Good Vibrations Motorsports

SEMA News—October 2017

BUSINESS

By Clint Simone

Good Vibrations Motorsports

A Shop Rooted in Family and Racing Goes Global

  Retail
The Good Vibrations team consists of eight full-time employees, including product specialists, sales people and technical assistance.
   

The ’80s were a lively time for Jim Maher, a racer born in Ohio and transplanted to California after high school. He competed in the California Independent Funny Car Association (CIFCA) series and, as a true enthusiast, knew the intricacies of his blown alcohol Funny Car better than he knew himself, making him the go-to guy for advice both on and off the dragstrip. As Maher’s knowledge and experience grew, so did the number of those coming to him for coaching, mechanical assistance and general racing wisdom. In 1987, Maher took over as the president of CIFCA, tasked with growing the series and overseeing operations while simultaneously running his own racing team.

Even as CIFCA president, Maher took it upon himself to be the mechanical guru for many of the racing teams, striving to offer cost-effective, quality solutions to myriad problems that drivers typically face. And now, 28 years later, that same philosophy is the driving force behind Maher’s Good Vibrations Motorsports racing shop, based out of Whittier, California.

SEMA News sat down with Maher and his son James to discuss what makes Good Vibrations such a successful race shop with a dedicated customer base of enthusiasts.

SEMA News: Tell us the story of establishing Good Vibrations once you became CIFCA president.

Retail
In total, the shop has two buildings and spans more than 6,000 sq. ft., with offices and a product warehouse.
 
   

Jim Maher: Well, my involvement in CIFCA was very prominent and gave me the opportunity to interact with many different racing teams. And although I was still racing myself, this also gave me the chance to be of assistance to others—helping them pick which parts were best for the job and would give them the best results. I opened Good Vibrations in 1989, I would say, out of necessity. Those local racers were sourcing parts from all over, and I figured as long as they were coming to me for technical assistance, I might as well be the person to get them the parts as well.

It has worked out pretty well, because all these years later, we are still stocking our shelves with the same products that racing teams need. At this point, I think we have a good sense of which products work the best, so we make it a point to try and be loyal to our vendors and only carry one vendor per category.

SN: How important is it to maintain a loyal customer base?

Jim Maher: Having a base of customers that keeps coming back tells us we are doing our job well. It’s important to understand that a lot of these guys start with one particular type of car but move up in class and rank through the years. If we can be helpful to them on the ground floor of their careers, they normally stick around and keep coming back. Something else worth mentioning, though, is that we are here to recommend the right parts to get the job done the first time so that our customers do not buy the wrong thing and have to circle back. This is also why we offer toll-free technical advice on product installation to help shorten the learning curve with building and maintaining a race car.

  retail spotlight
Owner Jim Maher sits in his office monitoring orders, which are fulfilled and shipped on the same day.
   

SN: How have you managed to grow your customer base beyond the local surrounding area?

James Maher: The good news is that the love of Funny Car and quarter-mile racing in general goes far beyond California; it has really become a beloved sport worldwide. As a direct result, we have made it a point to expand our efforts internationally, focusing on specific markets such as Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom. We have found that these markets are just as enthusiastic about quarter-mile racing as our American customers, so it only made sense to take our business beyond the borders of the United States. Now, roughly one-third of all the business we do is with international customers, so it is definitely something that we will continue to devote time and effort to.

Finding international buyers has been a process of just going where the enthusiasts exist. Luckily, there are numerous online forums and communities that draw in a big international following. It’s been a great way for us to keep our ear directly to the market and see what products racers need most.

In addition to racing forums, Good Vibrations sponsors many racing events both nationally and internationally in Canada. Our biggest is the March Meet, which is a massive racing event that takes place annually in Bakersfield, California. We have been the title sponsor on that event for years.

SN: SEMA News focuses on best business practices throughout the automotive aftermarket. What are a few best practices that stand out with your business?

Executive Summary
 

Good Vibrations Motorsports

Owner: Jim Maher

8858 Painter Ave.

Whittier, CA 90602

  • 6,000 sq.-ft., two-building facility with product warehouse.
  • Eight full-time employees.
  • 1/3 of all orders are international.
  • Leverages internet and other modern data tools to guide solid inventory, hiring and marketing decisions.
  • Actively recruits outgoing, service-oriented employees, providing them with training and growth opportunities.
 

James Maher: It is something very much engrained into our story as a business, but we don’t try to be everything to everyone. Focus on a niche and, more importantly, focus on a niche that you love. With that, you have established a good foundation for a successful business. Beyond that, the next best rule I have to offer is don’t get tunnel vision or jaded, especially after many years in business. There will always be updated, more efficient ways of doing things, and it is your job as a business owner to be open to them and not just rely on older, more comfortable methods. Part of that, for me, has been listening to my son when it comes to social media. Embrace social media and the new technology that comes along with it! We have found great results with switching to Facebook marketing in place of more traditional marketing opportunities.

SN: Tell us what the future looks like for Good Vibrations.

James Maher: We plan on continuing to evolve with our niche market as it evolves. We always need to keep our mind open to new products and business methodologies while not being ignorant to market changes. As of now, roughly 40% of all orders we take are online, so we know that this medium will continue to be big for us. And just like we have done in the past, our shop will focus on growing incrementally and persistently as time goes on. It has been a great run thus far, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds.

 

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