Industry Leaders: Jeff Fox – April 24, 2006

Discussing strategy and goals with vendors. Ensuring forecasting and purchasing are in line to ensure expected fill rates. That’s what Greg Blackwell, LeMans Corp.’s vice president of sales, calls the “backbone” of the business for Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialities. And that’s what Jeff Fox, longtime president and CEO of LeMans, concentrates on.
“His biggest strength is the understanding of the market because he’s involved in the market” on a daily basis, Blackwell said of Fox.
Since Fox became president 15 years ago of the Janesville, Wis., company, LeMans’ annual sales has grown from about $15 million to $800 million. During the same span, the company’s North American sales force has increased from less than 10 to more than 200.
Fox believes that staggering growth has come about because “we have great employees at this company who are forward thinkers and who will accept change and take ownership for it.”
What’s the biggest challenge for the industry and what should be done about it?
“Dealing with so many different vendors, and a lot of vendors not being in the United States, the biggest challenge for the Parts Unlimited group is to have decent fill rates to provide our dealers.
“The biggest dealer challenge right now is all the land closings that are affecting the way people are thinking about how much motorcycling they’re going to be able to do in some facet in the future.
“What needs to be done is everybody needs to respect the other people in the environment. These guys on road bikes have to respect the cars and be a friend to them so motorcycling isn’t looked down upon. And the same with off-road. When anybody is out there off-road riding, whether it’s in the national forest or if it’s on private land, they have to respect the land and the noise levels so people aren’t saying, ‘Geez, another biker coming through.’ Just be consciousness of the surroundings and the people that are in the sport.”
What’s been the biggest challenge in your current position?
“The biggest challenge for us, with the amount of suppliers we deal with, is treating the suppliers fairly, trying to have programs that are fair to the dealer, and being able to do what we promise to do.”
How have you dealt with it?
“We’re adding more quality people. We have more systems in place to track inventory. We upgrade our systems, our hardware, our software, even positions within the company. We’re constantly hiring more people when we see a niche or we see a need to service the dealer better … And it’s a challenge to getting all those people. You keep adding people, you have to train them. Once you train them, they have to perform. Once they perform, then you find out that we have to change the job a little bit.”
What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?
“The best advice I can give a dealer is with the way distributors are performing overall, there’s not a big reason to stock deep and buy more than what you need for a long period of time. With most distributions, since the inventory is in their barn, it’s probably smarter to stock a little wider.”

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