Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center Sells With Passion
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center in Lubbock, Texas, is an outgrowth of a GM car dealership that was founded in 1929. The parts operation now ships thousands of packages each month and is one of the largest operations of its type in the country.
In the late ’20s, cousins A.L. Scoggin and J. Ray Dickey were in the grocery business together in a small town outside Lubbock, Texas, when they heard that a GM franchise was going to become available. They decided to sell the store and pool their money, and they opened a Buick franchise in Lubbock in 1929. Scoggin-Dickey Chevrolet Buick is now in the fourth generation of family ownership, although the Dickeys retired several years ago, and the associated Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center is one of the largest operations of its kind in the country.
“It says a lot about the integrity of the people who are involved,” said Nicky Fowler, vice president of fixed operations. “This is an automotive family, and it’s dedicated to the automotive community. On the parts side, my father Wendell came to work here in 1959. With the guidance and backing of Mr. John Scoggin and his son-in-law, John Zwiacher, he built the foundation of the business. Wendell was a great marketer and really went after the business. Mr. Zwiacher and Mr. Scoggin took the time to invest in a great parts operation, building a huge wholesale operation back in the ’70s and ’80s.”
As part of our ongoing “Retail Spotlight” series, SEMA News recently spoke with Fowler about the parts store and the Scoggin-Dickey business philosophy.
SEMA News: Scoggin-Dickey is obviously a significant presence in the Lubbock area, both as a GM franchise and in the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center. What is the most important factor in the success of your company?
Nicky Fowler: We built the business on service and treating customers right. We were talking the other day at a company meeting about our history and how we got here. My father always said, “We’re not number one; our customers are.” It was imperative to him that every person who worked here—regardless of what position they held—was committed to the idea that, whatever you did or how you did it, the end result had a positive effect on the customer.
SN: What is your customer-service philosophy, and what do you do specifically to meet that philosophy?
Scoggin-Dickey counts on its entire team to discover new products. When an employee finds a part that fills a need, a company group convenes to determine whether to bring it into inventory.
NF: The only reason any of us work here is to serve the customer, and our foundation is to earn customers for life. In the automotive industry, it’s about service and having product. It’s also about finding people with passion and loyalty who work to make sure that our customers are satisfied. We have very little employee turnover. Most people who are hired here are pretty much employees for life. The only things that cause people to leave are retirement, major life events or their spouse getting transferred for a very good job.
SN: How do you train your staff to best serve the business and its customers?
NF: The process begins when you start looking for people. As I said, we look for people with passion. We want them to have passion about the automotive industry, but we also want them to have passion for life. Then we do kind of an IQ test to find out if they are technically oriented or on the other end of the scale. Over the years, we have found that some of our absolute best salesmen may have no mechanical inclination, but their passion for cars, racing and industry leads them to enjoy being at any type of car event and talking with car people.
It’s funny, but one of our best salesmen, I wouldn’t let him work on my little red wagon. But the mechanical side of it was never his desire. He learned a lot over the years, but he didn’t really want to know the in-depth tech part of how an engine works, why we would select these headers or this camshaft. But he was passionate about taking care of people. And that’s what we look for. Once we find the right person, the training depends on which department they’re in. We’re no different from anybody else in that regard. We try to take advantage of phone training, customer-relationship programs and some proprietary internal programs. There is also some great training on YouTube. We try to look for a program that fits the person and the job.
SN: Do you specialize in specific products or types of vehicles? If so, how did the company decide to target that market?
NF: We are GM experts and Chevrolet Performance Parts experts. There are very few places that have greater history, years of experience or a more trusted relationship with the manufacturer than we do. In fact, General Motors calls us sometimes to see if we have solutions to something they’re working on. We have always been a GM dealership, and my father was very passionate about the automobile industry and cars.
SN: How do you determine what new products to include in your inventory? What factors help you decide to take a chance on something different?
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center houses thousands of products in its warehouse and takes pride in developing lifelong customers.
NF: Obviously, we’re a pretty good-sized company, but we can’t touch everything. Everybody today is in their own little vertical silo where they have their specialty, but we tell our salesmen to bring anything that’s interesting or solves a problem to the table so that we can all look at it. We have a group that reviews those types of things. We are very dependent upon our team looking at products. They are the eyes and ears. They are the ones who are talking on the phone, looking on the Internet, doing it all. You can’t have your inventory-control people being the only ones who bring in new product.
SN: You have become quite involved in the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC). What led you to join the SDC?
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center
Management: John Zwiacher, president; David Zwiacher, vice president, general sales manager; Jaclyn Zwiacher Odom, vice president of marketing; Nicky Fowler, vice president of fixed operations
NF: I have the greatest admiration for SEMA and what it brings to the automotive industry. The automakers were years ahead of the aftermarket in terms of data management—year, make, model, fitment, all the attributes that are involved—both in their presentation of it and how they used it. In the aftermarket, that kind of information had been frayed, fragmented and splintered. Each aftermarket company had its own idea, and it became obvious that somebody had to take hold of data. It is a monumental task, but it’s crucial for the survival of the industry. It requires standards that we can all live by and benefit from, not just on the manufacturing side but also in marketing. That’s why we use the SDC.
SN: What are the benefits of SDC involvement to you as a retailer?
NF: To begin with, it’s free. But we haven’t even really begun to see what the total benefits of SDC will provide to our industry. It is in its infant stages. With SEMA’s organization and the leadership the association brings to the table, I think it will unfold as one of the best things that ever happened for the industry. For instance, we were in the process of building a new website and approached the SDC from the standpoint of fresh data mining and bringing all that information together. It has been a little bit of a struggle, but it goes back to that earlier point of getting manufacturers to adopt the standard that we all need to have. Everybody is slowly coming up to that grade and making it work.
SN: What are your best marketing tools? How do you reach out to customers to stimulate sales?
NF: Marketing is the same for all of us in this industry. Print doesn’t have the same effect that it did 20 years ago. Everything has moved toward Internet marketing. As I said, we’re working toward launching a new website that will be much more active and robust. We had a good site when we developed it in the early ’00s, but times have changed—as they always do. Search engines have changed, and the demand for information and the way it is presented has changed. It’s a moving target all the time.
We also have racing involvement. I still believe that racing is the eye candy for the industry and for marketing. People still like to see the numbers and hear about the winners and how they chose their product. “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is still a necessary branding tool and very much a part of our marketing program.
SN: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
NF: Government regulations and technology—technology not just from the standpoint of marketing and advertising and bringing new business in, but also the technology of the parts that we sell and service today. Cars become more complex every year.
SN: What has been your company’s most rewarding success?
NF: The fact that we have customers that we have earned for life. We’re also very proud of the way we treat our employees. They are family. We provide 401(k) programs and health plans. Those things are kind of unheard of for private industry today, but we pride ourselves on our employees. The key is to develop passion and loyalty, both to customers and to employees.