Trucks Roll Podcast

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Trucks Roll Podcast Episode 16

The Value of Partnership – Trucks Roll Podcast – Ep. 16

April 29, 2024

Tom Wiers sits down with Jim Allen, the CEO of Karmak, to discuss their long-term partnership and the future of the heavy-duty industry. Jim also shares insights on the trends of consolidation in the OEM and aftermarket sectors and the exciting developments in technology, such as AI and machine learning. Tune in to learn how Karmak is staying ahead of the curve and providing valuable solutions for their partners.
Home » The Value of Partnership – Trucks Roll Podcast – Ep. 16

Creating Positive Company Culture and the Value of Building Strong Relationships

In this episode, Tom Wiers sits down with Jim Allen, the CEO of Karmak, to discuss the importance of partnerships and relationships in the heavy-duty trucking industry. Jim shares his insights on leadership, creating a positive company culture, and the value of building strong relationships with clients. They also delve into the future of technology in the industry, including the use of AI and machine learning to analyze data and improve efficiency. Jim highlights Karmak’s recent developments, such as the launch of a mobile service app, and how these innovations are helping their clients stay ahead in a competitive market.

Key Takeaways:

  • Building strong relationships with clients and partners is crucial in the heavy-duty trucking industry. Jim emphasizes the importance of treating clients as partners and creating lasting friendships based on trust and mutual respect.
  • Karmak is focused on providing cutting-edge technology solutions to its clients. Jim discusses the potential of AI and machine learning in analyzing data and improving efficiency in the industry.
  • Karmak’s recent launch of a mobile service app has been well-received by the industry. This app allows clients to access important information and services on the go, increasing productivity and reducing manual work.
  • The heavy-duty trucking industry is experiencing consolidation, with larger dealer groups emerging. While this presents challenges in terms of conquest sales, Karmak is well-positioned to support companies through acquisitions and provide seamless integration of their ERP system.
  • Jim emphasizes the value of partnerships and collaboration in driving innovation and growth. Karmak actively seeks input from its clients through advisory councils and values their expertise in shaping the future of the software.

Notable Quotes:

  • “I’m really big on leadership and how you treat people, how you create culture… And that creates influence too in what we do because we need to respond to the market.” – Jim Allen
  • “We believe genuinely we have the better system because of how deep and wide it truly is… It’s flexible for that kind of thing. And you, our claim to fame was really the beginning of parts, inventory, and the margins. We manage it differently.” – Jim Allen
  • “The more efficiencies we find for you, the more valuable we are. So we can charge for those services and it’s a good business plan.” – Jim Allen



Tom Wiers: Hello everyone, this is Tom Wiers and I had the privilege today to sit down with Jim Allen, the CEO of Karmak. And we’re gonna talk a little shop, a little software, a little history, a little bit about the future as well. So Jim, first off, thanks for coming to Carmel, Indiana. We had our mid year manager meeting and Jim and his team were gracious enough to come in and share some things about Karmak and cybersecurity and updates and such that are coming down the road. We really appreciate you coming in. I know you had another opportunity in St. Louis that you blew off for us driving over here, so that really means a lot and thank you very much.

Jim Allen: So right on. You’re welcome. And you know the pleasure’s mine. I absolutely love this. And you know our relationships with our partners. As you are a partner, I don’t like these wor customer a lot because you’re a partner and I take every opportunity I can to come hang out and meet your place, know what you do and grain myself in what you do so I can offer better solutions.

Tom Wiers: Yeah, that’s great. As I was talking to Jim earlier today, I mentioned that we became a customer back on November 1, 2002. So we’re just 21 and a half years ago and it’s my full expectation that will continue to be a customer for a long time as well. So it has been truly a long term relationship and it s just great to sit down with you. In fact, you mentioned our in the discussion today with my team, which I thought was great. You had a slide on your focus is on the ship.

Tom Wiers: Would you kind of share a little bit with the folks to watch in this video about what that’s what that entails?

Jim Allen: Yeah. And you know, for me, I’m really big on leadership and how you treat people, how you create culture and that kind of thing, but also how it expands out into your client base and creating relationships with them that absolutely last. And that creates influence too in what we do ca because we need to respond to the market. And for me, the focus on the ships means, you know, relationships, you know, leadership, any word that ends with ship.

Jim Allen: And as you evolve through these relationships, they turn into friendships. And then when I’m friends with Tom Weirars and he calls me, you’ve got my ear in a different way than another client who I also you want to be there for, but you do. It’s just to be honest, you always get some influence when you have these amazing relationships with people and I love building them. It become from a genuine place to learn what you do fascinates me. I love what you do more than what I do, and I love what I do, but it’s to learn your business and what you do and how your customers come through you and do that. Like, I’m always fascinated by that and learning more. And every conversation I have makes me better at my job. So those shifts are important to me and that’s what I focus on.

Jim Allen: And, you know, back at the office, of course, leadership is very important, and it all starts at the top, as you’re probably aware, of course. But those other things and throughout the industry, I just, it’s my favorite thing that I do.

Tom Wiers: Yeah, I thought Jim had a real nice slide on that with it. And so if you don’t mind, I’d like to steal that. Steal it. Use that around some of the material. But no, I think it really the partnerships, relationships, friendships, all our important business attributes. And he did a nice job of framing that. So tell us about, a little bit about, you know, since we’ve been a long term customer with Karmak and kind of where the business is at today and what you see as opportunities for Karmak partnering with companies like Wiers and what you’ve seen going on the market.

Jim Allen: Gotcha. Yeah. You know, we’re in the last couple of years, we’ve spent a lot of time really riding the ship. See what I did right? Boom. And so it’s really making sure that our product offerings are the best they can be for you. And then we always want to add features and functionality, but we want to be cutting edge technology. So some of the stuff we talk about machine learning, AI, why does that matter in our business?

Jim Allen: Because we have this. Tons of, tons of data, right? And so the system that you’re using, the business system is really a data repository. It accepts data. You put tons of it in. That’s just the beginning. It’s how you extrapolate that data and what you do with it. So AI has the potential to look at that in a wildly different way in much more quickly. And, you know, I’m always concerned about the nefarious use of AI technologies because they can do bad things with, but it is a remarkable technology.

Jim Allen: We are already working with Microsoft on some projects and figuring out what we can do internally and how we can impact it with. Maybe it’s reporting or whatever. And so that’s really exciting. So we have people, you know, looking into that and partnerships, once again doing that. But it’all comes from what the industry wants. So one of the biggest proud moments I have right now is delivering a mobile service app.

Jim Allen: Customers been asking for that throughout the industry for a long time. Guess who popped it out first? Karmak. Boom.

Tom Wiers: Boom.

Jim Allen: And you know, I would love to take credit for it, but as you know, I don’t do any actual work. So the team literally wanted to do this so bad. In one of the busiest times that we had going on. They met at the bar in the afternoon or after work and wrote this out on paper and started believing in it. And it started evolving because we wanted to do it and it’s way ahead of everybody else. So we knocked it out and it just started the 1 March. It’s available. So we’re excited.

Tom Wiers: You know, one of the things I think from our company, interacting with your company, we’ve always been a pretty heavy user. We’ve sent people to use your conference and it’s always been a very stable platform for us. We’ve always been. You gotten great support and such. But there have been, you know, looking at the market and opportunities for additional technology. Mobile app or we have a accounts payable product that we use through Doubiz that we work through, the KMac. So what I love about what I’ve seeing frommac in the last couple years is these additional either partnerships or sometimes proprietary software, but really servicing some of the areas that my team has been asking about for a long time. And of course, in our business we have a quite a bit of mobile work that goes on mobile service and we’re looking to increase that pretty substantially over the next three to five years. So those sorts of investments in your business are definitely going to help the weir team in a much more efficient man, less manpower necessary as we grow.

Tom Wiers: So that’s fantastic. That really adds value to our business.

Jim Allen: Good. One of the things that we’ve created the last couple of years is our unity tool. It’s an API layer that allows these third parties to integrate with it because we want you to be able to do everything in that system that you can. That’s been an investment, but it’s really paying off, to your point. And all these different services that you use, why not have them integrate with your management system?

Tom Wiers: Yeah, it really does start to feel a little bit like your iPhone where there’s more and more choices, apps and tools to use and you’re the connectivity for that. So that’s wonderful.

Jim Allen: Good, good stuff. Absolutely. And so you guys are growing?

Tom Wiers: Well, we’re trying.

Jim Allen: You know, I’ve been watching time after.

Tom Wiers: 32 years, maybe we’re finally figuring some things out but, yeah, I mean, you know, our business, we have the dealerships. Obviously, we’ve been around. We’re celebrating 60 years.

Jim Allen: Wow.

Tom Wiers: In the international dealership. So we’re now becoming one of the older dealerships, international dealerships in the country. And of course, there’s a lot of consolidation going on, so we’re hanging in there and plan to. And then our fleet service business that we started in 2013 is really growing. And a lot of that’s through acquisitions, as you know. And it’s wonderful the relationship that we have with Karmak being our ERP system, our business system.

Tom Wiers: We’re going in on day one and taking, oftentimes the companies that we’re purchasing have very little you in terms of invoicing and productivity tracking and inventory tracking, and you generally not integrated. It’s a quickbooks plus something, you know, maybe written. And day one, we throw the Karmak ERp. It’s live, 08:00 on a Monday morning when we close on the business. And in fact, in this most recent acquisition last week, we had visibility of productivity and revenue on the same day that we closed, which was the first time we’ve had that level of execution.

Tom Wiers: So Karmak has been great for us because, again, even though it’s primarily known, I mean, as a dealer, you think of as a dealer system, but there are a lot of aftermarket companies that use your software, and it’s certainly working really well for our fleet service business.

Jim Allen: Ye, it’s funny you bring that up because oftentimes people, that’s why I don’t use the term DM’s dealer because we have warehouse distributors, trailer dealer, truck service shops, and we have all kind of different type of customers using that, that system. So, you know, I’ve had people from different market segments go, you know, don’t be favoring the dealers kind of thing. And it’s like, hey, we create the system for the heavy duty market and you can utilize it in any way and you can use pieces of it. You don’t have to pay for all of it.

Jim Allen: So congratulations on your success. Number one, first and fore. I’ve been watching you. I’ve been watching your team and what you’re doing and watching you grow. And what I love, my favorite part is we grow along with you, and that’s partnership. And, man, I love that. Every time I see you guys adding something, I’m like, that’s my guys. I love that so much. And I had, you know, some good friends in the industry, and this is where it comes to me, where it’s so important that I get these friendships like Drew Heach, and, you know, getting to know you better and some of the other folks that, you know, are partners with us is, it creates a completely different synergy. And I don’t want to be looked at as a commodity. I wa wantna be looked a true partner, offering solutions, and we grow together, and we work together really well. So the better I know you, the better the business, that kind of thing.

Jim Allen: And so we’re excited. That company gets excited. And I got, I’m telling you right now, we got people at Karmak that follow the trucks rolled podcast. They love it, and it is good. And so when you do these kind of things, whether it’s a podcast or you’re putting stuff out on LinkedIn, you never really get to know who’s really seeing it unless they click like. And sometimes you’ll be all like, o geez, I only got ten likes. I’m all crestf fallen.

Tom Wiers: You know, nobody likes me.

Jim Allen: But meanwhile, people are looking at it, and I can tell you the trucks roll things big there, but people do follow that, and I love that. And again, I have a lot of friends in the industry that I feel the same way about, and I’m always excited when they grow, and I’m going to grow right along with them. But the more they grow, the closer we are, the more influence we have. That’s why we listen way better than we have in the past. At Karmak, we have advisory councils that members from the industry participate in. So if you joined one, you can say, well, I like that idea, but this is how the industry actually does it. And we know that you know that more than we do. So that really has been outstanding. If you’re feeling anything from us, you’re feeling that.

Tom Wiers: So since you have so many relationships, both OEM and aftermarket and such, and we’re growing primarily through acquisitions, see, what are you seeing in the marketplace in terms of consolidation, both on the OEM side and aftermarket? Are you expecting this to continue? And then is it impacting your business positively or is it impacting your business negatively?

Jim Allen: Great question. You know, I made a joke that the end game is one giant behemoth dealer group, heavy duty industry ran by an evil empire, right. Because it feels like the market is shrinking, the more consolidation, the market shrinks. So it creates, it’s difficult to get conquest sales for us because of that, right. We’ve done more m and a work and acquisition work over the last couple years. That’s been insane. But the good news is we got really good at it. So we can pop those bad boys right on for you without missing a beat.

Jim Allen: And I will tell you largely we’re at the good end of that, of getting that new business. So if you buy a two or three location or a one and you bring it on, then that brings it on to us. We do every once in a while unfortunately have people that have to break up. And I can tell you, I meet these folks and they’re like, man, I get emails from us saying the whole company’s mad that we can’t stay with Karmak, you know, that kind of thing. But you know, business leaders have to make the decision to do what they have to do.

Jim Allen: We don’t ever want to see anybody leaveuse. We believe genuinely we have the better system because of how deep and wide it truly is. And you can form it to your business. It’s s not, you know, it’s flexible for that kind of thing. And you, our claim to fame was really the beginning of parts, inventory and the margins. We manage it differently. And you know, it’s not just going well. I can get any system and they’re all goingna be fine. There are differences and I’ve never talked down on the competitor, but we really believe in what we have and that’s, that’s genuine, that’s not a sales piece, right?

Tom Wiers: That’s right. So do you see the trend in OEM consolidation and aftermarket continuing? Is any reason I think that that’s going to slow down or stop?

Jim Allen: No. You know, it’s such a funny thing because if you look at the cycle of things, will there be a point where see people start selling that off? I don’t know. I have not seen much of a slowdown. And you know, there’s, the economy plays a role into that, right in your service. So when your shops or when your business is really clicking and you’re squeezing as much efficiency out, you’re just, you’re doing, you’re getting successful, you’re financially, you’re building something good so you can be in a position to do those things.

Jim Allen: And I don’t see an end to it anytime soon. For us it’s interesting because I believe in the heavy duty market that there’s all kind of opportunity. I don’t want to leave this market. We don’t want to branch out to other things because the more efficiencies we find for you, the more valuable we are. So we can charge for those services and it’s a good business plan. So there’s things we haven’t even launched yet that you don’t know about that we’re gonna love to take your money.

Tom Wiers: For like the mobile service app. I know, I know. Was like, how much are we go going toa spend on that?

Jim Allen: But what is the value in the.

Tom Wiers: Well, you, it’s nothing comped to what.

Jim Allen: The, it’s hard to wrap your head around that, but if you start using it at one location and you see you control that, it’s not a ton or nine, one guy can go out and do ait call and use it and you’like, was that worth it?

Tom Wiers: Well, I already know that. I think everybody’s gonna want it and.

Jim Allen: It’S gonna, I saw the faces in there when we launched it on them.

Tom Wiers: That’s true. Said, how many service invoices do we do a year? And I did the math, I’m like, oh, okay, but it’s goingna add value, so.

Jim Allen: That’s right’s, right. I’ll be happy to write strategic brain.

Tom Wiers: Yes, I’m going to be happy to write that short.

Jim Allen: I’ll be happy to cash it.

Tom Wiers: But the truth of it is’s a great partnership.

Jim Allen: I love it.

Tom Wiers: I write the checks, you cash them, I get value. It’s wonderful.

Jim Allen: And then we reinvest that money itself funds basically, so we’ll just keep adding the good stuff.

Tom Wiers: Totally, I understand. I mean, there’s a lot of upront cost and what, what you folks do, I mean, there’s, you know, you got to write out the code and do all this and then wait for the revenue to come in and, you know.

Jim Allen: There’S a lot that goes into it and a lot of people, our team, but then also it was influenced by other groups, you know, our client base, we said we need a panel of people to help guide this because we know a lot about service, but we don’t know as much as you do. So we really utilize that brain trust, ent trusted partnerships in our client base to come in and say, what do you think of this? Cut it up, beat it up. We’re gonna change now. What do you think of it? So that process has taken a long time.

Jim Allen: We wanted to have it done immediately, but I can promise you, nothing moves quickly in software. It’s a heavy lift.

Tom Wiers: Well, as I started off, we’ve had a long term relationship with Karmak. Always been very pleased, always been a loyal customer. And since your tenure as CEO of the last two and a half years, definitely seeing Karmak moving in a more it seemingly a faster more aggressive path and that really excites us. Since we’re your partner, that means we can do more things that we weren’t able to do, like the mobile service happen, some of those other things. So that’s great. And I appreciate, again, you coming to Carmel, Indiana, Indianapolis and spending time with my team. I know they greatly appreciated, you know, your discussion on security, cyber attacks and that as well as the update on the Karmak and getting to know our team. So thank you very much and we’ll have stay in touch and drink some bourbon together.

Jim Allen: Now we’re talking’looking. Around. Where’s the cabin time? In this room?

Tom Wiers: There should be bourbon. There should be bourbon sitting right here. I don’t know why we didn’t do.

Jim Allen: It the perfect table, but I guess.

Tom Wiers: We can wrap it up and go have one as well.

Jim Allen: There you go. But yeah, hey, I’m always flattered when people invite me out. I can’t say no. I just. I truly do enjoy coming out and meeting people and seeing what you have going on.

Tom Wiers: It’s hanging out in the weird studio, man.

Jim Allen: This place is legit, I have to say. Like, what an incredible spot.

Tom Wiers: We gotta do it right. If go it weirars. If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right.

Jim Allen: I love that short. Cheers to that. Brotherers. We share the same.

Tom Wiers: All right, well, I appreciate Jim again and building of the relationship and continuing our relationship with Karmak. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion. We’ve had as much as we have. And if you’re a Wiers customer and watching this, we want to say thank you very much for your business and long-term loyalty. And we want to make sure your trucks roll. And if you’re a Karmak customer, Jim, anything to say? If you’re watching this or maybe a.

Jim Allen: Potential carmaic, I’m coming for you next, first of all. But if we can rewind the tape for quick secondus, I really need to say trucks roll for my crew back to office. So cheers. Truck ro the.

Tom Wiers: We have the finger. We have the finger guns. So let’s do okay. On 321, truck roll.

Jim Allen: Boom.


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