Championing the Change!
There’s a warm and inviting feeling when you step into the new premises of Tombo Automotive. This definitely feels like a business that has heart, as well as big dreams, and its finger on the pulse of modernising the automotive parts industry.
The owner, Billy Champion, is down-to-earth and passionate about the people he serves and the staff that make up his team. His story is a true Hero’s Journey, and as I listen to it I can almost feel my faith in humanity being restored. He is a soft-hearted, business-minded, people person.
He started out as a teen looking for something (anything) to do when his stepfather got him a job as a parts buyer. He had had no choice but to drop out of school so that he could work to support his step-family. At the time he had been working the night-shift, mopping floors at a supermarket. He definitely hadn’t been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and through tenacity showed his skills quickly. He was approached by Tombo to be a Salesman, and in 6 months was promoted to Manager.
In a real rags-to-riches twist, it was in under a year as manager when Billy became a shareholder at Tombo. There was an incident in which he blew the whistle on a superior who was acting unethically. The owner was so amazed by his integrity that he was given a higher position and shares in the company.
It wasn’t just his honesty, but also his skill that got him the position. When he started at Tombo, there was no inventory or accounting system to speak of. Every process was manual and painfully out-dated. He quickly turned the exam pads and lever arch files into a working digital system, still in use today. Also, Tombo was originally a radiator shop, and Billy built up the product range and scope immensely into a leader in the Automotive Parts Industry.
This is when the vision was born of creating an Online Spares Shop. His then boss listened to Billy’s proposal and gave him the go ahead, but under strict restrictions. There was nothing to compare it with in the market and no way to know if it would work. And so, it was cheaply built on an Open Source platform with little investment. Regardless of this, it was a surprising success!
Until, of course, the platform was hacked and had to be swiftly shut down. Billy describes this as a great learning, rather than a failure, and the first step in creating The PartFinder which was launched in 2014. This Windows-based desktop app served to level the playing field in the industry.
It is simple to use, yet revolutionary in its application. It connects the parts buyer with the insurance company and the parts supplier in a way that has never been seen before, completely eliminating guesswork and adding structure to make sure that the RIGHT parts are delivered, at the RIGHT time and RIGHT price.
Due to his resounding success, Billy was given extra shares in the company which lead to him buying Tombo Automotive in 2019.
He credits his stepfather as being a major force in his life, not only by getting him into the motor industry, but also teaching him how to be a gentleman and inspiring him to work hard and learn all he could in business. As fate would have it, Billy now employs his stepfather at Tombo! A few years back he had felt that they had lost some of their identity by going corporate and decided to go back to grassroots and reinstate the personal, family-friendly feel of when you walk into your local shop. And it has worked.
Billy’s intentions are to create a legacy, and change the industry. Most important to him is to empower his employees and afford him the same opportunities that he had been given. With the PartFinder at the digital helm and an engaged customer service team at the front-end of their new premises, his vision is definitely coming to life.