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irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
7/1/18 8:52 p.m.

This may already be old news, but a recent FB post by Daniel Curtis, a long time TMS guy, caught my attention. If it's all true (which I don't know, but ), it's a sad state of affairs for the automotive aftermarket industry.....not that this kind of thing doesn't happen in all industries (the independent ski shop i work at was bought a few years ago by a larger corporate entity and I saw some of the same issues). Anyhow, thought I'd repost here in case anyone is interested. I've bought many things from Pelican (and some from Turner) in the recent and distant past so I thought it was interesting, and wonder how it will affect the future of other similar companies (FCP Euro, etc). 

3 years ago today, July 1, 2015, ECS "acquired" Turner Motorsport incorporated, the company I had toiled to help Will Turner build up for 8.5 years. They promised the former owner, a guy I shared a small office with for over 5 years, all sorts of amazing synergies and upsides. We'd share the best of both companies to form a super-knowledgeable, cutting edge source of auto parts with unmatched experience and customer service.

Those were all lies.

When I arrived at Turner in 2007, they were a small niche / boutique operation that sold a couple million in parts per year, fueled by a handful of true enthusiasts. I had left a solid job at another respected BMW parts outfit for the chance to work for an exciting up-and-coming BMW Tuner that already had a reputation for racing and no-BS parts.

When the ECS management team landed at Turner for the first time after the buyout, I was of course guarded. My optimism quickly turned to disgust. My impression of them was smarmy. Ruthless. Greedy. And in some cases, completely inept. Most notably the the two former owners, who's opinion I held as low as one could imagine. They had sold controlling rights to their company only a year before, and were now "Co-CEOs" of the private equity owned entity, an asset of Betram Capital Investments.

Many of our numbers were better than theirs. Our customer satisfaction higher, returns lower, vendor relationships deeper, and our employee retention and advancement out of this world. We managed a better profit margin, taboot. (Who knew: When you have happy customers and employees, you can run a good business!) Seeing behind the scenes of Turner Motorsport and ECS Tuning, it was clear -- One was a company that earned its reputation, the other a Wild-West movie scene, pretending to know what they were doing, luring customers in with prices slightly lower than their peers, and growth that stemmed from mostly dumb luck, and past smart employees who had quit along the years. They had no clear vision besides growth-at-any-cost, to inflate their private equity owned LLC so they could dump it to another larger company in a few years and (hopefully) some key players would walk away millionaires.

It was official: Will Turner sold his company to the devil. A soulless machine that didn't care about the car community or its employees. It cared about one thing only: Profit.

They were insufferable, right out of the gate. I played along for a few months, as they made one foolish or unimaginable decision after another. As the Director of Operations, I had a bird's eye view of the deconstruction and dismemberment of a once great company.

I made several trips to ECS headquarters in Wadsworth, OH. What I saw was what I would describe as borderline inhumane treatment of employees. Unnecessary control tactics to ensure NO ONE at ECS had any "tribal knowledge" of their business. Because of this their employees had a demeanor like abused animals. Cameras over every desk. Unbelievably low pay. Tiny tiny cubicles. Unnecessary dress code from the 1940's. Isolated and key-code locked rooms for every department. I was one .of a select few who could freely walk through all of the departments, and see the inner workings of ECS and the people that worked hard behind locked doors.

And I really felt bad for them. I felt almost as bad for their customers. Their warehouse was a disorganized hive of slave-like labor, governed by fear and intimidation. Their shipments were POORLY packaged, their process riddled with opportunities for mistakes and human error, and the morale of their employees those the lowest I've ever seen.

As an IT and Ecommerce Manager, their system was one of the most poorly cobbled together hackjobs I'd ever seen as well. Their security and disaster recover was a joke. it's no wonder they had troubles with data breaches and massive credit card data hacking. (Google it!) This was 100% the worst working environment I'd ever seen. Run by delusional and inept management who truly believed they'd built the perfect machine. And now fueled by outside PE money and reckless abandon.

The Turner buy-out happened in July, and in December of 2015 they unveiled their new "plan" in a small conference room of ECS. It was the former owner, Mr. Turner, myself, the two "co-CEOs", and 3 or 4 members of senior management. I sat in the board room and watched Will Turner's jaw drop as they explained their master plan -- to consolidate the 50 employee Massachusetts based Turner Motorsport with Ohio. Their reasoning after months of research: "It would save $11k in shipping expense and 0.2 days of package transit time. "That's it???" I asked. At the time, Turner Motorsport alone (not including ECS) was spending some $30k a week in shipping. No one researched the advantages of combining the capabilities of both companies. I argued they needed to re-run their numbers for contrast before impulsively vaporizing Turner Motorsport. They had made up their mind and that was that.

So on December 15, I became aware that ECS wanted me to lay off the majority of my workforce. The best of the best, in a hot bed of Boston-area talent were about to be out a job around Christmas. A good portion of whom I had hired and trained, and all of which I worked along-side for years. Several employees pre-dated my years of service, including a few with 18-20 years of experience each. No offers of relocation. No concern or compassion. All business. Just to save a few bucks, and (as time would tell) to the chagrin of its customers.

The would also dissolve the in-house R&D and production, boasting their plans to send manufacturing to the same Chinese and Mexican companies ECS was already outsourcing to.

They'd keep the domain name and 800 number, and 4 sales reps to continue the perception that Turner Motorsport was an independent parts house. They also kept two customer service reps to handle all the shipping errors, damaged parts, wrong parts, and nightmare orders ECS had become so good at creating. They quietly dumpstered thousands of parts and sent millions of dollars worth of inventory (much of which they had no way of selling) to their Ohio warehouse. A once-great all-BMW parts house went from 50 employees to 6, remains to this very today.

Strangely they didn't want me to go, though. They wanted my experience (Ecommerce, IT, SEO, Management, etc) however they could keep me. They tried cutting me in on their private equity parachute "pie in the sky" incentive plan that other ECS managers were on. I turned it down. The incentive plan's legal paperwork was a joke. A labyrinth with only 1 outcome that might pay out a modest bonus, mired with a hundred of ways ECS could cut me out and $0 at their discretion.

Pass.

Instead I made sure the laid off Turner employees got the best severances and treatment I could, and informed WIll Turner his ride with me as his right hand man was over. I quit on the 9th anniversary of my hire date, which was also the 5th year anniversary of launching a revamped Ecommerce platform that increased sales +40% overnight.

I still look back on that as an amazing job, with the most amazing people on the planet, that all came to a screeching halt because someone couldn't turn down a 7 figure payout (yes, 7 figure and decidedly not 8.) I often think how different my life and so many others would be had ECS not picked Turner as the first target of acquisition.

But they aren't done! ECS very quietly purchased Pelican Parts last fall. Good luck finding any press and PE newswire hoopla, like the Turner acquisition. They have kept this buy-out VERY quiet, as Bertram knows how bad ECS did with Turner "transition." Who will ECS buy next?

Do yourself a favor and get VERY picky about where you buy your German/Euro car parts. Starting asking: "Are you owned by ECS Tuning or Bertram Capital Investments?"

Read the ECS Glass Door, and know all the bad reports are 100% truth, while the glowing reviews are almost certainly planted by management to combat a dumpster fire that is their HR department.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
7/1/18 9:13 p.m.

wow.. glad I do not own a porsche or a BMW anymore.

MazdaFace
MazdaFace Dork
7/1/18 9:15 p.m.

I've ordered a number of parts from ECS for the e46 and never knew any of this. Crazy. 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
7/1/18 9:20 p.m.
MazdaFace said:

I've ordered a number of parts from ECS for the e46 and never knew any of this. Crazy. 

I've heard bad rumors about ECS over the past few years (and did hear about the data breach back in like 2013 or so), but they're hardly the only online parts seller that is occasionally hit-or miss these days. 

Ironically, I'm almost thankful that you can buy half this stuff on Amazon these days, lol...

OHSCrifle
OHSCrifle Dork
7/1/18 9:26 p.m.

Wow. I grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio and rode past that building every day on a school bus. I wonder if I know anybody that works there....

fasted58
fasted58 MegaDork
7/1/18 9:40 p.m.

I was just shopping BMW parts online this afternoon. Turner, Pelican and ECS among others. 

What a fuster cluck.

Who knew. Thanks for posting.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
7/1/18 9:45 p.m.

Wow, I had no idea.  Thanks for sharing that.

So who are the good guys now for German parts?

Slippery
Slippery SuperDork
7/1/18 9:45 p.m.

Seems true if you read this:

Turner’s website test page

Maybe this guy should have tried and buy it out himself. He knew the numbers, and the owner well. 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
7/1/18 9:46 p.m.
fasted58 said:

I was just shopping BMW parts online this afternoon. Turner, Pelican and ECS among others. 

What a fuster cluck.

Who knew. Thanks for posting.

My go-to these days is FCP Euro, which still has a solid reputation. But they mostly sell OEM-type parts and only a very limited number of "performance" stuff. They do honor the lifetime warranty on ALL parts though, and I know several track guys who use that feature regularly (even with brake pads and rotors!)

Slippery
Slippery SuperDork
7/1/18 9:46 p.m.
red_stapler said:

Wow, I had no idea.  Thanks for sharing that.

So who are the good guys now for German parts?

Bimmerworld for aftermarket. Tisher BMW for factory parts. 

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture PowerDork
7/1/18 10:24 p.m.
irish44j said:
fasted58 said:

I was just shopping BMW parts online this afternoon. Turner, Pelican and ECS among others. 

What a fuster cluck.

Who knew. Thanks for posting.

My go-to these days is FCP Euro, which still has a solid reputation. But they mostly sell OEM-type parts and only a very limited number of "performance" stuff. They do honor the lifetime warranty on ALL parts though, and I know several track guys who use that feature regularly (even with brake pads and rotors!)

+1 for FCP Euro on stock replacement parts. Great people.

Robbie
Robbie PowerDork
7/1/18 10:35 p.m.

That's sad. Especially for the original Turner folks.

Happens in all industries though, I had a frighteningly similar situation happen to me and the small company I worked for at one time.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
7/1/18 10:39 p.m.

That is sad. The people at pelican have been very good to me in the past. It has been a couple years since I spoke to anyone there.  

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
7/1/18 10:52 p.m.

Oh boy, private equity. That's usually not a good sign for the longevity of the company.

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair MegaDork
7/1/18 11:11 p.m.

If pelican's BMW tech articles go away, I will cry.

LanEvo
LanEvo HalfDork
7/2/18 2:00 a.m.
red_stapler said:

So who are the good guys now for German parts?

I start with Guten Parts & Service (all Germans, but focus on BMW and Mercedes) and Blunt Tech (mostly BMW). Both of these are mom & pop operations owned and operated by people well known in the E30 community. When you call, you're likely to get the owner on the phone. They're honest and don't make promises they can't keep.

If you want a larger operation, then Bimmerworld is still good. I've had some good experiences with FCP Euro, but I can't for the life of me understand their returns/replacement policy!

aw614
aw614 New Reader
7/2/18 7:18 a.m.
red_stapler said:

Wow, I had no idea.  Thanks for sharing that.

So who are the good guys now for German parts?

For VW/Audi stuff urotuning is good and is still independently by a local enthusiast in the Tampa area. 

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Reader
7/2/18 8:05 a.m.

Wow , is Pelican going to move from SoCal to Ohio ?

The whole story sounds like a bad movie plot ,  

Heartless financial  guys promise the world.........

 

 

Dashpot
Dashpot Reader
7/2/18 8:22 a.m.

Just another example of the private equity racket taking out another good company. 

The entrepreneur who starts the business eventually tires of the debt, the risk, & the month to month financial grind. They're tempted by brokers who promise a big shiny buyout with a bunch of "we won't change much, just improve efficiency through synergies, blah,blah." language. 

Once the deal is done, the parent company sinks their claws in & loads up the victim with the debt from the sale, while flattening the work force & paying themselves handsomely for their "Management Skills", rain or shine. 

There is no way out for the employees who stick around. Resources are severely limited & the squeeze will always be on. Management gets bonuses to shut up & keep pushing - or they're gone in an instant. 

The current term in vogue is "Financial Strip Mining",  and it's rampant across all industries.  Almost everyone I know (including twice myself) have been through this scenario at least once in their career. 

Best of luck to those few still at Turner, you're gonna need it.

FuzzWuzzy
FuzzWuzzy Reader
7/2/18 8:40 a.m.

Went through this same issue working at a bank that specialized small business loans. Went from the #1 area bank for small businesses and I believe top 50 in the country, to being bought by a larger small business bank in Wisconsin, that wanted to focus solely on $1 mill + type loans across the country. Clients and employees left and are leaving in droves.

 

Also glad I've never bought from ECS. Don't care for their website or their prices. Knowing all of this, also glad I've never bought from Turner or Pelican at this point.

I just hope Rock Auto doesn't get bought out or else I'll be screwed.

turtl631
turtl631 HalfDork
7/2/18 9:06 a.m.

That sucks.  We've had similar buyouts in my field, healthcare, and it sucks.  I won't be buying from the ECS conglomerate for my F80.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
7/2/18 9:11 a.m.

I realized this when I made an order recently and some of the stuff came from ECS in Ohio.

 

Bimmerworld, Blunttech, or Guten parts.

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair MegaDork
7/2/18 9:13 a.m.

I try to use All European Auto Parts whenever possible.

All Euro

Their main warehouse is in Ferndale MI.  I'm headed there in a few to pick up a starter and some other stuff for my E60.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
7/2/18 9:32 a.m.
irish44j said:

It was official: Will Turner sold his company to the devil. A soulless machine that didn't care about the car community or its employees. It cared about one thing only: Profit.

Sounds like a corporation to me.  I've seen it first-hand, and it sounds like others have as well.   If you work for a small business where all of the employees are personally invested in the cause and the customers, you have something rare. Take some time out to step back and appreciate it.

I've been using Warehouse33auto.com for Euro parts and have really enjoyed working with them.  Code Rennlist scores you an add'l 10% at checkout.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
7/2/18 9:46 a.m.

When I see these sorts of things I always wonder about the other side of the story...I'm not saying he's spreading tales, but he's obviously disgruntled about the place.

At any rate I've been happy with Blunttech, it helps that I know Steve and they are local so I can pick up parts in person.

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