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COREY BARTLETT
Automotive Parts Headquarters

Corey Bartlett
Automotive Parts Headquarters

Class of 2009

As leader of a growing auto parts business, Corey Bartlett was recognized as a member of the Class of 2009. His community roles included work with the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Dialogue Group and Junior Achievement.

What are you doing now?

President of Automotive Parts Headquarters Inc., which has its corporate office in St. Cloud.

How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?

It was a tremendous opportunity for me to meet some wonderful up-and-coming community leaders, many whom have become close friends.

Other big changes since you received the award?

We've been fortunate to continue to grow our business — adding both strong team members and new locations. Last year, I was elected chairman of the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association, and I've had the pleasure of serving on a few different boards.

What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?

The continued growth and success of local organizations, companies and nonprofits will sustain the St. Cloud area. Attracting (and retaining) top talent is crucial, and we need to make sure that there are ample opportunities for talented individuals to flourish in Central Minnesota.



2009 Interview

Originally ran: January 1, 2010

Bartlett is the president of Automotive Parts Headquarters, one of the few winners in a historic recession. His company sells parts that people and businesses use to fix cars — something usually considered a necessity and not a luxury.

"We're very fortunate to be in a fairly isolated business," he said. 

Although he's grateful and careful not to sound self-important, there is much for him to feel proud of. He's the third generation of family ownership and has been with the company since 2000. When he started, they ended the year with $48 million in sales. But he predicted the business will see $75 million in sales when this year ends.

Bartlett, a graduate of Sartell High School, remains stoic about the company's success story and passes accolades to the staff. Still, he has had a hand in the business's ascension. And the drive to win is very much alive.

Some of the biggest rewards he has seen include the ways the company has evolved in its physical growth. The business, Bartlett said, has to be run differently as it gets bigger. Certain processes had to be set in place to ensure consistency and quality.

Those processes can be something as simple as making sure bathrooms are clean and merchandise is available for customers. As Bartlett put it in his application for the award, the company has grown its do-it-yourself side of the business by making stores more shoppable. That's a shift from past decades, when it focused all energy on business-to-business clients, which make up 70 percent of its revenue.

The business now has operational metrics to show how it's doing in certain areas. For example, it keeps accurate records of inventory, ensures performance reviews are done and makes training a priority, Bartlett said.

He's also made a concerted effort to professionalize Automotive Parts Headquarters. He's added people with specific knowledge in certain disciplines — a guy who is strong in operations, someone who knows a lot about supplier negotiations, someone who is whip-smart in business development and the addition of a chief financial officer. 

"We needed to go to bat to be competitive," he said. "We can't ... say we're not going to be good as (big competitors such as NAPA) because we're smaller."

Bartlett said family and tradition are also big motivators. Carrying on the family business was important to him. Even his grandmother would point her finger and remind him of the importance of going to trade shows.

Family is a significant part of his life. Bartlett spends a lot of time with his special-needs brother, who is 28. 

His growth through the company has taken time, he said. Even though he said he is collaborative, energetic and enthusiastic, he said he has been working on muting his "annoying perfectionism." And it's taken time for him to prove himself and push through the challenges that come with being a young leader. "I just had to earn my gray," he said.

Bartlett always brings it back to the company. He said part of what makes the company so appealing to its customers is that they can call someone's office to get an answer; the CEO is not three flights away, as Bartlett says.

"They want to know they're a big fish," he said.

And they want to win.

So do Bartlett and his team.

Age: 32.

Job: President, Automotive Parts Headquarters.

Hometown: Sartell.

Involvement: His involvement spans wide and includes being a volunteer for a leadership development committee at the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association; member, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Dialogue Group; Junior Achievement teacher for third-, sixth- and eighth-graders; investor in Granite Equity and St. Cloud RAIN Fund LLC. 

Education: Bachelor's degree in history and geography from Gustavus Adolphus College.

How he leads: Bartlett says 90 percent of the business' success comes from the best employees. Hiring is key. "It's all about the team and focusing on the people." And the relationships between customers and the business and between the management team and staff are all important ones. It's not quite doctor-patient or lawyer-client, but it's up there, he said. That means going the extra mile, such as coming in to work at midnight for a customer, if need be. "If that relationship isn't strong, we're going to have challenges," he said. 

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