Kevin Karwat

Whatever your focus, just make sure it is something you are passionate about. If it doesn’t come to mind right away, don’t be discouraged. You will find it and you will know where your success will be.

Got All Auto Parts is an automotive parts supplier based in Bay City, Michigan. Founder and CEO Jeff Madison has been in the industry since right out of high school, becoming an entrepreneur at just 21 years old. In 2005, he brought high school friend and Michigan State University Alum Kevin Karwat into his business to expand on the already successful endeavor.

With their combined experience, Got All Auto Parts has created a niche in the automotive world by providing remanufactured transmissions through cores available in their recycling yard. The company also provides additional part supplies to local auto parts stores and the general public. Their business approach is developing and maintaining relationships with those they work with and has led to significant growth for their company.

Got All Auto Parts is an environmentally conscious business that hopes to continue their growth beyond Michigan. Their ability to keep costs down and share those savings with the community have helped them achieve nationwide recognition in the industry.

Where did the idea for Got All Auto Parts come from?

The idea was Jeff’s. He had an idea to purchase an automotive parts facility where we could use the raw materials that were available there to produce our remanufactured transmissions. All of the other raw materials were then recycled through our network of automotive shops and used automotive companies. We also recycle the scraps that are leftover. We are able to offer cost savings to other local companies through our facility.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is focused early in the morning on our quality management plan. We have had some intense growth over the last several years. We run an assembly line style operation for the transmission remanufacturing. My day is full of making sure all that goes into the facility is running smoothly and we are meeting our goals for the day. I also make sure that our customer needs are being met.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By making a decision and putting it into practice. With the growth we’ve had, there have been several opportunities for us to make needed adjustments to how we were running things. There was a bit of a learning curve as we managed our way through the changes, but we have been successful. Really, the only way to know for sure if an idea will work is to take the risk and try it. If it improves your efficiency, great. If not, at least you learned from it and can move on to the next idea.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The advancements in technology. All of the upgrades allow us to produce more efficiently and provide a greater quality product to our customers

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

My passion for what we are doing here. I want to do my best every day and I think that is noticed by everyone else here. It motivates them to do the same. I come in every morning with a goal and a plan to reach that goal. I keep a positive mindset because I know we are helping our customers and our economy with what we are doing.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to be more patient, to talk less and think more. I would say make sure you have a plan before you start on something new. I have always had this want to be my best self, and when I was younger, I think that translated to sometimes jumping into things too fast. I would tell myself to slow down a bit, enjoy the learning experience, and make solid choices.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

My sincerity and my want to help people. I think sometimes the customer may confuse my kindness for a sales tactic. I have a genuine want to be helpful and to act with integrity. The money is not the important part in this business, the customers are. We want to provide quality and fairness in pricing. The relationships you build are the real rewards when you know that what you are doing is helpful to others.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Consistency and discipline. You know that saying, find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. We have accomplished that here. We are producing a product that is necessary and useful. We are saving people money and we are mindful of the environmental impacts that we have. It is having the focus on what you want to achieve that everyone should do over and over. If you keep that momentum, you can be successful no matter what that focus is on.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One thing that we have done is reaching out to customers and following up after the sale. This tends to blow some people away. They are so used to just a typical sales environment where there is no customer service. In our experience, it is the relationships you build with your customers that is the best strategy. They feel you appreciate them, that you have their interest in mind. When they see this, they tell their friends or family and that brings more people to us. In this field, word of mouth is still the best marketing there is.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

With us, I wouldn’t say it was a failure that we had to overcome, but a challenge. Our growth has been beyond expectation and we have had some growing pains with the rapid increase. When something like that happens, you can easily create a monster. We want to grow, of course, but the most important thing to us has always been the customer. We have had to take the time to reevaluate our strategies and make changes. In that moment, it may have felt like a failure, but in the end, it has been another great learning experience for us. The reward of pushing through those challenges is that we have successfully grown and we have still maintained those relationships that we feel are the key to our success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would say seek out what you enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a product, it can be a service. For me, it’s been the relationships that I make with people I come into contact with every day. That is my currency. Whatever your focus, just make sure it is something you are passionate about. If it doesn’t come to mind right away, don’t be discouraged. You will find it and you will know where your success will be.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I gave my daughter $100 about a month ago for a pair of shoes for her prom. She was so happy we were able to get them and they were perfect with her dress. It was the look on her face that made it the best money I’ve spent recently. She’s had a successful year and we were able to reward her for her accomplishments.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Intuit QuickBooks and their add-ons have helped bring our organizational skills up to par with current business practices. We use that and Microsoft Office Suite daily. Those programs help keep us on task and I don’t know what we would do without them at this point.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would say Humility: The True Greatness by CJ Mahaney is one of the best books I’ve read that encourage the characteristics that many great leaders have had. I think it’s an excellent resource to learn how to be a better mentor and a better person. It teaches you how to better interact with people and that’s an important skill to nurture.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is “ATTITUDE – It’s not always what you make it, sometimes it’s how you take it!”. Remember the importance of positive attitude.

Key Learnings:

• Keep focus on the end goal and work to achieve it
• Build meaningful relationships
• Act with integrity
• Be adaptable to business needs