Belak Industries is a wheel manufacturer based out of Miami, FL focused primarily on Honda drag racing. Damian Borroto established Belak Industries in 2012 after a decade working in multiple Honda speed shops in the Miami area, and eventually opening his own shop, TD Autowerkes. Damian has a “can-do, make-it-happen attitude” and he survived some serious setbacks in the last year. In 2014 he had his race car and trailer stolen, only to get pieces of it back. So he set out to build another car, and did! But on it’s first outing, a freak accident caused it to wreck, and total the chassis. Now he’s on to building his third SFWD race car and he hasn’t even considered giving up!
Game Changing Product: ID1700, Belak Wheels, AEM Infinity, FTW Fuel
Most useful software program: Windows
Favorite App: Pandora, WhatsApp, Instagram
Favorite Shop Tool: Hammer!... and his Dyno
Chris Jewell has been around the import performance industry since the beginning with multiple different companies. He currently owns Competition Clutch, a clutch company focused on import performance clutches. In this interview Chris talks a lot about mixing friends with business and how he’s mistakenly thought that his business partners were his friends. Chris says that his Achilles heel is “that I fucking care about people too much.” And he says that he focuses too much on the personal relationship and sometimes forgets that “it’s business.” With only a 9th grade education Chris built an influential business and he talks about how it all went down.
John Veloso owns and operates K-Tuned, a product manufacturing company that is hyper-focused on the Honda K-series engine. They make high-quality, functional engine parts focused entirely on the K-series. John and I discuss his background, and his view on the world. He tells the story of his upbringing and how it all came to be. We discussed his business, and business in general. John’s business is customer focused and he makes a point to not take a customer’s money until he has the product to fulfill the order. He puts the responsibility on himself and his team to make sure they have inventory on-hand. In a time when everybody is trying to be everything to everyone, K-Tuned is successful largely because they stay focused and know their strengths. There’s no fancy this or that, just common sense and treating people right. This is a good listen. Enjoy!
Brian Gillespie is co-owner of Hasport Performance, a company focused entirely on quality engine swap components for Honda’s. The company started out as a Honda/Acura salvage yard and quickly grew into something bigger. Hasport pioneered billet aluminum engine mounts and has a strong focus on customer support. An innovator in the industry, Hasport Performance is now a fully-equipped manufacturing facility and it’s all grown from the Honda street racing scene in the 90’s! Brian’s learned a lot over the years and is here to offer us all some guidance. Enjoy!
Action items that you can do THIS WEEK:
1. Look at what the Hot Rod guys are doing, and use that for inspiration to come up with ideas for the import scene
2. Subscribe to Racecar Engineering Magazine
Game Changing Product: OEM Turbo cars and AEM Infinity
Most useful software program: Solidworks, Skitch
Favorite App: iPhone alarms to keep himself on point and on time, Overcast podcast app
Favorite Shop Tool: Faro Arm, 3d Printer, Mitsubishi Laserjet cutter
Straight outta Detroit, Nick is a big cubic inch kind of dude. His childhood was all about big displacement and American muscle but now he says the focus is on improving engine efficiency. He comes from a family of home builders and electricians and has risen as the gatekeeper at Wiseco pistons. Nick and I discuss his story and how the industry looks today, from his viewpoint. He works for one of the larger corporations in the automotive performance industry so he offers a unique perspective.
Game Changing Product: Davis Traction Control
Most useful software program: Office 365 feature called “Lync”
Favorite App: Soar
Favorite Shop Tool: Kent Moore Digital Torque to Angle Meter
“Bottle” and Nero Deliwala are the owners of Titan Motorsports, one of the founding internet e-commerce businesses in the performance automotive world. They were involved back in the days when NOPI was a big player and the OEM’s were sponsoring import drag racing. In this episode we talk about how racing fuels their distribution business and how their business has grown and changed over the years. From a college dorm room to a multi-million dollar business, Titan Motorsports has taught these guys a thing or two about business and they share some lessons in this episode.
John Shepherd is a legend in the import drag racing world. First with DSM’s and now with GTR’s. But did you know that throughout the 90’s Shep worked as a tech at a dealership? Then one day the dealership went out of business and he was jobless. Not long after, Shep got some encouragement from a friend and started out on his own. Now, over a decade later he’s world-renowned for his attention to detail when building super high-performance transmissions. In this episode Shep and I talk about all the little details that go into building a business including the daily grind, and even the mindset he had when starting out. It’s useful encouragement for any aspiring shop owner!
Marc and Eric Kozeluh are identical twin brothers from New York who grew up reading Hot Rod Magazine. These guys came up at the time that B-series engines were making damn near the same power as a Mustang 5.0 and they wanted to know more. Like any story worth telling, they had some serious obstacles to overcome and they conquered and made a statement because they were willing to put in the time. If you’ve ever used your upbringing as a crutch then you need to stop being a little bitch and listen to this.
Everyone in this industry has at some point asked themselves “why am I doing this?” Jeremy Allen has been working at Inline Pro for a career since his early 20’s. Like a lot of us, it started as a lifestyle and turned into his job. Now 14 years in, Jeremy talks about how he keeps everyone happy; from his customers, to his boss, and even his kids.
Everyone has had an experience where they say “if I was the boss, I would do things differently!” Tom Roberts spent most of his career working for someone else and in the process he gained a lot of experience. Most importantly he’s learned how to work with other people so the whole group can thrive! Tom started Autonerdz so he could supply oscilloscopes to automotive repair shops, but he took it one step further; he created a useful forum for users to interact, and ask each other questions and share experiences. Now Tom and his team at Autonerdz sell and support Picoscope oscilloscopes to the whole world and I thought everyone should know about this resource! Enjoy!
If you’re into Subaru, GTR, BMW, or Mazdaspeed then no doubt you know all about Cobb Tuning. Or so you think! Did you know that Cobb Tuning’s first shop was a single bay in his father’s tire shop? In this episode Trey and I discuss the lesson’s learned over the years and we talk about making tough decisions. Trey says you need to create a plan for your business to force yourself to think things through. We talk about creating plans and how to hold people accountable. Trey says to FOCUS on your strengths, don’t try to be everything to everyone. And in this conversation, we put that into context for the shop owners out there.
Kyle offers up his experience in social media marketing, building a brand, and how he built his audience. It’s important to note that 1320 Video has millions of Facebook fans, and they didn’t build that overnight. It grew organically over more than 10 years! Kyle is a true grinder, and he loves what he does and that’s what we’re all after, right? If you’re trying to build your audience, just recognize that it’s a long game but it can be shortened using the information in this episode.
Part 2 of 2: The remainder of the interview is David talking about the performance industry and shining a light into some of the dark corners. It’s a killer episode because we took the time to dive deep into a lot of different topics from patents to inventory turns. If you’re into the Honda drag racing scene, don’t miss this episode. This interview is packed with details about current companies and their role in the industry today.
THIS IS PART 1 of 2: This episode is about business, and how David built and is continuing to build his businesses. David Hsu is an unapologetic capitalist who believes in free market forces which basically state that if your product or service is less-valuable than a competitor then the market will deal with you. In this first part (of two) we discuss how to bring a product to market, design patents, EBITDA, the four F’s of raising money, and David offers two things you must understand if you’re building a business.
All the way from New Zealand! Andre Simon and Ben Silcock are partners in HP Academy, a company that offers web-based EFI tuning instruction. They’ve created a unique approach that breaks each class into modules so the user can quickly reference back to just the topic they want. This approach is basically topic on demand which makes it very usable. In this episode we discuss drag racing, tuning, knock monitoring devices, and these two offer some great resources that they’ve found valuable.
Dave Arce is one of the nicest and most honest guys that I’ve had the pleasure of talking with. In this episode I had the chance to talk with Dave about his upbringing, and how he started his career in engine building. Dave shares a deeply personal story that affected his life and his business, and his story has a positive ending! Dave and I talk about carburetors (what!?) and the future of fuel injection in circle-track racing. And don’t worry, we also geek out about cylinder head finish and engine machining!
Modern Automotive Performance is a unique performance parts distributor that focuses on Mitsubishi EVO, DSM, Subaru, and Ford Ecoboost Mustang (among others). With 38 employees, the operation is relatively large. Chris tells the story of how he started with car stereo, and then graduated to performance work. His business was largely focused on custom performance tuning and has since cut that business segment to focus on the company’s strengths; engine building and parts retailing. We discussed three things that make his business unique and about their competitive advantage. This episode has really great insight into how to hire and keep employees, and what you can do to expand your knowledge base. A big “thank you” to Chris for sharing his insights!
Scott McIver owns Kaizen Tuning, (Kaizen, what a killer name right!?) in Boxborough, Mass. He specializes in GTR and EVO X and services a full list of other cars as well. We talked about what it looked like for Scott to create and grow Kaizen Tuning and how he went from the family business into the performance tuning business. Scott is fired up about one particular strategy that’s creating great returns. Be sure to listen all the way to the end where Scott tells about the strategy he’s using to create new customers.
Originally from different shops, Nate and Jason came together to create TPG tuning. A service shop specializing in Subaru, Mitsubishi and now certain BMW platforms. Their story is one of dedication and hard work, and not one of planning! From a rough start in the early days to a smoother operation now, Jason and Nate are in it for the long haul and they’re here to tell the story of how it all started and to offer advice that they’ve picked up along the way.
Steve Nichols is a stand-up guy from Lexington, Kentucky. He’s been involved with Dyno Dynamics since the early 2000’s and he’s got a hell of a story to tell. He originally worked for Toyota but when the exchange rate was in his favor, he saw and opportunity and jumped on it. Now, nearly a decade and a half later, Steve talks about his successes and failures and what he’s learned over the years.
Matt Wright is an Aussie with 12 years in the biz. He works as the brand manager for Haltech Engine Management Systems and moonlights as an instructor for EFI University. Matt has spent his career working with Haltech, starting in an entry-level position and now he oversees certain technical aspects for the company. He’s worked his way up from the bottom to his current position and he’s got great insight and advice to offer us. He’s an intelligent guy with some killer insight into the performance business. I learned a lot and I think you will too. Enjoy.
If you’re looking to open a performance shop then you need to listen to this episode! Dave Donnals and Chris Delgado speak from experience. Dave runs the business and works on CAD modeling. Chris handles tuning and product development around the engine management side of things. They’ve both been in the game for over a decade and learned from experience. Their company D3 Performance Engineering was launched with a solid plan in place and they’re here to share their experience and offer some really valuable advice!
Reid’s take away: The advice in this episode is solid, so please take it to heart! A word of caution for aspiring business-owners; Chris Delgado has a solid understanding of engine tuning and a great network of fellow tuners that he can call friends. One reason that D3 is having success is because of this. It takes more than just passion and work-ethic to succeed in the performance world. You must also have a solid understanding of your topic.
Todd Lewis came from a family of tradesmen in Australia. After 10 years of schooling, he followed the family path and got an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. Because of his family’s machining background and his willingness to work hard, Todd moved up the ladder quickly. He gained experience as a mechanic before applying for a job at the company that he’s now the owner of.
The performance industry is largely driven by people with little to no business experience. This is especially true at the shop level. That makes the barrier to entry very small, as most shop owners don’t have a business plan and have very few systems in place. Usually the shop owner IS the system! Jordan Watson has a different approach. Jordan spent the first part of his career gaining an understanding of the performance street car community, and now he’s working to create a systems-based approach to his performance services business. His goal is to create a company-wide system that allows for a consistent experience every time you step foot in his shop. This way the company can scale and open multiple stores in different cities and states. He uses Home Depot for an analogy by saying that every Home Depot is largely the same across the country, so you know what to expect when you go there whether you’re in Washington State or Texas. What if you could expect the same from a speed shop? Impossible? Time will tell!
Scott Kuhner has created Emtron Australia, an ECU manufacturer that focuses on creative engine control functions and close dealer relationships. Having owned multiple businesses over the years Scott discusses in detail some of the hurdles he’s faced in his businesses. Specific hurdles include dealing with outside engineering consulting firms, and as Scott calls it “the money machine” just keeps on rolling when developing new products. He explains how “scope creep” affects the process, and don’t worry we talk about engine control tech too!