven't seen some of this stuff. I'm going to send you some of the stuff that we're working on, that's coming out soon. And I'd love to get your opinion on it.
Bill Wade (48:27):
Tyler Robertson (48:27):
And I'd love to do a follow-up episode with you on, later this year, just to see and continue these conversations. Because I think, you've been there before. You've seen impact technologies already made in the industry. And you know what it can do and what it should look like in this industry. And I think you look at it differently, like we do.
Tyler Robertson (48:43):
So I just want to say, I really appreciate the conversation. I think our audience got a ton of information from this. And I'm really going to look forward to having our second follow-up conversation at a future point here. But if people just want to connect with you, and again, I hope they understand, there is a lifetime of knowledge in your head that can help a lot of people. How do they get ahold of you?
Bill Wade (49:09):
They can call me at Wade & Partners. They can look us up on the website at wade-partners.com. And they can call us at that number. You know, look, we can help. Or not. If we can't help you, we know that we can't and we'll tell you. But we can help with so many different things. Right now, we are working with a rep agency, we're working with several distributors. We're working with a couple of manufacturers we're working with a European guy.
Bill Wade (49:41):
We can help all kinds of people and we'd love to do it. Yeah. So, oh, one other thing. We should get together, because I believe, I know that there's at least two of these things cooking right now. There's going to be two new little FleetPrides running around here within the next six months. Maybe I'll be part of them, maybe not. But, you watch. And the way they put those together is going to be a lot different than the way we put them together before.
Tyler Robertson (50:14):
Well, I'll tell you what, everyone, I got my popcorn ready. I'm ready to watch the shows unfold. I'm ready to watch technology. Just think about it. How fast technology's gone the last five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years? The flywheel goes faster and faster and faster and faster.
Tyler Robertson (50:28):
It's impacting our industry in every way that you can possibly think of. And just having someone on, and a resource like Bill, he knows the space. He knows where it's going. He understands the impacts and intricacies. So keep that in mind as you're going about your business, always look at things from a different angle. There's always a better way to do things. Look at other impacting.
Tyler Robertson (50:50):
If you took anything away from this as well, just realize history repeats itself. Things happen over and over and over again, just in different storylines. It'll happen again, what's going on. Just have your eyes open. And opportunities present themselves when those situations happen.
Bill Wade (51:05):
Because we all serve one guy. The guy that's operating the equipment, there's no other. It's pretty simple. One guy.
Tyler Robertson (51:14):
Hey, take care of the customer, solve his problem, save him time. You'll make money, I guarantee you. That's it.
Bill Wade (51:21):
Tyler Robertson (51:22):
Everybody will. It's a win-win-win for everybody.
Bill Wade (51:24):
Tyler Robertson (51:25):
With that said, everyone. Thank you for watching. Thank you for listening. If you're on YouTube, we appreciate you hitting that subscribe button. If you're listening on podcasts, everywhere podcasts are played, comments, thumbs up, likes, shares. All that stuff tremendously helps us. We appreciate your feedback. You can always hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tyler Robertson (51:44):
And we're going to sign off. Remember it's just not diagnostics, it's diagnosed done right. And take a little bit look in history, you'll see where the future is. Thank you for watching and listening.