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6 Steps to Start a Heavy-Duty Parts Business

Starting your own heavy-duty parts business is a noble goal as it provides you with the platform to create and accomplish amazing things. It is also a journey that is full of danger and adventure.

If you want to start a heavy-duty parts business, what do you need to know?

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most difficult things I have ever done!

Hands down the most difficult and I have been through a lot. That being said, being an entrepreneur has taught me things about myself and others I never knew, it has opened doors that never would have been available, and it has provided me with a wonderful way of life.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

Why do you want to start your own heavy-duty parts business?

  • You have a great idea
  • You don’t like your job
  • You are great at your job as a heavy-duty parts technician and you think you should be the boss
  • You need to make more money and people always say “the only way to make real money is to work for yourself”
  • It’s just something you have to do, a relentless urge that keeps you up at night and just won’t go away

Regardless of your reason for wanting to start your own business, you have had what Michael E. Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure” and seizures are never good!

Let’s walk through the 6 steps that you need to take to make sure that you will be on the road to recovery from your “entrepreneurial seizure” and on the path to long-term success.

Step 1: Getting Started

You’re going to need determination, grit, persistence, vision, a dreamer’s mind, emotional intelligence, open-mindedness, balance, strategic and critical thinking skills, knowledge, focus, and the list goes on and on.

Being an entrepreneur requires a host of internal qualities that you, in some cases, will have naturally and will also need to train and develop over time.

The secret to success in business can be boiled down to this one formula:

  • Your beliefs drive your actions
  • Those actions produce specific results
  • Those results reinforce your original beliefs

That means that the battle is won or lost before you ever take any action.

Nearly 70% of millionaires and billionaires are first-generation. This means they had nothing when they started. This means that they started on their journey with nothing more than a belief that they could accomplish something significant and over time they repeated the success formula and spiraled upwards to epic heights.

How many times have you seen the opposite happen?

I have seen many amazing businesses be run into the ground by the children or grandchildren of the successful founder and I have also seen wealthy children and grandchildren squander their inheritances on drugs, alcohol, and partying.

The first step in starting a heavy-duty parts business is to have the correct mindset because you’re going to face an endless amount of challenges that is going to test you as a person in ways you can’t even wrap your mind around at this point.

Step 2: A Viable Business Model

Every successful new business must have a viable business model.

There is an excess of supply in North America on most heavy-duty parts and differentiation on products alone is virtually impossible even if you are a manufacturer.

Retail is in decline and a digital sales channel is essential for long-term success in the heavy-duty parts distribution business.

You need to be able to answer these critically important questions BEFORE you start:

  • Why should someone buy from you instead of the competition?
  • Who will manufacture your parts?
  • How will you sell your parts?
  • Will you sell them through a traditional distribution channel and using retail stores or will you sell using eCommerce?

Once you have determined what you think will differentiate your heavy-duty parts business from the competition, where you will get your parts from, and how you will sell them, it’s time to validate your ideas.

This validation process should be done prior to starting a business but it can also be done after you have already launched your business.

In fact, all great businesses reinvent themselves many times as market conditions and customer needs change. Therefore, having a validation process embedded into your business system is the best way to ensure that as time passes your business remains relevant.

But, how do you do it?

You have at least three options:

  1. Social Media – Connect with your ideal customers and develop a relationship with them. Ask them questions in a conversational manner.
  2. Surveys – Use Survey Monkey to ask your ideal customers up to 10 questions that will give you insight into what they are thinking, feeling, and needing. (More than 10 you must go to a paid version.) You can email the link to your survey to prospects on your list, you can post it on social, and you can embed it on your website.
  3. Face-to-Face – There really is no substitution for face-to-face conversations. The wonderful thing is that with video calling on Skype, Zoom, and other services you don’t have to be in person.

This process of validating your ideas and the things that you think will differentiate your heavy-duty parts business is essential to developing a business model that is viable.

Step 3: Count the Cost

They started to build a new commercial building but before they could finish they ran out of money. Now the building sits empty, partially completed, and what they invested is gone forever. They can neither go back nor go forward. In the end, they declare bankruptcy and walk away from the project.

Many people start a business with nothing more than a dream and a vague notion of how they will turn that dream into a reality.

They are filled with passion, resolve, and hope but their entrepreneurial dream quickly becomes an absolute nightmare and it primarily starts with a failure to count the cost.

Interestingly, the self-employed people who fail quickly, typically in the first year, are often at a financial advantage over the self-employed people who make it two or three years.


When you fail early you can minimize the damage, cut your losses, and move on. Once you have been at it for two or three years and things aren’t going well you feel like you can’t quit because you have invested too much money, time, and energy.

The result often is that you grind it out for another year or two until finally you collapse and are forced to admit that the business is not sustainable. By this point, you have exhausted all financial resources and gone deeply into debt.

You can neither turn back time and go back nor do you have the financial, physical, and emotional ability to go forward. The nightmare ends but you are personally left to deal with the fallout of your entrepreneurial failure.

How can you avoid this tragic outcome that most self-employed people eventually experience?

  1. Financial Cost – The financial resources required to launch a heavy-duty parts business are much more than you initially think. At times it can cost three to four times more. If you quit your job before the business is producing adequate revenue the financial burden intensifies.
  2. Physical Cost – Most people don’t even think of the physical cost. Listen to interviews with entrepreneurs and you will hear many of them talk about how they weren’t taking care of their health in the early years of their business. Long days, lack of sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet will take a toll.
  3. Emotional Cost – The emotional resources required to deal with issues like constant rejection and imposter syndrome should not be underestimated. It’s hard to start a business and it takes a certain emotional makeup to handle it.
  4. Family Cost – If you have a family the cost to them can be very high. While you try to launch the business your time with them will be greatly reduced, the financial costs impact them now and threaten their future, and if you fail moving back in with your parents while you regroup will affect everyone.

Failing to count the cost is one of the earliest mistakes self-employed people make on their entrepreneurial journey. Don’t make that mistake.

Step 4: Take Action

You have prepared yourself mentally and emotionally, you have established a viable business model and tested your assumptions in the marketplace, and you have counted the cost ensuring that you have the resources to start your heavy-duty parts business.

Now it is time to take action.

Here are the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make after launching their business:

  • Failing to create systems
  • Trying to do everything on their own
  • Not establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals
  • Overspending on things that don’t directly contribute to revenue growth
  • Underspending on things that do directly contribute to revenue growth
  • Not moving fast enough
  • Diversifying to soon

It is critical that once you start investing actual money on launching your business that you get to viability as quickly as possible. You’re going to make mistakes, the trick is to fail fast, learn, and iterate. Use the acronym F.O.C.U.S. which stands for Follow One Course Until Success to keep yourself on track.

Step 5: Leveraging Your Network

Your network is your networth.

From the moment you decide to start your own heavy-duty parts business you should be trying to expand your network and leveraging that network for valuable resources. Talk to everyone you know in the industry and ask for advice and help because you don’t know everything and no one can do this alone.

Listen to what these industry professionals have to say and don’t think you are a special case because you’re not. If several of your industry contacts warns you about something, take heed.

One word of caution, a focus group of one is dangerous but so is listening to people who are negative. There is a great ancient provern that says, “there is accomplishment in a multitude of counsellors” which to me means, listen to the feedback you get, evaluate it using critical thinking, and make an informed decision.

You are going to face one problem after another launching and growing your heavy-duty parts business. Make sure that you take care of the people in your network, because if you do they will take care of you.

Step 6: Enjoy the Journey

There is no guarantee of success, in fact, the statistics say that 96% of businesses fail within 10-years and the average lifespan of a major corporation is only 30-years.

The journey of becoming an entrepreneur is a difficult one but it comes with its own reward. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey because if you do, no matter what happens, you will be able to take pride in your work.

I’ve had businesses that failed and succeeded on my entrepreneurial journey and I know that the final outcome is not as important as the journey itself.

Starting a business is hands down one of the hardest things I have ever done and also one of the most rewarding. If you’re serious about starting a heavy-duty parts business follow these 6 steps, put in the work, and with a little bit of luck, you will get take a journey that will transform you in ways you cannot even imagine at this moment in time.

Would you like some help to develop your strategy?

Jamie Irvine works with forward-thinking heavy-duty companies as a consultant. Developing a Digital Sales Channel and Business Development Strategy that encompasses adopting digital technology is the most common consulting work that Jamie does with heavy-duty truck & trailer companies.

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Author: Jamie Irvine

Jamie Irvine is the host of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and a consultant that works with manufacturers, distributors, and SaaS companies serving the heavy-duty truck parts industry.


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