IF you take good care of the parts, you can sell more of the whole.
That’s the philosophy at Royal Truck and Trailer Sales—a philosophy that has helped the Detroit area trailer dealer quadruple sales in the last five years.
“Which is more important to the customer—taking good care of him the time you are trying to sell him a new trailer or taking good care of him whenever he needs parts or service?” asks CEO Carl Bumgardner. “Maybe I feel that way because our company started in the parts and service business and became a trailer dealer later. But I’m convinced that if you are solid in parts and service, the new equipment sales will follow.”
Royal has backed up that approach to the market with some major capital commitments in the past few years. Most recently the company opened its third store in the greater Detroit area.
Prior to opening the Warren, Michigan store last November, Royal built a new location in Wixom, another Detroit suburb. The two new facilities complement the original location in Dearborn.
The three locations form a ring around the Motor City. Warren serves the northeast side, Wixom handles the northwest side, and Dearborn takes care of the southern portion of the area.
“No one wants to drive across town to get truck or trailer parts,” Bumgardner says. “By surrounding Detroit with locations, our customers don’t have to.”
Royal makes it even easier for parts customers by providing extensive delivery services. The company operates a fleet of 15 pickup trucks to deliver parts to customers within a 40-mile radius of their base locations. In addition, Royal has two new one-ton trucks equipped with 12-foot aluminum platform bodies. These trucks deliver palletized loads to customers as needed. They also are equipped with snowplow mounts to enable them to keep the property clear of snow in the winter.
Royal’s new location is the result of its acquisition of All Type Truck and Trailer Repair November 1. With it, Royal is able to serve customers in ways that weren’t previously available. For example:
• All Type Truck and Trailer Repair had been serving customers in Warren and the east side of Detroit for almost 45 years—a customer base that Royal now can easily access.
• Mechanical truck suspensions were a specialty at All Type Truck and Trailer. With the acquisition, Royal obtained an inventory of heavy truck suspension parts, many of which are not available in the area.
• A staff of 30 All Type employees remained after Royal purchased the company. They included technicians with specialized skills, including the ability to fabricate custom leaf springs.
• Custom U-bolt production. U-bolt bending equipment makes sure that right-sized U-bolts are available for installations and repairs.
• Custom hydraulic hoses. The All Type shop had the equipment and employees to offer hoses built to specific lengths.
• Custom graphics. The upstairs room that previously served as the All Type president’s office has been repurposed for use by the company’s graphics department. With a 54-inch printer and a 48-inch plotter, along with laminating equipment, Royal now has what it needs to produce graphics to customer specifications.
• A full paint kitchen. Royal’s Warren paint operation stocks DuPont paint and is capable of matching truck cabs or special colors that customers may order.
• Custom paint. Royal is working with a Canadian supplier to offer a private label line of paint for sale over the counter to customers who do their own painting. The primary advantage is price. Royal’s paint department manager says that they have been using the 100% polyurethane paint for four years without a problem. He says that the paint is comparable to Imron, but they will be selling over the parts counter for half the price.
Royal already is authorized to sell a limited number of colors over the counter. The company plans to sell a full range of colors when development of the private label program is finalized.
All Type offered both truck and trailer repair. Not surprisingly, the shop that Royal acquired came fully equipped. Among the services it provides:
• Frame straightening bay.
• 70-ft blast booth.
• 70-ft spray booth.
• 60-ft spray booth.
The 50,000-sq-ft building provides 25 service bays.
“We have been trying to diversify, and acquiring All Type Truck and Trailer Repair has helped us do that,” Carl Bumgardner says. “Look at what we have here waiting to be repaired—a refuse truck, a dry-freight van, a car carrier trailer, transit bus, a dump trailer, and a reefer.”
The shop is equipped to provide a full range of service, including DOT inspections of trucks and trailers. To make it convenient for drivers to get their equipment inspected, Royal has a driver lounge complete with big-screen television to make the time pass more quickly while they wait for their inspection or other quick services to be performed.
The All Type facility was well equipped for truck and trailer service, by the company was missing the type of parts department that Royal (and its customers) have come to demand. Almost immediately, the company began freshening up the building inside and out in order to make it more appealing to the walk-in trade that Royal desires. The front of the building received a new façade, while customers entering the building from the front are now greeted with a new parts counter and display area.
But beyond this entrance, Royal carved out an extensive supermarket parts display area that complements the basic displays around the parts counter. Customers access the area by walking to the left of the parts counter. There they will find several aisles of shelves filled with truck and trailer parts, accessories, and supplies.
Royal also added new and used trailer sales to the Warren facility.
“We want the same products and services to be available at each of our locations,” Carl says. “All Type did not sell new trailers or parts. One of the first things we did when we got the building was to create parts displays.”
The shop was already set up to service the trailers that Royal sells. They include the full line of Great Dane trailers, heavy-hauler trailers from Talbert, and the platform, tank, dump, and transfer trailers manufactured by MAC Trailer and MAC LLT.
Royal is undergoing a transition from one generation to the next—for the second time in its 45-year history. Roy Bumgardner started the company in 1970. His son Carl has been serving as president until a year ago when he dropped the “president” from his job title and gave it to his son Ken.
“I’m young and hungry, and I want to take this company to another level,” Ken says.
The two share many of the same ideas and operating philosophies.
“We have a strategy to blanket Detroit,” Ken says. “No one else is a full-service dealership with three locations. And we are one of the largest truck parts stocking distributors in the area.”
For trailer dealers who sell parts, Royal sees a close relationship between selling truck parts and trailer parts—and new equipment.
“We have good parts customers that we have sold new trailers. If you have customers who are buying truck parts from you, why not sell them trailer parts, and vice versa? We had trailer parts customers who wanted us to sell them truck parts. We hired a truck parts guy, and selling truck parts has snowballed into a huge thing—but we didn’t have the buying power that we wanted.
In order to improve its buying power, Royal joined the Vipar network of heavy duty truck parts distributors two years ago.
“No one in our market has the buying power on their own that we have as part of Vipar,” Ken says.
Ken has been implementing some changes at Royal designed to keep the company current.
“Customers are changing,” he says. “People are in a hurry, and they don’t want to have to go from one place to another to get what they need. So they just go to Walmart. It’s getting to be that way in our business, too. Small shops are in trouble because they can’t provide it all. We have to diversify, and we’ve been doing that. Truck parts. Trailer parts. Service. New trailer sales. And three different locations.”
Royal recognizes that if there is anything more convenient than one-stop shopping, it’s zero-stop shopping. The company has been working recently to provide customers with the ability to buy from them online. It’s now possible for customers to order trailers from the Royal website. Online parts ordering is the next project.
Other new programs: After a year of beta testing, Royal has been using Karmak’s Fusion system now for three years. In addition, the company also has begun using Sales-i customer relationship management software to do a better job of tracking individual customers.
“Let’s say an individual customer buys most parts from us except, let’s say, radiator parts,” Ken says. “Why aren’t we getting that business? Maybe he has a long relationship with a radiator shops. That’s fine, we appreciate loyalty. But what if it’s just that we aren’t talking to him about radiator parts? Is there some extra business for us?
“Or what about the customer who just stops buying certain products from us? We have grown so much that we have had trouble calling on customers like we should, and it has been more difficult to keep up with them.
“That’s where our new CRM software comes in. With CRM, you don’t have to let things slip through the cracks. We identified where we need to improve. We have done analysis like this in the past and found the problem, but it took us six months. Our CRM software tells us tomorrow.
Royal has been running the system since August. Presently, the company’s regional sales manager gets the report and watches for red flags. He then discusses the problem with his field rep to understand it and take action.
“Our next step is to put the system in the hands of our sales guys.”
The last four or five years have been a real ride, Ken says. Royal has quadrupled sales in the last five years, but it isn’t just about the money.
“I didn’t want to just come in and maintain the status quo,” he says, pointing to an empty ring finger. “I’m married to this business. I live it and breathe it, and I want to make my dad and grandfather proud of me.” ♦