Population spike powers distributor
Commerce City, Colo.—When Hank and Rachel Quisenberry were looking for a new business opportunity, the search was brief. Hank, a corporate Interstate Batteries employee, and Rachel, a realtor with an appetite for entrepreneurship, knew they wanted to be an independent U.S. distributor but were unsure where.
“We sat down with a map and decided where we wanted to buy,” Hank Quisenberry recalled. The couple eventually settled on the then-corporately owned warehouse in Denver, acquiring the building and distribution rights in August 2014.
Serendipitously, Rachel had accompanied her husband on a business trip to Denver while he was working for Interstate to manage contractors conducting repairs on the very building they would eventually purchase.
“Interstate identified the Front Range as the No. 1 area for growth in the U.S. over the next five years,” Hank Quisenberry said, which had an impact his decision. So far that estimate is accurate, netting the couple a 6 percent year-over-year growth since the acquisition.
The Quisenberrys now represent one of six Interstate distribution points in Colorado.
A combination of national accounts that include many franchise dealerships, several national independent repair chains, a major mobile battery service in Colorado, and independent dealers have added up to better-than-expected sales, he said.
Interstate offers repair shops that sell at least 50 batteries a year, full service that includes consigned inventory, bi-monthly inventory replenishment, core pickup, and complete recycling, Hank Quisenberry said, pointing out that Interstate recycles and reuses all materials, including lead, plastic housing, and sulfuric acid. At the Denver location alone, he estimates that nearly 500,000 pounds of lead is recycled each year.
“We’ll consign the inventory and set up a rack that contains anywhere from five to 10 batteries,” he said. “You don’t have to pay us until you’ve collected the money from the customer.”
Major product categories include automotive and commercial, marine and RV, golf, and lawn and garden, Quisenberry said, adding that they’ll even produce custom cables through the distribution business and batteries to spec at the retail outlets.
Interstate’s quality was field-tested by a major fleet that conducted battery life expectancy tests in its food delivery trucks, Rachel Quisenberry said. When compared to major competitive brands, she said Interstate Batteries lasted three months longer. This is due to Interstates’ custom design specs, even though their batteries are produced by the manufacturer that produces most brands.
The prolonged car parc, the average age of vehicles on the road, has been extended to 11.4 years, Hank Quisenberry said. “Every car today will go through three batteries, depending on the replacement battery quality and use.”
The amount of electronics people have in their cars are stressing batteries and, in some cases, reduces lifespan, he said, adding that freezing temperatures and prolonged heat above 100 F also affect lifespan.
The Quisenberrys offer wholesale customers the ED 18 battery system and electrical tester. Corporate data shows that 18 percent of all cars tested will convert to a battery sale, he said. “If they use the tester, they’ll sell more batteries,” Rachel Quisenberry said, stressing that knowing remaining battery life gives customers peace of mind.
Certain batteries carry a six-year warranty with three years of free replacement at any Interstate dealer nationwide, she said, adding that the battery sale date is stamped on it, so the warranty is hassle free and not tied to an individual or vehicle.
Predicting sales demand is critical in the battery business, Hank Quisenberry said, since units have a shelf life before they can’t be sold as new. In Denver, that inventory translates to approximately 8,000 to 10,000 units, about two months’ worth of sales.
“We try to do the right thing for the customer,” Rachel Quisenberry said, and “operate by the golden rule.” This is true for employees and customers alike.
The hardest part of managing any business is people, she said, “so when you have good ones, you have to work hard to keep them.” Several of the Quisenberry’s employees worked at Interstate long before they acquired it.
General Manager Keith Holly is a “tremendous” asset with 14 years under his belt, she said. His product knowledge helps customers get the most life possible out of their batteries. Holly was also instrumental in developing a work program with residents of a neighboring halfway house, helping troubled men get their lives straight again while working in the warehouse.
Expanding their Interstate presence in Colorado, the Quisenberrys have recently purchased two Interstate All Battery Center (ABC) franchises, one in Highlands Ranch and another in Arvada. Those businesses focus on retail battery sales for everything from key fobs to security systems and medical equipment in hospitals.
“There are synergies to be had among the three businesses,” she said, adding that people will even buy automotive batteries at ABC locations and have them installed.