Dare To Be Different. Take Risks. Have Fun!

Of all the things I did when I was managing two commercial truck operations, the thing that I am most proud of was my willingness to be different, to take risks, and to have some fun. If you're not having a good time at what you do, it sure makes it harder and harder to show up each day. If you're not taking risks, you are missing a whole world of opportunity.

Risk. Taking risk is a willingness to go where you have not been and to experience something new. That's what being different is all about. The world screams for you to conform--to be the same as everyone else. Conformity is boring. Conformity is safe. There is no risk in conformity. The risk is in being different. That's also where the fun is.

My favorite fun is inventory. It pretty much all starts there. If you don't have something, it is pretty hard to sell it. When you have something to show and demonstrate and get excited about, the sale is a given.

We were stocking about 60-80 upfits on average with a similar number on order in the system. Here are some of the things that made us different, were risks and fun, and were very profitable:

Color. Approximately 40% of my commercial upfit inventory was colored trucks. We stocked more color in service bodies than in other body types. We didn't just stock red or black, but we had blue metallic, gold metallic, silver metallic, green metallic, tan, and more. We stocked every color that was standard at that time. Now, we found that red was the most popular color, black second, silver and blue next. They all sold and they rarely failed to achieve a higher gross profit than their white counterparts. Some people complain about competition, I had none.

Up level trim packages with power windows, door locks, plush interior, in quantity. Probably about 80% of our colored trucks were up level trim. There are a lot of general contractors or other contractors who want their truck to be more than just a bare-bones work truck. We had them in stock ready to go and they could choose from a wide variety of them. These were very profitable units that averaged about twice the profit of the white units. Some people complain about competition, I had none.

Wheels and trim. We dressed the trucks up even more by installing Alcoa wheels on at least 50% of our entire inventory. On the service bodies, it was probably more like 75%. You'd be amazed how many people like nice looking upfit trucks compared to plain old bare-bones units. I left the dealership world in 1997 and I still see units driving around town that we sold because I recognize the wheels. We did a huge volume of wheels. This also adds to the profitability and turn.

Unique. We tried bodies that other dealers would not stock. We got the Isuzu franchise and in my extended travels visiting other Isuzu, Chevy, GMC tilt cab dealers, I saw two things they stocked: van bodies and stakebeds. Boring. Sure, the tilt cab makes a great van body. I saw one dealer in a 4 day trip that had a service body on an Isuzu. He was 500 miles away from my store. I took a different path. I stocked some van bodies, but I stocked service bodies, landscape dumps, flatbed dumps, plumber bodies, you name it. They all sold well. I remember once I ordered two 13' service bodies on two gas Isuzu's. The 11' is much more common, but to me that is a waste of time. The 13' give more storage and still has the turning radius of a pickup truck. Anyway, some guy came in one day and bought both of them! Go figure. Longer bodies on tilt cab will sell more tilt cabs because that is the tilt cab's advantage!

Cargo bed enclosures. I always had a number of service bodies with cargo bed enclosures. Almost nobody around me stocked them. To add them later cost over $2,000. I had them ready to roll and they always sold well.

Aluminum flatbeds. We always had a very pretty ProTech aluminum flatbed on a decked-out chassis. It was an attention getter and a very high quality product. We stocked some other aluminum beds as well. We also kept regular flatbeds in stock with steel overlay on the bed. This gave us another advantage.

Steel dumps. Now they are a bit more common, but when we were doing it, you couldn't find one on a dealers lot. We usually had two or more.

12' Cutaway van bodies. Most dealers don't stock this length. They generally stock the 14'. The 12' has a number of advantages including much shorter turning radius and shorter overall length. I sold 12' and 14' in approximately equal quantities. Without the 12' our sales would have been somewhat less. Be aware that some body companies will try to sell the longer chassis and put the 12' body on it. There's no point to doing this. The shorter wheelbase is the selling feature, not the size of the body. If they don't have the 138" chassis, get them to order them for you special.

I-packs. This is a large box that is about 2' long that mounts behind the cab and then the body mounts behind it. It has 2 doors on each side and you can mount tool boxes under that. Many are transverse compartments so you can see all the way through. The advantage of this box is the long tools that you can store in it. It is a great addition to a steel dump body, a service body, a van body, a flatbed, pretty much any body. It give substantial extra storage, but can take long or bulky items with ease. It is nice looking too. I sold a bunch of these things and having them on the truck helped me sell more trucks. I had no competition with this product.

Tow trucks. We stocked tow trucks and became a distributor for a large tow body manufacturer. This brought us another 30-40 sales the second year and somewhat larger gross profits than the normal items. It also gave us access to selling other make chassis through the body company pool. Most dealers sell chassis to tow companies and make very little profit. The profit is in becoming a distributor yourself and soliciting tow truck business directly with users.

We stocked a lot of diesels when very few did. We were a Chevrolet dealer and I bought every diesel I could get my hands on--especially in the 3500HD 15,000 GVWR chassis. They were hard to find everywhere else. I still remember talking to Harbor Truck Bodies one day and hearing they just got in 7 diesel 3500HD's that they wanted to move. I took them all. They didn't scare me, but most dealers were nervous because of the old 6.2 diesel problems. We sold the heck out of them with great success. The new 6.5 diesel performed very well and most of our customers had no trouble with them. Ford dealers have always stocked heavily in diesels. In today's market, I would go the other direction and stock a lot more gas in the heavy chassis. Diesel is often $.050 more per gallon than unleaded and it takes a lot to make up that kind of difference. It is easy to sell off the diesel right now. Ford dealers are afraid to stock the V10, but it is a perfect choice in today's market! Take risks. The fruit is on the limb.

New things. We tried a lot of new things. Once in a while something wouldn't work, but the vast majority worked very well. You would be flat amazed how fast some of the different bodies sell. When you have things no one else is willing to stock, you have a lot to talk about. Remember this about truck bodies: People are looking for solutions! When you can show how a new body they have never seen will do their job better, why would they not buy it? You can get excited about something new and different! Same old stuff is hard to get excited about. Go out on a limb and try some bold things. Ask yourself my favorite two questions: 1. What am I really afraid of? and, 2. What is the worst thing that could happen. Most people are afraid that it won't sell and they will get stuck with it. First, I say that is not a good attitude for boldness. Think positive! It will sell at a record gross profit and in record time! On the second question, many would say the worst thing that could happen is they would lose their job. How about a promotion? How about a raise? How about awards of merit for bringing more business? Go for the gold!

To finish up: What can you do in today's market to move commercial trucks? There is much that can be done. One of the best things you can do is punch up your stock. I recommend that you stock at least 25% of different and unique items. You still have 75% safe inventory, but you will find that the 25% is what is selling. This assumes that you can see this picture I've painted and that you can get excited about fresh products. Dare to be different. Take Risks. Have Fun!

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