As an imported auto parts warehousing distributor, Olympus Imported Auto Parts operates six locations with 150 employees. It delivers to a radius of about 50 miles in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Sales are now about $25 million per year but it didn’t start out that way,” President and Owner Michael Brown points out. 

When the company began in 1977, there were only three drivers and seven employees working out of a single location. Brown took charge a year later at the ripe age of 21 and managed operations for eight years until he bought the $2.4 million, 20-employee company. 

At the time, auto imports were rare. “Most parts companies focused on domestic parts and would refer import to business to us,” Brown recalls. Imports in the Washington, D.C., market were dominated by European models. The number of Asian imports was minimal. But that would soon change.

“The segment grew like crazy,” Brown says. “There was 20 to 30 percent growth per year.”  With imports offering greater fuel efficiency and increasingly better quality, the number of import auto parts skyrocketed, as well. Olympus Imported Auto Parts opened new locations in 1990, 1992 and 1997 to serve the growing market followed by the remaining two stores in 2010 and 2013. 

“Today, we are one of the only family owned businesses that sells auto parts in our area,” Brown says. “We are competing very well against multibillion-dollar companies.” How can Olympus Imported Auto Parts compete in that environment? “It’s always been about the people,” he explains. “We have done a great job of bringing in high-quality people who care about what they do and care about the customer.”

Forty-two percent of Olympus employees have served eight or more years at the company while 25 percent have been on board 20 years or more. “We have a lot of people who stay with us a long time, earn a good living and start a family and buy homes,” Brown says. “I’m most proud of the success of our people here.”

Top Quality

The quality of imported auto parts varies widely, with Olympus Imported Auto Parts focused on the higher end of the market. Technicians at auto repair shops prefer the company for that reason. “About the worst thing that can happen is a car comes back a week later with its new part broken,” Brown says. 

Nonetheless, there has been downward pressure on prices in the import auto parts business, forcing Olympus Imported Auto Parts to carefully balance quality and price in its top-of-the-line and economy offerings. Its customers are quality-minded technicians working in independently owned repair shops as well as the many national automotive chains.  

In spite of challenges, the company continues to grow. In an effort to use technology to leverage the cost of doing business Olympus recently upgraded its warehouse automation, added a new phone system, enhanced computer network and adopted a GPS delivery tracking system. “We offer the highest-quality parts, quality people and quality service,” the company says. “For over 35 years, we’ve served import car service pros and do-it-yourself import owners with the best parts and products, offering the same brands the OEMs use.”  

 

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