Landmark Athens Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram

4145 Atlanta Hwy.
Athens, GA 30606


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Brad Shelnutt
Parts Manager

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Kyle Evilsizor

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by Russ Heaps

A 180-degree change in attitude is all it took to boost wholesale parts sales at Landmark Athens Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram from next to zero in 2010 to the $125,000-plus average it is today – well, a change in attitude and some serious elbow grease.
In 2009, Fred Brillanti brought his Landmark brand to Athens, Georgia when he acquired the Dodge Chrysler Jeep at 4145 Atlanta Highway. A casualty of the the 2008 recession, Barret had announced it would probably be closing its doors when Brillanti stepped in. Brillanti also owns Landmark Atlanta and Landmark Morrow – both Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram dealerships – as well as Landmark Fiat of Atlanta.
For all intents and purposes, the wholesale parts department didn't exist beyond the needs of the dealership's own service department. It just wasn't something in which the former ownership seemed particularly interested. That and the logistical headaches of delivering parts to customers from a less-than-central location like Athens, left wholesale parts an untapped resource.
Coming on board as the parts department manager shortly after the ownership change, Brad Shelnutt found himself back where he started. It's sort of a parts-department circle of life. Then 14 years into his parts-sales career, Landmark Athens was his initial opportunity at management, but not his first time at the store location; his first automotive job was as a parts-counter person at Barrett Dodge Chrysler Jeep.
“I was pretty wet behind the ears,” Shelnutt admitted about his early days at Barret in his shoot-from-the-hip style. “On day one, I didn't know anything. A friend of mine worked there and got me the job. I didn't have a clue.”
Learning the ropes there, Shelnutt moved on to a 10-year stint at another Chrysler store where he was selling parts when Landmark Athens tapped him to head its parts department. Receiving a healthy dose of culture shock, he returned to find that little had changed in his 10-year absence.
“I looked around and couldn't believe things had changed so little,” he said. “The department had two employees and about $300,000 in inventory. And, a lot of that was outdated. Most of our warehouse was being used to store service-department tools. We couldn't print orders or invoices. The only printer in the parts department was an old line printer. We had to run up front into the dealership to print almost everything. Getting wholesale up and running was like starting from scratch!”
But, according to Shelnutt, it was starting from scratch with an owner committed to having a successful wholesale parts operation. “Mr. Brillanti has let us grow without putting any real restraints on me,” he stated. “When I need something, I call or e-mail him and I have it. I asked for one new delivery truck and got three brand-new Ram ProMasters. I asked for more parts space and got a second warehouse. That just doesn't happen. He has big plans for us as we continue to grow. As long as I get from point A to point B, he let's me go. He doesn't micromanage us.”
Today, not only does Shelnutt have the original 7,500 sq.-ft. warehouse entirely for parts storage, but a second 2,000 sq.-ft. warehouse down the street. The $300,000 inventory has grown to an average of around $1.1 million. Wholesale parts sales have gone from zero to more than $125,000 a month, contributing to the $325,000 in total monthly average parts sales.
His team has grown as well from two to eleven, including four sales people, four delivery drivers, one warehouseman and two outside sales people. “The team now is all people I've recruited,” Shelnutt said.
Memories of Barret linger, however. Shelnutt says his biggest challenge remains convincing potential customers, still remembering Barret's lackluster wholesale-parts effort, to give Landmark Athens a try. he explained. “Wholesale wasn't a priority and people remember that. We're taking it one customer at a time. We win one, prove ourselves and then move on to the next.”
Among the examples of going the extra mile to win a new customer or strengthen the relationship with a current one, Shelnutt described sending one of his trucks on a 200-mile round trip to deliver a $3.25 bolt. “No, it didn't make sense,” he said, “but it's what you do to win a customer. The idea is they will remember the next time they have a big order and give it to you. Getting them to give us that first shot is the toughest thing; when they do, we make the most of it.”
Although they ship parts to some far-flung places, most orders are filled with one of Landmark Athens' own delivery trucks, ranging out through Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Occasionally this means the expense of making a second run to a customer to complete an order. “We do what we have to to fill an order,” Shelnutt emphasized. “If that means delivering what we have on the shelf on the first run, then delivering the rest when our order arrives from Chrysler, that's what we do.”
Going forward, Shelnutt just wants to continue growing the business, and he knows the only way to do that is maintaining a high level of customer service – a conviction he reinforces with his young team every day. “Our job is to do more and do it better than the next guy,” he stated. “We can really make something happen here. Right now I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!”
Oh, and about that old line printer Shelnutt discovered in the department when he returned, it's still there. “Of course we have printers to do what we need,” he said, “but I've held on to that line printer and still use it for some things. It was here in 1996 when I first started. I like having it around.”n