MACS is profiling multi-generational member businesses this year and no one fits that description better than the Braswell family of Rocky Mount Radiator of Rocky Mount, NC – MACS members since 1987.
“We are family owned and operated and have been since 1927,” third generation owner, Chuck Braswell tells us. “My grandfather founded the company with one helper, my father, Charlie Braswell, who grew the business and designed and built the building we are in now. I worked in and around the shop as a kid, for as long as I can remember. (I will never forget working the bench one summer at 12 years old).”
“I came into the business full-time, fresh out of college in 1982, and began learning the management side of the business. My wife, Tammy, is our office manager. My son Bryan is vice president of sales and marketing. My daughter Betsy has also contributed as a driver and office assistant. We believe in family. But we also believe in our extended family, the employees that make us who we are,” Chuck explained.
Rocky Mount Radiator is multi-faceted, relying on 3 distinct profit centers: 1.Retail service shop specializing in cooling system and A/C service, also performing full service automotive and HD truck, bus and off-road service. 2. Radiator shop, with 3 NARSA HD Certified radiator techs. This shop is well equipped to handle the largest construction and agricultural applications, stationary gen-sets, antique radiators, radiator rebuilding, re-coring etc. and DPF cleaning. 3. Parts warehouse, selling over the counter retail, wholesale jobbers, dealers, body shops, school bus garages. They also sell radiator shop supplies, paint, chemicals, etc. Rocky Mount Radiator derives its business with 40% radiator, 40% A/C and 20 % general parts.
Chuck wishes every one of his customers knew, “We are more than just a radiator shop. Our name can be our biggest asset but also our worst enemy. We have had the name “Rocky Mount Radiator” for 88 years – since 1927! That’s great if you have any kind of known radiator leak. But what if you need timing belt or head gasket replaced? A/C or brakes? Trailer hitch? DPF cleaning? It’s impossible to say everything in a name.”
So how does Chuck feel about his son becoming a part of the business? “At first, my wife and I tried everything to convince Bryan to find a different line of work. One with less pressure, fewer headaches, more money, more time off, etc. Plus, we didn’t know for sure the business could withstand another generation in an economically depressed community. But now that he is an integral part of the team, we couldn’t be happier. He has taken a lot of pressure off of us, and we are trying to immerse him in every aspect of the business from the ground up. Bryan brings a business degree to the table, and that helps him with his decision making and customer service skills. He is a great salesman and his charisma continues to open doors for us, especially the Gen X and Y customers. His computer marketing and social media skills enable him to attract new business from his generation, while staying in contact with mine. I am excited to see what the next generation of our company will accomplish with Bryan leading the way, “ Chuck said.
What does Bryan think of his new career? “My current take on the service and repair industry is that we are in the beginning stages of a major change. Millennials are starting to become a larger percentage of sales and have a different way of handling transactions and business than most of our industry is used to. Technology is rapidly changing and our industry is having a hard time adjusting to these changes. The process must grow with rest of the service world and become faster and more efficient. The days of the hand written repair orders are over; apps, emails, and text messages are the new forms of communication,” Bryan explained.
“I can see the industry in the beginning stages of accepting these changes; however, I do not think that this will be an easy one for most of the older repair shops. For me, this is a fairly easy process to adhere to. As a 27-year-old, I’m fluent in social media and the latest forms of communication. The shops that have an adaptable staff will have an easy learning curve, but those who are not familiar and open to this will struggle with the next generation of customers.”