Driving A Collaboration Between Legacy and Innovation: Hovis Auto


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Many consumers think of Amazon as the top innovator in the industry—and they have certainly accomplished a lot (take a look at my letter to the new CEO of Amazon). But Amazon wouldn’t exist were it not for the distribution companies who paved the way. In reality, distributors have been paving the way for better technology, more compelling customer service, and higher quality products for years—long before Amazon transitioned from a bookseller to a massive multi-product sales platform and distribution company.

The evidence of this was clear as soon as I rounded the corner and Hovis Auto & Truck Supply came into view. The distribution site was immaculate and one of the hottest auto and truck supply distribution centers I’ve ever seen. They even have a state-of-the-art technical training center. 

Needless to say, I was eager to get inside and meet the team in Mercer, PA.

It’s rare that you get such a clear example of the mission you’re trying to achieve. I want the We Supply America journey to show that innovation is happening because of distributors. While these companies, like Hovis, are long-standing and multi-generational, they are far from old-fashioned or obsolete. These companies have built, disrupted, and rebuilt the industry with an entrepreneurial and forward-thinking spirit. Hovis Auto & Truck Supply is the perfect example of distributors at the front of innovation. 

In fact, they were among the first to do same-day delivery – and even 30-minute delivery – long before Amazon was playing the game. 

Cliff Hovis, the founder of the company, in the early 1950s went from repairing bicycles and lawn equipment to buying used cars and salvaging them for parts. His entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to his customers drove him to success, moving from a single service station in 1952 to 17 auto and truck parts locations today. Now, this three-generation business continues to value forward-thinking innovation. One way the Hovis family is changing the industry is by opening a state-of-the-art technical training center— “We provide our customers and their technicians with hands-on, cutting edge training that they need to grow their business with today’s rapidly changing automotive technology.” They are invested in their customers’ success, and this drives their own success. 

As they look at the future of the company, the goal is to tie the legacy and spirit of the company with a new generation of innovators. Grace Hovis, part of the third generation of Hovis family members that are fully invested in the business, leads up the Marketing and Training for the company—and she is 25. She has been a leader and entrepreneur —like the Hovis family members before her—her whole life, and she is ready to continue up the ladder.

When I asked Grace how she felt about someday possibly being the President of the company—taking the role on from her father, Cliff Hovis —her eyes welled up with tears. This company is her life, her legacy, and she is ready to continue pressing forward. As the automobile industry continues to change, grow, and become more technologically complex, Grace is ready to grow, learn, lead, and continue her family’s noble legacy. 

Hovis is poising the next generation, preparing them to take on the noble calling. The Hovis children in college and in high school are spending the summer, shadowing their father and uncle to learn the business and its values at an early age. Hovis is opening the doors of the industry to build and accept young talent and leaders like Grace—a woman, proudly and skillfully leading a department of the company—in a largely male-dominated industry. 

This is why we’re on the road—driving the We Supply America tour want to show that distributors have been the backbone of American commerce for years, and they aren’t slowing down. America wouldn’t be what it is without distribution. Even as big corporations enter the industry, in many ways, they’re sorely outmatched by independent distributors—especially when it comes to quality of service. These companies drive progress. 

James McGuire from VIPAR joined me at Hovis for our inspiring day of filming. Together we discussed the impact of Hovis’ work. Here’s what he had to say about the VIPAR shareholders, businesses like Hovis, that have come together collectively to form VIPAR. “The shareholders that I’ve worked with throughout my time period in the organization are self-motivated, driven entrepreneurs who are hard working. They’ve been a pleasure to work with.”

As my day at Hovis came to an end, and I headed to the We Supply America RV, it struck me that anything that has four wheels—cars, trucks, RVs—comes to you by the innovation and hard work of distributors around our country. They are truly the people who drive our country forwardHovis is featured as one of our eighth We Supply America docuseries episodes and airs at 3:00 CT on Thursday, August 12th. From that point on you’ll be able to stream the episode on demand a www.wesupplyamerica.net.

Infor is proud to be a Sponsor-Partner of the We Supply America tour in partnership with Dirk Beveridge and UnleashWD. Infor is a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry, with a special focus on wholesale distribution. We use data-driven insights to solve emerging industry challenges and provide our customers with the modern tools they need to innovate and transform their businesses.

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