Today’s Midwest Entrepreneurs class blogger is Ryian Sampson. Below, he tells the captivating and improbable entrepreneurial success story of Mr. Rod Smith. Pay particular attention to the importance of the trust-based (supplier) relationships—with some of the biggest names in NASCAR racing—that Rod has forged over the years and now leverages to the “ca-ching” ringtone tune of $400,000 to $500,000 in annual sales.
Rod Smith is an individual who caught his entrepreneurial bug later in life. Everything started coming together for the man during some of his final days at Monmouth College. He attributes much of his success to the multitude of things he learned from co-workers from his time at this institution, where he was Assistant Director of the Physical Plant (in charge of the custodians, utility workers, grounds crew and student workers). While in this position, Rod had a very important concept down in his head: “The students are also the customers.” With this in mind he made it his mission to treat students as customers and that meant leaving no stone unturned when it came to the cleanliness of the campus and dorms. This idea stuck with Rod. He was able to apply it to a new venture he was trying to start. He understood the importance of his customer base and has painstakingly tried to keep those practices intact as well as polishing them over the years.
This carried over to his current business of selling used NASCAR parts and is the life blood of his success. Rod Smith, in his head, has a very wide range of specific knowledge that allows him to buy and sell used automotive parts and market them back to other individuals over EBay. In general, Rod sells auto parts worldwide and stops at nothing order to make sure that the parts he obtains are clean and in good condition and can be sold. At the end of the day it would be his name on the line and he cannot afford anything ill being said about him or the services he provides. Many years ago Rod Smith would partake in racing himself; this is where the passion and knowledge of his current trade comes from. Also from that time in his life Smith was able to build upon relationships with other racers that eventually led him to become one individual who most others will call upon in order to meet their automotive needs.
In the customer’s mind Rod Smith has an amount of trust that he himself has that other competitors cannot come close too. This is something Rod can pride himself on. The customer base he still has to this day is what is helping drive his sales. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool, especially for a beginning entrepreneur. With the help of some of his workers Rod has the ability to buy smaller more valuable car parts and clean them up in order to sell for a profit. This doesn’t exclude the plethora of other car parts associated with this industry. Rod has seen it all but chooses at this time in his life to handle smaller parts for his own health. The profit margins can be pretty big and it all comes down to if the customer has the ability to simply buy an item from Smith at his asking price. A lot of the items sold through EBay have the ability to be set up for auction and some of the money that is being made through sales are haggled on. Over the years some parts gain and lose value and Rod stays on top of a lot of information that is pertinent to providing the right price to those looking to purchase his wares.
There are a few high-trust customers that Rod Smith still stays in contact with to this day that provide him with enough work so that he can continue to see the cash flow. Some smaller NASCAR teams have Rod in the back of their minds when they think of a salesman who can provide the parts that they need when they need it. In turn, these teams, because of their relationships with Rod, return favors like providing him with parts for extremely low prices that he can turn around sell whatever it may be for a handsome profit. The mark-ups on these items are where Rod really begins to see money start to accumulate.
It’s worthy to note that there is a bit of niche marketing occurring here with Rod Smith. Buying and selling is happening between this vendor and multiple NASCAR racing teams. Although this market is fairly small and the man has to sometimes travel down to Charlotte, NC in order to pick up some pretty specific racecar parts that someone may have an interest in after he cleans it up. A majority of his sales are made to car builders but that doesn’t mean that an average Joe could not contact Rod for motor or three.
Rod Smith’s trade mark has to be his “ca-ching” ringtone which has to have gone off at least 5 times in our class alone. Every time you hear that tone you know that Rod’s wife Debbie, who he refers to as “the brains of our operation,” will be arranging for packing and shipping and that there will soon be either be USPS or UPS delivery driver waiting outside of the Smith residence.