Jim Ware, with his sons Tim and Dave and their staff, work very hard to provide unbeatable service, and it shows. Just ask their customers.
“They go above and beyond what other jobbers do,” says Jason Maderios, owner of Jay’s Automotive in Hillsburgh, Ontario. “If I need a part they will find it for me, and in some cases, if I find it and it’s out, say, in Brampton, they will still pick it up and deliver it to me, and there is no money in it for them. No other jobber goes above and beyond like they do.
I have often needed a five-dollar part to finish a job and I will call them and they will send the driver all the way out with that five-dollar part. I feel bad doing it, but I need the part to complete the job and they understand that. Since moving out to Hillsburgh, I have dealers who refuse to deliver to me because I’m 20 minutes away, but Ware’s is there for me whenever I need them. They will be my main jobber for life.”
Jim Ware began his journey in the automotive industry as a licensed mechanic before moving into the aftermarket at the supplier level, working for Monroe for more than a decade. He then decided it was time to put roots down in his home town, so he acquired a small jobber store in Acton, Ontario, in 1994. “Back then, rush hour in Acton was when the light changed and both cars came out,” jokes Ware.
Together with his sons Tim and Dave, and a very dedicated staff, Ware’s Automotive, a NAPA Associate, took a modestly performing operation and turned it into a success by focusing on customer service.
“It comes down to the things you do for your customers,” explains Jim. “We try very hard to offer unbeatable service by getting the parts to the service providers quickly and getting them what they need. We have three runs to the city, for both automotive and industrial pickups, and three runs from the NAPA distribution centre, and we have five delivery drivers at each location. If the part isn’t on our shelf, we’d better get it and deliver it to our customer within the hour!”
“They are always out here in Rockwood –
anytime we need a part it’s delivered, big or small, it doesn’t matter; they always look after us,” says Terry May of T and A Automotive in Rockwood, Ontario. “Ware’s Automotive is our first-call jobber. One of the reasons we moved jobbers was because the others would never send a rep out or deal with any problems. Ware’s has the NAPA reps for all areas, so if we have a problem they will come out and help us solve it. They come out and talk to us quite often. It’s so much better than dealing with someone who says their product is good but never comes out to see you. You get that good feeling that you are a valued customer when they take the time to come out and talk to you. That counts for a lot these days.”
“We know we have to keep parts moving, because that customer has a truck sitting on the hoist and he needs to get that next vehicle in, so [waiting] slows down everyone’s process,” explains Tim. “If a shop orders brakes, we recommend they order everything and return what they don’t use. I’d rather have everything there than have them call back for something they missed.”
“Well, there is just everything good to say about Ware’s Automotive,” says Jim Hume of Jim Hume’s Automotive. “I have dealt with Ware’s for at least 20 years. If we have any issues where there are concerns with warranty work, for instance, it is dealt with very quickly. If we have any sort of repair problem, I can reach out to them and if they don’t have the answer themselves, they will bring in one of their NAPA reps. Whether it’s for the cooling system, brake system, suspension, or electrical system, they always have the answers.”
“They look after us right away. There are never any disputes,” continues Hume. “Their delivery service is fantastic. They come up here quite often. Some days they are up here at least 10 times, and it’s a 15-minute drive but the distance doesn’t matter to them. If we need the part, they are here with it as soon as they can be. If they say they are going to be here for 10:00 a.m., they are here at 10:00.”
The Acton operation has outgrown its building three times, and Ware’s automotive expanded into nearby Georgetown six years ago. Most recently, it added industrial lines, with assistance from Modern Sales and the addition of an industrial sales specialist to its staff to expand its offerings. “Modern Sales has been extremely helpful in our expansion into industrial supplies,” adds Tim.
“The way suppliers have changed over the years, you need to have the volume to get the pricing. We have a lot of competition from all around us coming in here, so we have to be competitive and provide the best service to our customers,” explains Jim. “When I bought the original store, we had $65,000 in inventory and today we are sitting at $600,000 in inventory in the Acton store.
“Our industry has really gone through a lot of change. I remember the days when $100,000 in inventory worked and you placed your order by hand and the next day the service provider got his parts order and that was okay. Now, no one will wait more than an hour for a part. And if you don’t have it, you better be in the city to get it.”
“They aren’t the cheapest for parts, but their service makes up for it by quite a bit and then some,” says Dave Hassell of Hassell’s Automotive. “We are in a fast-moving business so we need to have the parts as fast as possible, and they have to be the right parts, and we need to know that the jobber is working on our behalf and is concerned about us getting the right part at the right speed. He is as responsible as we are, like a partner.”
“We’ve had issues with a defective part and we had to do labour, and Ware’s has helped us with it,” continues Hassell. “If there are parts we need right away, Ware’s will send someone to get them, even though it’s a losing cost for them in gas and time. They are always there for us. I deal with Tim all the time. They have done well in hiring all the right people – they have great staff.”
When it comes to managing his staff, Tim says the number-one thing is that they enjoy their work. “If you’re not having fun in your job, you shouldn’t be there,” explains Ware. “In our store culture, everybody enjoys everybody. Our employees work for each other. Nobody throws anyone under the bus – we all stand behind each other, and that goes a long way.”
When Ware’s decided to open their second store in Georgetown, they applied the same old-school customer-service approach. The service providers in Georgetown had not experienced the Ware’s approach to service, so when they opened, they were able to build a successful business pretty quickly.
“When I started out in this business as a licensed mechanic, I had a shop in Georgetown for three years, so when we decided to open the second store in Georgetown, I knew a lot of the customers from when I was down there. This gave us a bit of a start because I could talk to people I knew,” says Jim. “The biggest concern we had in Georgetown was inventory. Some of our predecessors hadn’t carried much inventory, and they let the repair shops sit and wait for parts. In today’s market they need it now, no questions asked. So we made a commitment when we went in there that we would put $500,000 of inventory in there, and that was the only way they would even talk to us.”
“To this day we have maintained that. There is a lot of competition in Georgetown. We have every price-cutter there is coming in trying to compete with us. Some guys will drive miles to sell cheap parts. But it costs money to run a vehicle. If you are making 30% on a $10 economical rotor versus 30% on a $30 quality rotor, your cost to run that rotor to the customer is still the same,” explains Jim. “We have a lot of competition at both locations, but I think because we are there, and we have the inventory, and we get it out to them quickly, that’s why we win.”
This approach got Ware’s Automotive in the door, and they just grew from there. “Our inventory in Georgetown is now over $750,000. We just continue to grow the inventory in order to support and back up what we said we would do. If you make a commitment to somebody and stand by that commitment, eventually it comes around. It’s a nice town to be in because there is lots of opportunity,” adds Jim.
Georgetown has experienced considerable growth due to an expanding population base, while Acton is still more of a quiet, slow-growing farming community, stocked primarily with pickup trucks. They found the parts needs were quite different between the two stores, even though the towns are only 20 minutes apart.
“When we bought the Georgetown store, I thought we could just ramp up the inventory that we had in Acton and apply it to the Georgetown store. But that didn’t work. There are more imports in Georgetown and more pickups in Acton. Although there is some melding going on, as we are now seeing more imports in Acton,” adds Jim.
“We utilize NAPA’s MIC (Marketplace Inventory Classification) program,” explains Tim. “They do our inventories based on the car population in our territory. We review this every month. It tells us what to get rid of and what to bring in. Before this, we were getting to the point where we were outgrowing our bricks and mortar. We can only carry so much inventory logistically, so we have to have the right inventory.”
Acton has two counterpeople and Georgetown has three counterpeople and one automotive salesman, and each store has five drivers serving their area. “We probably don’t do more than a 30-km radius, otherwise you get too spread out. We cover Acton and go to Rockwood and Hillsburgh, and our Georgetown store goes the other way. And we have a couple of customers in between that we handle. The miles we put on our vehicles are unbelievable. Most days those trucks don’t stop. They come back, load up, and go again. It’s very costly to do business today compared to what it was when I first started in this business. Everyone wants the parts now. In the early days the next day was fine, but not anymore,” says Jim.
Tim manages sales and marketing, while Dave looks after the operations of both stores. Ware’s also puts on customer appreciation lunches and barbecues. “We bring our customers in a couple times a year to see what we have that’s new. There’s no better sales tool than having customers come through our door and walk down an aisle and say, ‘I didn’t know you carried that,’” says Ware.
Ware’s puts a lot of importance on regular customer contact. “The typical sales call has changed,” explains Tim. “It’s not just a matter of doing a stock order, it’s a matter of how can we help your business, and the NAPA programs are very advantageous. We really need to see them twice: once to do their stock order and take care of any problems they may have, and the second one is to sit down and talk about their business. We look at our customers as our business partners. If they are not there, we are not here.”
Jim continues, “Over the years we have done several trade shows, some in conjunction with other local NAPA jobbers. The last one we did was two years ago on our 20th anniversary. We held it for both stores and we had a tremendous turnout and tremendous support from our suppliers.”
Avidly involved in the communities where they are located, the Ware family has echoed a key aftermarket pillar with strong support in the fight against cancer, helping to raise more than $50,000 last year alone through a Paul Murr charity golf tournament. Ware’s Automotive exemplifies the qualities that the aftermarket prizes in its jobbers: community service, industry involvement, and community commitment.
“I grew up here in Acton, so I went to school with a lot of my customers, and this has helped me to develop good relationships with them. It’s all about developing a solid relationship with your customers,” says Jim.
Looking ahead, Jim sees more golfing in his future. “My role will change a bit, and the boys will eventually take over the business. I love this business. It’s been good to me. I’ve seen every side of it, from having my own shop to the manufacturer side and then as a jobber. To me it has been really interesting and I have developed a lot of long-time friendships. The automotive industry is a fraternity that once you’re in, it’s really tough to get out of it.
“I love the industry and I love to see where it’s going. I will always stay in contact. I may not be in the store as much, but I will stay in contact with the industry and follow the changes as they happen.”
As for the future for Ware’s Automotive and Industrial Supply, Tim and Dave say they are always open to expand into another store if the opportunity arises. “We have way too much fun in this industry, and we are not afraid to expand on our store base.”
“There’s a reason why they were nominated: their service is second to none,” says Mike Adema of Jakes Automotive in Acton. “They are my number-one jobber. I won’t stick with a jobber that can’t provide the level of customer service I get from Ware’s. When you’ve dealt with someone like Ware’s with that high level of service for so long, you kind of expect that’s the way things are going to be. If I had to deal with another jobber who isn’t at that level, things would not turn out well.” nJN