Two years and counting

Aftermarket speaks to EAG CEO Tony Bhogal as the new incarnation of the company celebrates its second-year trading

Published:  23 June, 2021

At the end of March, Excel Automotive Group (EAG) celebrated two-years since it was purchased by Tony Bhogal with Adrian Lamb.
Since then, the company has arranged distribution deals for TRICO wiper blades, Suplex coil springs, Monroe shock absorbers and coil springs, Champion wiper blades, RYMEC clutches, Celect braking and Brembo braking, as well as its own steering and suspension, wheel bearing and transmission ranges. If that’s not enough, the company also found the time to gain approvals with several UK buying groups, including A1 Motor Stores along with joining the IAAF. All of this with a pandemic to deal with too. Here at Aftermarket, we thought this would be a good time to find out from Tony how it’s all been going.  
    

It’s been two years of the new incarnation of EAG? How do you think it’s going?

Since taking over the Excel Automotive Group (EAG) business two years ago, Managing Director Adrian Lamb and I have been busy getting the business back onto a solid footing. This has included significant investment in staff, stock and systems. In the first year, we relocated the business to a 30,000sqft warehouse in Leeds and thought this would be sufficient for a few years, but we are already considering additional warehousing due to the significant increase in stock, sales and customers in our second year of trading!
    
We have been continually investing in stock and have added some brilliant brands to our range, which now includes Suplex, Brembo, Monroe, Rymec, Marelli, TRICO and various DR1V brands, in addition to our own EAG branded steering and suspension, wheel bearings, strut top mounts, driveshafts, CV joints, calipers, etc.
    
We are also in detailed discussions with other brands that are keen to work with us and take advantage of our unique distribution solution for suppliers, as we can cover this both locally and nationally.
    
None of this could have been achieved without the fantastic team that we have at EAG. Everyone has a desire to succeed and ensure that we meet or exceed our customers’ expectations, which in itself has sometimes been a challenge as a consequence of our rate of growth. However, we have been fortunate that customers have joined us on our journey and have given us considerable support and encouragement. In the current climate, the whole EAG family should be proud of our achievements and we are looking forward to the future.


Where would you like to see the business in another two years?

In the next two years, we will be working to consolidate our position as a key supplier of parts into the automotive aftermarket. Chris Haw joined the business as UK Sales Manager and he is working hard to develop and grow our customer base. Also, Chris Burnside, ex-Livingston Autoparts, has joined us as Operations and IT Director, so we now have a very experienced team in place to continue our ambitious growth plans.


How are you finding your customers? Both in terms of their reaction, and getting them in the first place!

Due to our combined experience in the aftermarket, we had already cultivated solid relationships with many customers and businesses in the industry, which certainly helped when Adrian and I took over EAG.
    
Since then, we have continued to manage and grow these relationships, as well as develop new ones with businesses we may not have dealt with in the past. I believe that our customers come to us because of our reputation in the aftermarket, as well as our extensive range of product and availability. We put a lot of investment and focus into our customer service and it’s something we pride ourselves on.


What challenges and surprises have there been along the way, and what have you learnt?

I think the biggest challenge was getting the company sorted when we took it over and growing it to what it is now. Running a business is a difficult task, and Adrian and I want to make EAG one of the largest suppliers in the UK, something that we’re on our way to becoming. Luckily, we haven’t had too many surprises along the way, but one thing that Adrian and I have both learnt from our years in the market, is to hire the right people. We have an incredible team at EAG and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do the great work that we do.
    
We also have a desire to ensure there’s the product availability for our customers, which we still have some way to go on, but we are working on increasing both the range and availability, in addition to improving cataloguing and pushing sales through our online trade portal and through TecCom.


Does experience help? Or do you find you learn more than you already knew?

I think that experience does help a lot, but as the industry continues to evolve, we all need to adapt and understand new technology and systems that are developing and this is something that no amount of experience can help with.
    
Adrian and I have made sure that we hire the best people for the job, who have the experience and know the aftermarket and its products inside out, as that’s what makes a good salesperson and helps our customers the most. These are also the people that can share their knowledge with us and the rest of the company, so it’s certainly a win-win situation.


If you’d had the choice, would you have picked the pandemic as a time to be rolling into year two? What particular issues did this cause?

I don’t think there’s ever a good time for a pandemic! Having it happen so early in our business was unfortunate, but like many other companies, we had to adapt and quickly. I feel that we achieved this and went on to have a successful year despite everything, also as the industry was allowed to remain open, we found that business remained steady for us and many others during 2020.
    
Obviously, our main concern was for our staff and their safety, so we ensured that we implemented all of the safety precautions the government advised, which is difficult in a situation like a warehouse, but we were very stringent with it and will continue with a cautious attitude until this pandemic has eased.
    
Do you think COVID-19 inspired any innovations for EAG in terms of approach or anything else that have really worked out that might not have happened otherwise?
    
Due to growth and the reliance on delivery because of the pandemic, we invested more money into our delivery fleet and also began offering our local customers same-day delivery and national customers next working day delivery.
    
We have also been working very closely with MAM to improve and enhance the IT systems that we inherited. This has included the implementation of the MAM Warehouse Management System, which is already resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy of processing orders.

    
You knew starting up that Brexit was going to be an issue, however – any bumps on this side?
    
Thankfully, we have not been impacted as much as our competitors, who rely on the Far East for their products. They have suffered from supply delays and increased costs due to freight and materials. This has clearly benefitted us since we source the majority of our parts from the UK.
    
I think with Brexit we just had to be prepared, listen carefully to all of the information we were given by the government and decide our action plan from there. We knew that leaving the European Union was going to have an impact on every industry, especially the aftermarket, but we’re confident that we will continue to have the great relationships we have with our suppliers in Europe, as we do now.

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