Whether it’s going out of his way to track down a hard-to-find part, or drawing on his impressive knowledge to answer a thorny technical question, colleagues and customers alike describe counterperson Darcy Turton, of Saskatoon’s Automotive Parts Distributors, as the “go-to” guy when you need an automotive problem solved right. The genial 46-year-old was a natural for the 2015 Jobber News Counterperson of the Year award. Automotive Parts Distributors wholesales across the Prairies, with branches in Edmonton and Calgary as well as Saskatoon. The firm’s business principally involves passenger cars and light- and medium-duty trucks, though sometimes they get the occasional offbeat request – Turton and his colleagues have fielded requests for everything from lawn mower parts to “a part for a guy’s snowblower once,” he says with a laugh. He takes it all with good grace, and there’s rarely a question or an oddball item that will stump him.
“His customer-first approach, combined with his vast knowledge of the automotive industry, are just two reasons why Darcy is such an excellent choice for this award,” says APD general manager Dave Bomersbach. “Darcy is also a very knowledgeable automotive technician. He is the go-to guy in our branch for many of the technical questions we receive from our clients.”
Bomersbach says he has come to rely on Turton for far more than his day-to-day work with the firm’s service advisor clients. “Before most shops were flashing a vehicle’s ECM in the aftermarket, APD was performing this service for our clients; Darcy was chosen to perform the task at our branch. With his technical ability and computer skills, Darcy was a pro at performing this service in a very short period of time. Also, when APD hosts a technical information clinic for our clients, we will include our inside sales team in attendance. Darcy has attended many of these tech clinics and has used the information obtained to consult with our clients.
“Darcy is also an important mentor for new APD employees in our branch. When a new employee joins our inside sales team, I give Darcy the responsibility to help train them. I ask Darcy to do this because I know with his support and guidance we will have another staff member performing his/her duties at a high level.
“Whenever I am away from the branch, I leave Darcy with the responsibility of several important tasks to perform for me during my absence. I do this with full confidence that everything will be done correctly and on time.
“Darcy is a very worthy recipient of this prestigious award. Everyone at APD and especially the Saskatoon branch are very proud of this accomplishment. He’s the best inside salesperson I have ever worked with.”
Turton was born and raised on a farm near Swan River, Manitoba, just 14 miles across the border with Saskatchewan. On the farm, being able to fix mechanical things when they went wrong was just part of life. “I grew up with cars in my blood,” he laughs. “My dad was a Chrysler auto salesman, and we always drove around in them.
“Growing up on a farm, I always did a lot of my own work on cars, always fixing them up. My first car was a ’68 Barracuda, and I’ve fixed up several other muscle cars through the years. I still have a ’73 ’Cuda I’m working on.”
After graduating from high school, he moved to Saskatoon to take a degree in commerce at the University of Saskatchewan. After graduation, he had several jobs, but the world of commerce never really took for him; before long, he went back to his first love, the auto industry.
“I started as a mechanic at a shop that had a small parts store on the side, and we had been doing a lot of business with APD, so I knew all the people there. When the shop closed down, APD had just opened a new warehouse, so when a job came up I took it.” It was such a natural fit for both sides, he chuckles, he doesn’t even remember if he actually gave them a resume.
That was 14 years ago, and the industry has changed more than a little since then, he observes. “I’ve noticed three areas that have changed a lot. Certainly, the technology – you never look anything up in a paper book any more, not if you can help it! That’s easier on the eyes, of course, but also there are nearly unlimited possibilities. Now, if someone asks you for something you’ve never heard of, you can just Google it. Also, a lot of the time, people just text you with a picture, so it’s a lot easier to see what they need.
“But the market itself has changed a lot as well, especially in the last five years or so. Perhaps with the financial situation here doing better, people are driving more high-end imports. So we’re searching out more types of parts, and getting faster at delivering them. Ten years ago, people were used to waiting a week for parts; now it’s the same day or the next day.
“The third big change I’ve noticed is the diesel truck and car market has gotten a lot bigger; we’re doing a lot more of that. It’s a bit pricier market, so it’s a nice market for us.”
The parts database system of choice for Turton and APD is Epicor; they’ve had it for about five years now. “We also do online ordering through Nexpart. That’s another change,” he says. “We do a lot more online ordering, especially for the basic items. Even so, the phone is still as busy as ever, especially with the harder questions.”
Ask Turton what his main motivator is, and he’ll answer, reasonably enough, service. Well, a lot of jobbers claim that and do a good job of it, but not all go to the lengths that Turton does: it’s a source of pride for him and his team to go as far as they can to track down an item not everyone else has, and it’s no problem to go an extra mile (or two) if the job demands it.
“Just last week, we picked up an item at the bus depot at 9 p.m. and delivered it to the guy’s house, so that he could get his customer going again the next day.” He adds with a smile, “And this was on a holiday.”
Turton may spend his days at the service counter, but he still likes to get his hands dirty from time to time. If a customer has a technical problem he’s never heard of before, he’ll ask about it in depth – and it’s not just professional interest that drives him. “I still do all the work and maintenance on my own cars,” he explains. “And I’m still waiting to put a new engine in the ’Cuda. As well, I’m working on my house; we’re doing a bit of a renovation to it. I’m the kind of guy who likes to do stuff.”
Darcy met his wife Pamela eight years ago, and it turns out she’s a car enthusiast too. “Although, she’s a Ford person, and I’m a Dodge person,” he says with mock disdain. “But I’ve learned to overlook that.” The couple are also soft-hearted animal enthusiasts: along with their two “fur babies,” a cat and a Shih Tsu, they volunteer for the local wildlife rehabilitation facility, manning a rescue hotline and helping to rescue injured and sick wildlife. And he’s a dedicated fisherman; he’ll escape to the cabin for a bit of fishing whenever time allows.
Turton says he was surprised and honoured to be chosen as Jobber News’ Counterperson of the Year, but says modestly, “I definitely have to give a thumbs-up to the people who work here. They’re great, really knowledgeable.
“I think the biggest accomplishment is when I know my stuff well enough to help people get their job done right. That’s what matters at the end of the day.”