Industry Insiders: Shannon Nordstrom on Business and Tech Adaptations Part 2
We recently connected with Shannon Nordstrom, Vice President and General Manager of Nordstrom's Automotive INC., to discuss the importance of refining the auto parts business into a system of businesses, flexibility with technological changes, and an inside peek into Nordstrom's radio show, Under the Hood. Part 2 of 2 is below.
Hollander: How does the repairable parts business help the others grow?
Shannon: There was a time when we would sell 40+ cars per week in the repairable business. When you look at how it shrunk down to where it is now, it’s a lot different. While that was happening, I would see employees that were here starting new channels of income.
Craig, a young man that joined us out of high school, left to work for Gateway. He ended up coming back and has since been involved with Hollander, among other things. We started off playing around on eBay, and a little with new parts. When he came back, we provided a tiny budget, and with his vision and lot of support from others, we were able to build up the new parts business to go along with our used parts sales. We surpassed what we ever imagined doing back then.
Hollander: Wow! Speaking of different ventures, can you tell us more about your involvement in your “Under the Hood” show and how that came to be?
Shannon: It was my mom’s idea actually. She was always great at making connections. She once met someone from Frog's Import Salvage who had a local TV show where they talked about business.
One day, she was at home and thought “Boy, we should do a radio show that talks about our business and how we help with parts and cars.” And my dad, who was very active at the local racetrack, had a connection with a guy involved in the tractor pulls at the fair, and a lot of times, radio was there. He ended up talking to some people a the radio station and expressed that they were looking to start a talk format show.
When they began asking, “How is this going to work? Who is going to do the show?,” my mom was able to convince them that I could do it and had enough experience.
We started out with a half-hour segment called “Nordstrom Cars and Parts Show,” which proved to be a successful show in our market. As time went on, we expanded to an hour and I was able to bring in guests every once in awhile.
One day, we had a newer employee who had a lot of knowledge, was very smart, and had a good voice. He had been figuring things out for us in our Diagnostics Center. I asked him to come with me, and he hasn't left since. Russ Evans has been with us for 17 years. We started looking at the show from a higher level and said, “Okay, let's take this from being more than an informational show about auto recycling and about Nordstroms, to an actual car talk show.”
We try to have fun, be entertaining, and give good information. It has grown amazingly. Now, we are nationally syndicated. The show has been on since 1990, we have gotten amazing name recognition in our market.
Hollander: Have you had any really interesting calls that stand out?
Shannon: You know, we have so many interesting calls, for many different reasons. You hear some of the strangest things. You have some of the nicest people who call and then you have some who are embarrassed to call. I would say an overall trend is that someone will call to ask about someone else’s car issue—it’s like they are embarrassed to say it might be their own.
Our goal is to educate people. We might not always know everything, but we can help people figure out the right questions to ask about their car troubles—we teach them that they have options when it comes to repairs. We want our listeners to know that it is their money, their car, and that they do have choices. If we feel the best thing for them to do is to go back to the dealer, we will tell them that. If we think the best thing is to look for another option, we tell them that.
Hollander: From Nordstroms Auto to “Under the Hood,” it sounds like you’re truly working to help people—whether or not they're your customers. We just have one final question: do you have any big or meaningful stories or experiences that truly stand out in your career in the auto industry?
Shannon: A handful of events stand out. Getting our Car Certification through the ARA was a big event for us. Getting put on this list gave us an opportunity that led to forming the Vehicle Recyclers Group (VRG) with Schram’s, Stricker’s, G & R, and Spalding Auto Parts. Together, our five family businesses formed the VRG for the specific purpose of dismantling-it was definitely a highlight.
Another that stands out is when I did the best sales pitch I think I have ever done in my life to convince my Dad to sell a 1964 Chevy SS that he had forever. It was a very nice, neat car, and I convinced him. We had just finished cleaning it up because I was going to use it for prom when I was a senior. I convinced him to sell it to get the money to buy that first Fast Parts Computer System.
Also, putting in the Hollander system was huge, huge, huge. It took us off of our island and opened us up with the EDEN® system. That was a breakwater event in our lives. December of 2005, we put in Powerlink®.
The last thing I want to share, is huge for me. The Automotive Recyclers of Minnesota Event, the combined events of Wisconsin and eventually, in 1995, going to my first national ARA Show. The kind people in this industry have put up with me asking them questions and mentoring me. It is just unbelievable--the openness that I was shown. Now, it is great that we are able to hopefully pay it forward.
Hollander: You sure have! Thank you for sharing these experiences with us and our readers—we know that the auto recycling community stands to learn a lot from you.
Shannon: Thank you!