COMPTON, Calif.After taking a starring role on Undercover Boss, overseeing the growth of your retail business to 75 stores and competing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, what's a guy to do for an encore?
How about help orchestrate the sale of your company for a cool $665 million while getting to keep your job as president and CEO of the business you just sold?
That pretty much sums up 2016 so far for Greg Adler, the chairman of Transamerican Auto Parts Co.parent of tire/wheel private brander Pro Comp USA, off-road parts retailer 4 Wheel Parts Co. and a batch of other off-road parts companies.
Mr. Adler capped off this bucket list type of year in early October by closing a deal to sell Transamerican Auto Parts to off-road vehicle maker Polaris Industries Co., which intends to leverage TAP's market leading multi-channel business, proprietary brands, proven management team and experienced employees to accelerate its growth and profitability.
Mr. Adler noted that the combined resources of TAP and Polaris will provide a more-than-stable platform for both firms to pursue growth prospects on multiple levels and explore potential synergies.
But 2016 started off with the second-generation entrepreneur agreeing to shave his head and groom his beard into mutton chops in an attempt to go incognito for an episode of Undercover Boss, the CBS-TV series that sends company CEOs out in disguise to learn about their own companies from the bottom up.
As a result of spending time with store personnel in his company's retail stores and warehouse centers, Mr. Adler discovered a number of weak chinks in the firm's armor thatif left unaddressedcould hinder his plans for building the company to 100 stores and $1 billion in revenue by 2020. Among the actions Mr. Adler said he plans to undertake:
c Spend several million dollars on upgrading the firm's inventory management system;
c Revise the employee training program to provide for more one-on-one, face-to-face time; and
c Devise a way to pay service technicians for work they do in fulfilling warranty claims.
His turn as a Rustythe undercover CEO posing as a contestant on a reality showvery nearly went South on the first day, as the manager of a 4 Wheel Parts retail store recognized him.
Mr. Adler took the manager aside and asked him to keep his discovery under wraps. During their talk, Mr. Adler learned about the overly tight scheduling the shop's mechanics had to endure, along with issues with being paid adequately for warranty work.
On the second day, Mr. Adler was assigned to work for Erin, helping to load a semi for shipmentwhich turned into a very sweaty job as he was tasked with stacking some rather hefty BFGoodrich light truck tires three tiers high.
The show even provided some family drama as Mr. Adler, concerned about his cover being blown a second time, called in a favorand turned back the clock on a family crisisby having his elder brother Kevin go in undercover in his stead.
The Adler family's involvement in Transamerican dates to 1961 when Greg Adler's father, George Adler, took a job as the sole full-time employee of a new company, Transamerican Auto Parts.
From the start, the business was focused on selling replacement Jeep parts to small off-road shops and Jeep dealerships, according to the company's history.
Sensing an opportunity, George Adler bought into the company with his father in-law for $5,000. In 1964, the company added a catalog business.
In 1976 Transamerican opened its first two 4 Wheel Parts retail stores in northern California. This grew to five retail stores, four in California and one in Hawaii, by 1982.
The company branched into manufacturing starting in 1988 with Pro-Comp USA. The first product line was off-road lighting kits, sold under the brand name Explorer. Shocks were next, followed by suspension systems, and then tires and wheels.
4 Wheel Parts became a nationwide retailer in 1998 with the opening of the Orlando, Fla., store. George Adler sold the company in 2005 to a private equity group and retired. The rest of the firm's management team, including Greg Adler, stayed on to run the company.
Over the next few years, Greg Adler took on board several more complementary manufacturing and distribution companies, and then in 2009after the company nearly imploded as the Great Recession took holdformed a consortium of senior management and financial institutions to buy back control of the company.
Along the way Mr. Adler took to testing and proving his company's products in a very public wayby competing in the LOORRS Pro 2 and Pro 4 categories with Pro Comp, 4 Wheel Parts and other company product logos plastered all over his trucks.
Mr. Adler is now in his eighth season in LOORRS competition and stands fifth in the Pro 4 standings with three podium finishes. He has four victories in Pro 2 and one in Pro 4 over the years, finishing third in the Pro 2 championship in 2009.
4 Wheel Parts is the Official Off Road Parts Retailer of LOORRS.