It is now 7AM on New Year's Day and I couldn’t be more excited to share the 2022 summary and some of the goals for 2023.
2022 in Review
Looking back on 2022 not a lot seems to have been done. The shop was closed for nearly two months and since mid-summer, my time at the shop was reduced to just a couple of hours a day. In December, I was really on the fence as to where my heart was at and what the market wanted, so, I decided to dig in and get more information. I hired a company that did a market analysis, and it included a comprehensive view on the competition. In the end, BenzForce was in a close second place according to their ranking, with the other companies barely on the chart with less than 1/3 of our score. The other factor that sank in was that, despite the closures, BenzForce grew 9% over last year! Not stellar like a tech company but again with a diminished effort, it proves that “something” is working within the BenzForce ecosystem.
I had come to realize that BenzForce is starting to fulfill the mission of a “cult [like] following” but there was still a problem: me. I have realized that I am the one limiting the growth of the company. Here’s how:
- Division of my time. It’s no secret that I do consulting to enterprise Oracle customers for their technical product lifecycle management problems. Sometimes I get hit with analysis paralysis trying to manage tasks for both types of activities
- Lax policies. Historically, I have been lenient with people that use BenzForce as a buy and try thinking its an Amazon shop but it impacts funding for R&D and future products they may benefit from. I pulled product from Amazon for this very reason years ago but for some reason it has still been allowed to continue on the website
- Product offerings. This is a big bucket, but it includes everything from keeping products in stock, having more products to sell, and managing product lifecycle better.
First off, I couldn’t bring in a new year being more excited about the potential in front of me. The great news is that I did not wait until today to get started. Internal changes happened after that competitive analysis was put in front of me, here is a glimpse into my last 2-3 weeks:
- New website template. On December 27, the new website went up. Most visitors probably didn’t notice but it should present itself better on mobile devices, have better structured data for internet search, and it offers more features than the old site template.
- Project management. I have started using the Atlassian product suite, mostly Jira, to start managing our backlog. Weekly sprints should bring tasks to the forefront and force my engagement.
- Product Lifecycle Management. BenzForce has started using OpenBOM to manage product development. This was an initiative last year and AutoDesk’s Upchain was purchased but it was a horrible product, and the licenses were left to expire. PLM will help with identification for part reuse opportunities, manage artifacts for parts and assemblies, and allow the roll up of parts in a bill of material. I intend on making an integration to feed product cost and margin into the eCommerce system for up-to-date pricing. The bigger win is revision control, so the correct revision of the product gets sent to production. BenzForce has a team CAD environment and OpenBOM has an integration.
- Shopify automation. Historically supplier orders of replacement parts (gaskets, seals, etc) were not done consistently and it was something I often thought of discontinuing. Instead, I have automated what I could for the supplier-based inventory to proactively keep 90 days of inventory on hand. Part availability is still an issue on the supplier’s side.
- Inventory investment. In addition to the automation for supplier parts, the orders for machined parts and turbos have increased greatly in size. Supply chain problems are still very real, so the order quantity has gone up to try to mitigate the risk of going out of stock. It will still happen from time to time unfortunately.
That is just the last couple of weeks and primarily back-office type of initiatives, but what’s in it for you?
- Pumps. Pump sales have declined this year. I knew that people hated the turnaround time, and I don’t have a lot of support material online so supporting installations can frustrate the customer and me at times. I have often thought about discontinuing them and that was my initial thought when I posted that I won’t be getting more elements for quite a while. Since then, pump upgrade sales have almost doubled, pretty much taking me out of stock. People still want pumps upgraded through us – I get messages several times a day now. I will be working on an offering to combat the pain points and make the experience better for everyone before reintroducing upgrades, but I plan on bringing them back. It may be 3 months, it may be 6, I just do not have a timeline on this.
- Kits. More comprehensive kits will be offered for turbos and other subsystems that can be identified
- Custom parts. I would like to get out some transmission adapters, clutch kits, intake and exhaust manifolds, and chassis parts (mostly w123). I am also investigating the direction to grow. I have a local customer that is in the GWagon market that offered to let me use one for R&D and the m112/m113 are on my mine a lot. I also have a growing VW and Cummins customer base but those may be a task for the Wicked Injection brand.
- Dyno car. The om617 is in the rear-view mirror. The in-house om606 is longing to be built and I have been hording parts for a while now. After the CD009 adapter is done, it may be time to rebuild it and put it in the dyno car. A lot of money has been invested in that car with the CAN system and data logging so it would be nice to start getting relative dyno numbers. Engine dynos are rare around here but a wheel dyno will at least allow for a comparative analysis.
- Communication. I need to blog more and "better." Content needs to be less about rants and back office and more about products and your rides. I was also advised to discontinue the newsletters by a consultant but think that was a mistake. People looked to those for a summary of what's new on the site to check out so I want to bring that back.
- Professionalism. Hmm ... not sure if that will happen in 2023
There is more but I think that’s all I want to share at this point. My intentions were to jump into the Oracle consulting world and bring my old consulting company back to life but I am just struggling to get excited about that; I always come back to BenzForce for some reason. If I can grow BenzForce significantly then maybe it can become my main financial focus. I just don't want that at the expense of the overall company purpose and vibe.
Let’s see how awesome I can make 2023!