Parts and More
Business View Caribbean profiles Westrac Limited , an automotive and agricultural supply company, located in Spanish Lookout, Belize.
Westrac Limited, an automotive and agricultural supply company in Belize, was established under the name Western Tractor Supply, in 1969. “It was a small company just selling replacement tractor parts for farm equipment,” says Peter Thiessen, Westrac’s Chief Executive Officer. In 1985, Thiessen, along with several other investors, were given the opportunity to purchase shares in the company. “At that time, it only had one small building in Spanish Lookout,” he says. “Our thoughts were to go into auto parts and grow the business. We went shopping, locally. We would travel to Corozal to purchase these auto parts and resell them at retail.”
In 1998, the company became a John Deere dealer, and began branching out. “We would buy in-country and resell at our location,” says Peter. “It took a couple of years until we started to import from out-of-country.” Currently, about 80 percent of the company’s parts are from the USA, with additional imports from Germany, Brazil, and Mexico. In 2002, the company changed its name from Western Tractor Supply to Westrac Ltd. in order to reflect its more diverse inventory. In 2003, it brought Pro Parts in Belmopan into the company. In 2005, it established a branch in Belize City, incorporating the Belize Industrial Agency. In 2010, in order to maximize support for its John Deere tractors, it incorporated Autotrac, which is now the John Deere Service Department. In 2012, Westrac opened a new location in Belize City, the country’s largest municipality, and finally, in 2014 it opened another branch in Orange Walk in order to reach all of the country’s northern area farmers.
Today, the Westrac Ltd. portfolio includes four automobile and tractor parts retail stores, one Midway gas station with a store and restaurant, a John Deere Service shop, and an automotive service shop. It currently employs around 200 workers and has plans to open two more branches – one on San Pedro Island and one more in the Placencia area on the country’s southern coast. “There’s a new cruise ship company that has opened,” Peter says. “And tourism brings the need for parts for all the taxis, busses, and vans.”
Julian Thiessen, Peter’s son, is Westrac’s Managing Director. Along with the rest of Westrac’s executive team, he believes that the company’s success is largely attributable to “the process, the personnel, and the locations, and how they work together. It’s all very intricate and we put a lot of effort into it,” he asserts. “When there’s one location, it’s easier to keep the stock and match the demand. But once the scale becomes bigger, something we do really well is progress with the customer demand. We have forms available online to all sales representatives that are filled out at each request for a new item that is not stocked. This is automatically compiled for our imports department to view, based on their vendors. The same is done for items out of stock.
“Additionally, a program created by our IT department, for our company, can request items between branches, request stock checking on items from anywhere, and show estimated arrivals of orders. We can one-click an order among all the branches and we have a system of daily transportation between them. That’s something the company takes pride in – that we’re able to have that kind of coverage -being the first to have stock; being able to find stock that others couldn’t; and having our inventory match the demand. We also have a system for contacting all wholesalers.”
Peter gives credit to Westrac’s people. “For the company to move forward, we have to rely on our employees,” he states. “We do quite a bit of training on the supervisor side and the managers need to know how to run the business. If the supervisors are doing well, we can grow. For example, we can open many stores if we have the right people. If we do not have the right people, we will collapse.” “We also take a lot of effort in keeping the sales staff knowledgeable using the information that we have available,” Julian adds. “The effort is in the details.”
With regards to its locations, Peter says that Belize is a small country and with the company’s different branches, it can manage to cover the whole country, delivering wholesale and retail parts and wholesale lubricants, every two weeks. “We go to every city,” he says, proudly.
From a 900 square foot building in Spanish Lookout, Westrac Ltd. has grown to a country-wide distributor of much-needed automotive and agricultural supplies and necessities. It is certainly a Belize success story.
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Westrac Limited
WHAT: An automotive and agricultural supply company
WHERE: Spanish Lookout, Belize
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