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An Interview with Gary Osborn

In 1983, Gary Osborn, executive vice president of revenue, Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, opened the doors to his new business, formed in partnership with Ronald Rago, whom he had originally met while serving in the Navy. The two friends owned similar businesses selling undercoating products to dealers in two different states, and decided to pool their efforts. In 2006, the company formed an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and is now 100 percent employee-owned.

Through the years, the company acquired additional chemical formulas that became the basis for new internal and external coating products. Today, the company features a wide range of different products, and sells to thousands of dealers nationwide.

“Today we manufacture more than 28 different automotive chemical products both for the ancillary aftermarket industry as well as proprietary products that are provided to new car make-ready departments,” said Osborn.

In fact, what Osborn is most proud of right now is the company’s newest product line. It is an eco-friendly line, specifically developed by Cal-Tex to meet the new requirements for water-based automotive sealants. He noted that the product line has been “enthusiastically accepted” by the marketplace, and he believes it sets a new standard for the combination of protection and easy application along with environmental sustainability. This new eco-friendly line offers exterior paint protection in a “spray on” format that reduces application time by two thirds.

The company Osborn helped to build – and still participates in running today, despite Rago retiring in 2006 – still holds true to its original values.: compassion, humility, integrity, forgiveness and teamwork are the cornerstones of the company, with everything else flowing out from there.

“I believe every manufacturer or agent representative needs to develop, foster and pursue an emotional connection with their customer relationships and with their product offerings,” said Osborn. “Our connection with the agent, dealer and the consumer needs to be an experience, not just another sale.”

Moving Forward into the Future
To continue growing the company, Osborn believes that sticking to the core values his company was founded on is an important part of the puzzle, but he also is keeping an eye on the current issues, and making sure he is educated about them.

“Today’s issues in the automotive aftermarket industry are complex,” he noted. “First, there are issues that are out of our control, such as lender flexibility, Federal and State compliance challenges; and finally the CFPB. Probably the biggest challenge in the immediate to midterm is going to be the CFPB. Any manufacturer or automotive agency should be well advised and educated on the new compliance regulations, as well as obtain good council moving forward.”

He believes that the industry will continue to change – he has watched it happen over the past several years already, and he does not believe that will stop any time soon. Agents, in particular, he believes need to be on top of the changing landscape, and nimble enough to reinvent themselves as those changes occur.

“From 2006 through 2010, we saw a large number of small agent representatives leave the industry because of the economy and the lack of infrastructure,” said Osborn. “The agent representatives that made it through those times are now doing well and growing. Just providing a suite of products and providing income development in the future is not going to be enough to get ahead of the pack, however.”

He went on to note that patience and relationships are every agent’s greatest tools. Having the patience to cultivate relationships, rather than looking to rush in for a quick sale, is the only strategy he believes will lead to long-term success.

“Find that one thing that you can provide in your dealer relationships that no one else could possibly do, and then determine how to be the best at it in the world,” Osborn said. “Find your niche; don’t try to be like everyone else. Learn how to develop that emotional connection with your customers, and make sure building relationships is your priority.”

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