No Bull Shit 2015
I have struggled with blogs for a while. I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things that I want to share and at the same time I have a business that makes me feel like I should be writing about the business sharing whatever new product or exciting industry happening is relevant. I like to write. But sharing my thoughts and placing them on some other lonely nonaffiliated blog where they never get attention feels just as bad as spoon feeding our great customers on this one the same dumb parts updates that every other site in the world copies and pastes into their blogs. I always come into the shop on New Year’s Day to get some work done and always take a look at our blog posts from the past year. Sadly, the only word I could use to describe them this year is bullshit.
As many of you know we moved into a new building a couple of months ago. The main reason for the move was we were renting the old facility and will own this one early this year. This building is also much nicer. So it was an easy decision. What a lot of you may not know is that this building used to be the NBS Trucking headquarters. NBS (No Bull Shit) Trucking was started by a local business man who I admire very much, John Kohler. From what I understand of the story, John started the business to fulfill the need of customers who weren’t getting their shipments in a timely manner. He was able to meet their needs without all the hassle and grief they were experiencing everywhere else. And he grew a great business. Even though NBS Trucking hasn’t been in this building for many years, there are NBS Trucking logos everywhere. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that logo somewhere here. It stands for an ideal that we all instantly understand when you see it. I have a daily reminder of it in my beautiful new office:
So I asked Mr. Kohler if it would be ok if we adapted that logo for our own usage and sent him a picture of what I was thinking. His response was, “Absolutely.Go for it.” So my first thought was No Bull Shit Performance for a neat logo. Which everyone got a kick out of, but something didn’t feel right to me. It felt like a conflicted message of some sort when we put it next to the Little Power Shop logo like this:
I’m going to back track slightly here for the purpose of context. 2015 marks the start of our 8th year of business. I started this business almost precisely seven years ago this month. And with pretty much nothing. I built my first shop entirely by myself after work at night by the light of a light plant or two the year before. My brother or an occasional friend helped when I needed extra hands. I had a real no bullshit approach to everything back then. I just didn’t have time for it. I opened the business and it exploded. Fortunately or unfortunately, I do not have any formal business training beyond just being involved in business from an early age. I did not go to college and have no formal education past high school. So all my business lessons were learned as they smacked me directly in the face and harder in my wallet. But the business grew fast and I did my best to keep up. And two years ago we hit the proverbial ceiling that you will read about that most businesses hit at about five years. There is a constant battle between growth, cash flow, and reinventing yourself to continue in most five year old businesses. We also had our first child about this same time which took some of my obsessive focus on the business off. And also I’m ashamed to admit it, but you grow a giant ego. As the herculean effort and determination starts to turn into success, that same will power is converted into ego. And every time someone pats you on the back and tells you how great of a job you have been doing building a business reinforces it. And suddenly you start believing your own bull shit. You can pretty much talk yourself into anything. Little Power Shop has struggled to grow for two years because of this and a few things completely out of our control. (Remember those hard business lessons that smack you in the face?)
So back to the new logo/slogan. About two months ago as we were moving into the new shop, I had this feeling that I needed to come full circle to the principles that I started this business with. The irony that when I started the business I didn’t put up with any bullshit because I didn’t have time as opposed to now when I really don’t have any time and put up with all sorts of bullshit struck me one day. And then maybe throw in a dash of big ego that lets you believe that all that bullshit is ok. And in the middle of this wrangling a friend said to me, “You stand for something and you aspire to stand for even more.” And it led me to wonder what it was I/we do stand for. What do we want to stand for? We do great work. I have some of the best employees on the planet that work with me every day. We sell great products. And looking at all these logos in this building while turning these thoughts over in my head led to this:
We are moving from this day forward with a No Bull Shit Guarantee in everything we do. Our shop has always operated this way. We fix things right and with the least expense possible to the customer. If we do a performance modification it performs as expected and has the same level of quality as a factory installed piece. If we mess something up, we just fix it without it being a giant deal. We all make mistakes. Fixing them without putting anyone through a bunch of bullshit is key.
The parts sales side of things is where I sort of got off track. We just kept adding more and more products. For example, when we started we only had one or two exhaust brands that we offered online. Now we have ten or more. If you called me on the phone right now and asked me what kind of exhaust to buy for your truck, I would instantly suggest one maybe two brands. So why in the world would we have 10+ confusing the choice as you look at our website? There are seven of those choices that I would never install on my own truck because I have the knowledge from working with them all which ones are the best. What a bunch of bullshit. I’m intentionally turning us into a Walmart type of situation. Not how I want to do business. You come to us because you believe in us to provide you with expert advice. If every time we would advise you to purchase that certain brand of exhaust because we know from experience it is the perfect blend of quality, fit, and reasonable price but offer ten other choices on our site, we are frauds. I don’t want to be Walmart who puts twenty kinds of toilet paper on the shelf and lets the customer decide, usually on price alone, which one is best for them. We’ve tried them all and can tell you all the ones that rub us the wrong way saving you the grief of buying something that doesn’t live up to what you expect. There is a place for that model of business, but it is not us nor the type of business I want to run.
So we are boiling down our online offerings to just our featured No Bull Shit brands. These are the brands we all use on our personal vehicles and love installing on customer vehicles. If you call or stop in wanting something other than these, we will still have other brands available. But we are not going to spend a moment of time marketing, updating, or maintaining anything but the best products in each segment from here on out. And while there may be five great brands in each segment we will only suggest one or two. There are other factors that you may not realize when we decide on the best brands such as ease of warranty, fitment, proper packaging, better instructions, availability, and so on. There is so much more to a great brand than the face value price that we consider. We want to deliver you the best quality parts for a fair price in the shortest amount of time possible. Period.
One of my favorite quotes is this:
"Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason.”
By offering twelve thousand different choices for the same part we were selling our weakness to someone’s stupidity. We were trying to grow our revenues with no connection to the quality of the product or reflection on us if you received a piece of crap that didn’t fit. Going forward I would rather be selling a quality product to a customer who understands that we only sell quality products that we believe in. And we will both be happier in the long run.
In 2015 I will be updating this blog hopefully at least weekly. I have no desire to cram the next latest and greatest part that was just released down your throat. I will be writing about things I have learned in business and life. This blog post will be sent out to roughly 40,000 people today. I feel I owe these customers and friends who have decided to be part of what we do more than empty announcements and bullshit advertising.
Happy New Year!
John Anderson – Little Power Shop