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Leading the way in the auto parts e-commerce marketplace
Steve Voudouris the the founding shareholder and president of Turn5, Inc. Turn5 operates two retail sites, AmericanMuscle.com and ExtremeTerrain.com, that specialize in the sale of aftermarket auto parts. Steve founded the company’s forebear, Xoxide, in 2001 with his brother Andrew; eight years later, after spinning the operation into multiple successful e-commerce sites, they sold the Xoxide to focus on Turn5. The company has won numerous industry recognitions, such as Entrepreneur Magazine‘s “Hot 500 Award,” Inc. Magazine‘s “Top 100 Retail Companies,” and Bizrate.com’s Platinum Award for Customer Service Excellence.” In 2009, Steve and Andrew also received the Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Steve spoke with Offit Kurman managing partner Herb Fineburg for this interview.
HERB FINEBURG: What technologies are really making a difference in your industry right now?
STEVE VOUDOURIS: Video is a really good tool for us. I was talking before about some of the exhaust clips that we shoot that really show a customer—let the customer hear what their car can sound like after they add one of our products to their car. Installs are also something that’s easily solved with video: we can actually show the customer how they howto get started installing a part and our customers find that hugely helpful.
How many people work for Turn5?
We’re about 250 people now and it’s broken down largely into three different groups. We have a group of people in our contact center that are customer facing, answering phone calls, answering emails, helping customers figure out what parts they might want to purchase. We have another group that is our fulfillment group, so they’re packing, shipping and filling out orders. Then, we have our marketing group and our administrativ—so, our HR and finance teams. We do warehouse the majority of what we sell, and the big reason for that comes back to that customer experience. When a product isn’t shipped from us it’s harder to know where it is at any time, it’s harder to guarantee we’re going to get it out quick to the customer, and that’s a big part of the experience a customer has is how quickly they get the product and whether we know where it is at all times. It’s an important thing that we’ve done from early on.
It sounds a lot like the Amazon model.
Yeah, I think there are definitely certain similarities to what we do with Amazon, but we do think of ourselves as a very different business than Amazon. Amazon sets out to sell everything and they know very little about most of the products that they sell. We want to be experts in our field. We want to be able to help a customer through an installation. We want to be able to help recommend what’s the next thing they could or should do with their car. So, yeah, in the sense that we are an ecommerce business we’re similar to Amazon, but we have a very different model.
Why focus on Jeep and Mustang parts? How do the markets for the two sites compare?
The thing that we saw similar in the Jeep market that certainly rings true in the Mustang market is just the passion that Jeep owners have for the vehicle. We wanted to be part of that community, and it’s been fun. Jeep guys are die-hard Jeep guys, and Mustang guys are die-hard Mustang guys. To be able to be in a business where you’re around employees and customers that have such a passion for the product makes it a lot more exciting. Certainly Mustang guys and Jeep guys like to be out in the garage. They take the stock vehicle and it’s just like a starting point. A lot of times people buy the car and they’re calling us, driving out of the dealership. There’s not a long wait period for guys with those vehicles. There are other markets where people modify vehicles but we haven’t found any as passionate as the Jeep and Mustang drivers. The program that we have, where we help people buy Mustangs and Jeeps, only further encourages that. We’re also doing a program for the first time this year in our contact center, where in some of the downtime the guys working in the contact center will be out in a garage building a car, and it serves a bunch of purposes. We want the guys on the phones to have hands-on experience to be able to help customers through problems. In any contact center, there’s downtime, so it’s how can you get the guys out there working on something that they’re going to find fun? And at the same time, they’re learning and are better able to help their customers.
What’s your relationship with dealerships like? Do you consider them to be competitive forces?
The dealerships are typically more focused on selling cars. So, they like us, because there are people that buy cars because they know all the things that they can do to them after they get them. So, we do have a good partnership with Ford and Ford Racing as well, but we don’t really compete with dealerships. They want to sell the car and they sort of leave it to us to let the customer take the next steps with it.
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