This year's Counterperson of the Year, Jesse "Mac" McGinnis, has managed to create a family atmosphere at his Louisville, KY, Bumper to Bumper store, one that retains employees and keeps customers coming back.
Over nearly three decades in the parts business, Mac McGinnis has made a name for himself among customers and colleagues, and after 26 years, his DIY and professional customers still look to him to solve all of their parts needs.
Since 1998 McGinnis has managed the Bumper to Bumper store and his "family" of nine employees on Dixie Highway in Louisville, KY. McGinnis warehouse, Moog Louisville Warehouse, is a member of the Bumper to Bumper group, which is part of the San Antonio, TX-based Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance.
After an annual six month national search, Counterman magazine named McGinnis the 2003 Counterperson of the Year. The award was created in 1986 to recognize those who excel at working in the demanding parts distribution profession.
As part of his Counterperson of the Year duties, McGinnis joined the Counterman staff in Las Vegas to attend Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week is the worlds largest automotive trade-only convention. It was during that week, that Counterman editor Brian Cruickshank presented McGinnis with the award.
"This year's Counterperson of the Year knows what it takes to move product off the shelves of his store," Cruickshank told the audience at an industry awards luncheon. "He does it with teamwork and a strong work ethic. But most importantly, every day he delivers what his customers need."
A STRONG WORK ETHIC
His extensive aftermarket parts background reads like a typical career path for many life-long parts professionals, including work experience as a delivery driver, a counter professional and a store manager, a position he has held for 22 years. McGinnis spent the early part of his working days in the United States Air Force, which certainly aided in the formation of his incredible work ethic.
What makes McGinnis stand out as an employee is his reliability, according to Doug Washbish, president of Moog Louisville Warehouse, which owns and supplies McGinnis store.
"Even though its not required, I put in 60 to 65 hours each week here," McGinnis said. "Thats by my own choosing. I just feel comfortable with it."
"He is consistently there when his customers need him or when his teammates need him," said Washbish. "Our customers want excellent communication. They want to know what they need to know when they need to know it. And they want no surprises. Deliver what you promised when you promised it. Mac has always met our customers expectations. Our customers expect exceptional service as the norm. Macs store [sets] the benchmark our customers use."
The family theme of McGinnis store is an extension of Moog Louisville Warehouse, which itself is a family oriented company. Moog Louisville Warehouse is family owned and operated, distributing a full line of automotive and truck parts, tools, paint and body shop supplies as well as lifts and equipment to the Louisville, KY, area.
Customer service is something one often hears about with any good parts professional, and McGinnis is no exception. In fact, he thinks customer service is one of the most important things he does on a daily basis. McGinnis focuses on ensuring that every employee in his store keeps a positive attitude and top-notch customer service as a daily goal.
"The employee is the go-between for the store and the customer," he said. "There are times when an employee may get an angry customer, but they have to maintain a professional attitude and not take anything personally. I have to keep all of that going every day."
But taking it personally seems to be exactly what drives McGinnis to sometimes extraordinary actions. He has been known to help customers pay for a part with his own money if they were in need.
Glenn Hardin, vice president of store operations for Moog Louisville Warehouse, recalled a time when a co-worker at McGinnis store had to have surgery and miss several weeks of work.
"Mac wanted to make sure that this particular employee got paid for his time off," Hardin said. "Mac insisted that I consider paying the employee, and he would cover the work load instead of using overtime or hiring someone. Mac must have put in 14- to 16-hour days for five weeks just so a fellow team member would be paid."
In a business with more employee turnover than most would like to admit, McGinnis actions, such as the one described, are part of the reason hes been able to retain a higher percentage of employees than even the most well-run parts stores enjoy.
McGinnis has created at Bumper to Bumper, according to Washbish, a unique relationship with his teammates. "You cant have a unique relationship with your customers without first having it with your people," he said.
"Mac has a very big heart," said McGinnis fiance and co-worker, Wanda Sopland. "He will go out of his way to help anyone - even if it takes away from something he wants to do."
McGinnis has worked alongside Sopland for the last year. They also share counter space with Soplands daughter, Angela.
"Working with family is tough," McGinnis said. "You have to leave work at work and home at home."
But McGinnis believes the real challenges of his job and of the aftermarket in general lie with parts proliferation and the changing vehicle systems. "Trying to keep the other counterpeople up to speed so they are also aware of the changes and how fast the changes are happening is tough," he said. "Its also difficult to make the customer understand that we may not have it all, but that doesnt mean we dont have the access to it and cant retrieve a part fairly quickly."
He also believes that getting the knowledge down to the street level is a hurdle for the aftermarket in general. "I know its hard for the industry to stay on top of whats going on," he said. "There used to be a period of time before the things on a car would start breaking. Over the last five years, the demand for the newer parts seems to be there before we even have the knowledge if theres a part available to us. Its all too easy to say, its a dealer item, but that may not be true."
So with all of the changes in the market, we asked McGinnis what he thinks will happen to the independent parts stores in the future.
McGinnis said he feels that hybrid vehicles and add-on parts are going to have "a big impact on what we commonly associate with the parts business. The demand for the parts is just not going to be there like it is now," he said.
But one thing is for sure, "Mac" isnt going anywhere anytime soon. He takes pride in his job, and he enjoys what he does.
"Im content to stay here doing what Im doing," he said. "However, as much as I like the business and dealing with the customers, I prefer being able to step back and watch the other people on the team take care of the customer. Thats very satisfying."
Behind the Success: Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance
Behind just about every good store is a good warehouse. And backing up that good warehouse is usually a strong national or regional program group.
McGinnis store and warehouse are members of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, one of the strongest program groups in the industry. "The Alliance," as its commonly called, is comprised of three very recognizable aftermarket program group names: Bumper to Bumper, All Pro and Auto Value. Individually, these three groups stretch back some three decades. They merged to form the Alliance in March, 2000.
The resulting group is an even stronger organization for its members. Today, the Alliance is equipped with greater buying power and is able to leverage economies of scale and common programs to support its members in their quest for market share and customer satisfaction. In fact, collectively, the Alliance represents more than $3.1 billion in sales among more than 4,000 stores and 2,000 service centers.
The Alliances comprehensive programs are focused on providing warehouses like Moog Louisville Warehouse and McGinnis Dixie Highway Bumper to Bumper store with the resources necessary to meet the demands of their market, from both professionals and DIYers. The development of the Parts Master line, the single private label brand for the Alliance, provides the foundation for superior performance for Alliance customers, especially professional service dealers. In addition the Parts Master line, the Alliance offers top national brands that supply members with the parts, accessories and merchandise they need.
From marketing and advertising support to training and certification, McGinnis team benefits from an arsenal of successful, proven programs. In-store marketing tools have helped McGinnis build interest, traffic and loyalty among his customers through a comprehensive array of programs. These programs range from professional service dealer and consumer sweepstakes to tech support and warranty programs including the Alliances Professional Repair Network. The groups commitment to training, both internal and in association with ASE, has resulted in thousands of counterpersonnel like McGinnis achieving greater professionalism and certification.
For more information about the Alliance and its programs, visit www.800autotalk.com.