Transportation and Warehousing

Portland Transmission Warehouse Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

As President of Portland Transmission Warehouse (PTW), John Bradshaw is part of seven-decade family tradition that began when his father, Gene, opened a general automotive repair facility in Oregon’s largest city. Over the years, the Bradshaw’s began specializing in automatic transmissions and, later, retail and wholesale parts distribution. John felt that PTW was still evolving as a small business. There were always new issues, concerns and ideas where he felt he could use some special expertise, a different perspective, and good advice. Those needs led John to Portland SCORE.

Owner/Founder
John Bradshaw
My Location
Portland OR
United States
Employees
20
Year Company Formed
1938
My Successes

John joined PTW at his father’s request after college and brief stint as a lawyer.  “It was different work from being a lawyer,” John recalled.  “Every day had something different—inventory, operations, sales and marketing; you name it.  Dad and I took night courses to build our business management skills and keep the company growing.”

PTW enjoyed continued growth, expanding from its original 1,000-square-foot building, with apple boxes for shelves, to a 32,500- square-foot warehouse storing more than 75,000 parts.   The Bradshaw’s commitment to their employees and customers helped the company weather an unexpected financial crisis following Gene’s death in 1990, and a market downturn in 2000.

“Sometimes, you learn more from losing than from winning,” John says.

The Bradshaw family is also proactive in the community, having sponsored Portland’s popular annual “Spring Classic” car show since 1982.  John has served on the Portland Small Business Advisory Committee, the Central Eastside Industrial Council, and the Governor’s Small Business Advisory Committee.  Ross is following his father’s footsteps, collecting an impressive list of his own community service activities.

Small wonder that PTW has earned a number of well-deserved awards, such as the 2003 Small Family Business of the Year from the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University; the 2004 MassMutual National Family Small Business of the Year; and the SBA’s 2007 Oregon Family-Owned Business of the Year.

John is first to admit that while the accolades are nice, he’s prouder of PTW’s investment in its customers, employees, and community—including spreading the word about SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

John went to Portland SCORE where he began working with a team of volunteer mentors to address concerns such as inventory management, information technology upgrades and establishing a Web presence. SCORE mentors also served as a sounding board for John and his son Ross, who now serves as PTW’s general manager.

So impressed was John with SCORE’s services that he became one of their biggest supporters, recommending the Portland office and its services to customers, prospects and participants in his company’s regular seminars.

How SCORE Helped

John says, “SCORE is a means by which we can help the community. We give flyers from Portland SCORE to our sales staff to distribute on their visits and include them with our invoices. The more, we can spread the word about this great organization, the better it is for everyone.”

A+ For This Self Storage Company

“Customer service is 90 percent of what we do” according to Dan Luna, co-owner with his wife Dawn of A+ Self Storage, Inc. of Davenport. This may sound obvious for any service business, but A+ Self Storage has been putting this theme into practice since it was founded nearly five years ago. Evidence of their customer satisfaction is the continuing high occupancy rate of the storage units, reaching 98 per- cent during the busy summer season. Even in March, one of the slower months, occupancy was at 93 percent.

Owner/Founder
Dan and Dawn Luna
My Location
5510 Sheridan St.
Davenport IA 52806
United States
My Successes

A+ Self Storage was recognized as the 2002 Small Business of the Year in the Quad Cities and has continued to expand according to its original business plan developed with the help of SCORE. That plan originally called for 83 climate controlled units accessible only through interior hallways and these were the first units opened. 

The plan next called for the addition of 52 outside (non-climate controlled) units and these were opened in June of 2004 and were totally filled within four months. Follow-on plans call for constructing an additional two-story building with about 140 more storage units in 2007. Dan said his analysis of storage units in the Quad Cities shows there is still a shortage of units and he does not expect any problem in filling new units. 

Original plans called for the new expansion to happen sooner, but Dan and Dawn are expanding their family first, with their second child due in September. As he did for the first year of their first child, Dan expects to keep the baby at work with him to learn the business from the ground up. Taking care of a new baby will just be too hectic to start an expansion of this magnitude sooner than 2007, according to Dan. Dawn continues to work fulltime as representative for a pharmaceutical company.  

In addition to the storage business, Dan also runs a U-Haul rental business. The storage units help bring customers for the rental trucks, but Dan says he does not push the U-Haul business as much as when he started, since he is a one man operation and he cannot be by the phones every minute. 

One of the more interesting aspects of the work, according to Dan, is the people he meets. The business’s customers are anybody who needs extra storage including: business reps wanting storage for products needing climate control; businesses needing storage for their materials so they do not have to rent a shop; a lady needing to store fabrics for quilting; people in between houses; college students storing their school furniture. With all these customers, Dan tries to do the little things to help make their lives easier.

 One way of doing this is by steering people to the right size unit to rent. The units range from as small as 5 feet by 5 feet to as large as 10 feet by 20 feet. With the experience he has had, Dan says he has now achieved senior status in figuring out what will fit in various size units.

Dan also has, in at least one case, helped another person get started in the storage business. Mert Sachs, a SCORE counselor, referred a man about to start a storage business to Dan for advice and Dan discussed the business with him. The man now has his storage site in operation. 

In fact, Dan shares information with other storage sites in the area and will refer customers to other sites if he cannot meet their needs. He will even call around to other sites to see if they have the right opening to meet a customer’s needs. After all, customer service is 90 per- cent of what Dan does.

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All entrepreneurs should write a business plan, but if you are trying to raise investment
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