Moving on Up!
No issue of JLM Drive would be complete without a catchup with Gilbert Groot, the founder and MD of JLM Lubricants. And this issue is no exception!
1. As we distance ourselves from the pandemic, what challenges did JLM face, and did you identify any opportunities for growth?
I must start by saying how proud I am of the JLM family – our staff and our network of JLM distributors -because they have proven through incredible sales results that JLM Lubricants is pandemic proof! Despite the many challenges experienced globally, JLM came out stronger than before the beginning of the pandemic. We really pulled together as a team, sharpening and in many cases changing the course of our marketing, providing a colossal amount of support to our distributors and the results speak for themselves.
The pandemic shone a spotlight on the strength of our brand and the fierce commitment of our network. In every country, our distributors dug in and faced the many restrictions but nevertheless the sales flowed. Of course, the challenges we faced were those of any other company in our sector and indeed for most companies across the board. Many stores closed, face to face marketing was replaced by online meetings and securing reliable, prompt distribution proved to be an uphill battle at times. Thankfully, we had a plan in place, and it served us well but that doesn’t mean that at times we were working into the early hours trying to figure out how to get an important shipment to a distributor in another country; how to keep the production lines flowing so that we had enough stock to supply the demand and how to do it all with a calm approach!
As for opportunities, coming out of the pandemic as a strong and robust brand enables us to take advantages of the many opportunities for growth for example, expanding the JLM product portfolio and stepping up our marketing and sales support to our network. We already offer an elevated level of support, but this will be improved in the coming months. And finding new importers in new markets and new countries remains important too. Time doesn’t stand still and neither do we!
2. JLM now has a presence in 45 countries. Which territories are you looking to expand into and why?
In the short term we are aiming to fill the gaps in those European countries where we don’t have a presence. Then, longer term we are looking at Northern America, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. We are here to build a truly global brand! Although we are present in 45 countries, there are many more to aim for. The wider the reach of our brand, the stronger it becomes and with higher sales revenues we can invest more back into research and development, new product launches and marketing support to our network.
3. You are a hands-on CEO. What do you most enjoy about your role and what aspects challenge you?
What I enjoy most is building the brand with our distributors. I really enjoy marketing and product development which is just as well given they are all central to our success. I get so much energy when I talk to mechanics who tell me how much they love our products and how they use them in the workshop. I am as far removed from being a remote MD as you can get. I am super hands on and love speaking at events to customers and distributors. This is what keeps me motivated and happy to clock up the air miles!
Challenges…that’s an easy answer! I am not good at the operational side of things… too chaotic trying to do a million things all at once. Luckily, I have an excellent team I can rely on to fill those gaps!
4. In some countries hybrid and electric vehicles are on the agenda, in others diesel vehicles remain dominant with no sign of EVs. How does JLM serve the needs of countries with different car parks?
It is not as challenging as you may think. We listen carefully to our distributors in the various markets. Every country has its own characteristics, not only with regard to the fuel mix but in many other respects. For example, you will see in this magazine an interview with Örum our Finland distributor talking about the long distances between destinations and the average age of the predominantly diesel vehicles which drives demand of our DPF range. In Ghana, our distributor, tells a different story, likewise in the UK where EVs are on the agenda way ahead of most other countries but there are still many diesel vehicles on the road. No two countries are the same. It is the role of the importer to advise JLM of specific characteristics so that JLM can act and offer what their market needs. However, we have a broad product range for diesel and petrol cars and heavy-duty vehicles and we are working on an EV range. There is something in our range for any distributor in any country to take and build a healthy business. To quote our strapline, we understand cars and we are a lean, mean and highly agile company able to act swiftly to meet specific requirements whilst also strengthening our range across the board.
5. What is your vision for JLM?
It is my vision that around 2030 JLM will be present in most automotive aftermarkets around the globe and that we will continue to be renowned for our high-quality trade trusted products which really do what they say on the tin. We will aim for a higher penetration in the current markets and be ready to follow the transition in the fuel mix. I want JLM to be well known by the majority of mechanics around the globe with our products within an arm’s reach of desire to quote a famous brand of carbonated drinks.
6. How do you ensure the JLM product portfolio remains in demand with your key customer, the professional technician?
The professional motor mechanic is our main customer. We listen to them for example via our two brand ambassadors, both with an extensive network of invested technicians. They help us to continue to understand cars from the technician’s perspective. Listening to their daily challenges in the workshop and trying to find a solution where we can with chemicals. But also vice versa, translating fuel additive innovations or technical lubricant technology into ‘liquid tools’ for car technicians. One thing that came out of the pandemic was the growing need for Repair don’t Replace and Products over Parts. The professional technician, especially the one that invests in training and development can now see the vital role that high quality additives have to play in ticking both of these boxes.