Got All Auto Parts - Engineer, Kevin Karwat

Jeff Madison and Kevin Karwat have been in business together for 15 years. While Jeff founded the company and focuses on the business side, Kevin brings his knowledge of engineering and quality to the table. Together, they have found a niche in the automotive recycling industry not found anywhere else.

Through a focus on transmission remanufacturing, Got All Auto Parts is able to provide products directly to the public consumer at wholesale prices. Based in Bay City, Michigan, Got All Auto Parts also provides other vehicle parts at reasonable prices.

What began as a small idea in a pole barn has grown into a successful auto parts supply and recycling center, complete with environmentally responsible employees. Jeff and Kevin pride themselves on building relationships with their customers while also giving them the best options for their needs.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

Jeff actually began his career in the automotive industry right out of high school. He’s a true entrepreneur. He had a repair shop by the time he was 21. I brought my engineering and quality control experience to his company in 2005 and the company has been growing exponentially since then.

Part of that growth included the name change from A Transmissions to Got All Auto Parts in 2012. When we first moved in the direction of transmission remanufacturing, we were maybe doing 10 to 15 transmissions per week. Over the last seven years or so, we’ve grown to probably around 130 to 140 per week.

How do you make money?

We are an auto parts supplier. We bring in vehicles and will use their transmission core for the remanufacturing side. We’re able to keep older model vehicles on the road longer by providing the transmissions in this way. Any leftover parts that are in good working order in a vehicle are then made available directly to the public at wholesale prices.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

The business has always been profitable because we have found a niche in the auto recycling world. The transmission remanufacturing is not offered generally, so it’s helped us become more well-known. We have an assembly line process for the transmissions and that has kept our cost down. We then share those savings with our customers.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

The need for our products and services were never in doubt. I would say it was more likely naivete about just how growth of about 300% could create internal issues. We had to adapt quickly to keep up with such an incredible increase in a small window of time. We learned how to be more efficient and we learned how to better manage supply and demand.

How did you get your first customer?

Our first customer was through the good, old-fashioned business strategy of word of mouth. Jeff started the business by working on his family and friend’s vehicles. They shared their experience and more people came needing the service.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

I believe our best marketing strategy is the relationships we build with our customers. Especially in this industry, your customer needs to know they can trust you. We listen and respond to their needs. We have reasonable prices and we make sure to stay within our stated timelines for our services. All of this contributes to the relationships we have and that’s what keeps people coming to us.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

We have had to make internal decisions over the last several months to keep up with yet another increase in our productivity. While we are grateful to be able to provide this service to our community, it does have an adjustment period each time. We have had to work longer hours and we have had to bring on more people.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

We have a true passion for what we do. We have a desire to be our best selves and I think that trickles down to our employees and even our products. We are considerate of what our customers need and do everything we can to ensure they are satisfied. We have a philosophy of producing a quality product at a fair price.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

There have been several for me. I think the most satisfying has been successfully facing the challenges of our fast growth. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but seeing the reward on the other side has been worth it.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

The future looks positive for us. We are excited about contributing to our local economy by providing jobs and we will likely be hiring again soon. Since we have found this little niche of remanufacturing transmissions, we may even be able to expand beyond Michigan in the future.

What business books have inspired you?

I have been more inspired by character building books than business books. Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney is a favorite of mine. I think there is a lot to be said for having your own personal belief system of doing the right thing, about having integrity. These aren’t things you’d necessarily learn from a book written to help you sell more.

We want to be a part of something that’s bigger than us. We want to help our economy and help our environment. It’s not about how much money you make, what’s important is the impact you have.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

We are very green conscious here and we’ve made improvements to our technology and processes recently that will help us be more energy efficient. The most recent purchase is an improved air compression system for the shop that is more environmentally friendly.

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