Elevator Pitch: Best Exhaust

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Mike Glew from Best Exhaust.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

To make the highest quality exhausts from around the globe available to Australians. Best Exhaust was one of the first to seriously import and retail the very best systems for Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Alfa Romeo cars, and now we supply performance shops around the country for a myriad of European vehicles.

In addition to supplying exhausts, we cut out a lot of the hassles people get from importing such as risk of damage and loss, import declarations and paperwork, currency fluctuations and foreign exchange costs - plus buying from an Aussie company brings with it a host of consumer protections. We fully insure all freight, utilize fast DHL Express shipment, and handle all of the importing details, while keeping customers advised of progress along the way.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

Best Exhaust was founded on a shoestring budget, and pays its own way. Profit is reinvested to expand and streamline the business. The aim of the business is not to hold millions of dollars in stock, but to provide a fast and efficient import service, and act as the conduit between the manufacturers and the customer. For end customers, this means dealing with a business that knows its exhausts, and can take the pain out of the ordering and delivery process.

For wholesale customers, dealing with Best Exhaust is a partnership, allowing them to focus on their customers, while trusting that they will be supplied on time.

What's the biggest challenge facing your business?

I often have conversations with customers about the advantages of buying from us rather than importing from an offshore dealer. The lack of knowledge that is out there about lack of consumer protection, risk of shipping issues and losses, foreign exchange costs when buying offshore with PayPal or credit card, as well as the risk of being sold a fake. In most cases, it will be cheaper to buy from Best Exhaust, but because offshore retailers don't tell you the full truth about other costs and risks of importing, it's seldom easy to convert peoples' ways of thinking.

How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?

There have been other businesses spring up since I founded Best Exhaust in 2009, and they have proven to be unfriendly to wholesale customers and overpriced. I work fairly closely with most of our competitors, and now we supply some of them. I believe our point of difference is honesty, integrity and customer experience. I genuinely want each and every one of my customers to go away very happy with their experience.

Not everything goes right every time, and I just hope that I can do enough for my customers to ensure they understand that I am their advocate when dealing with the manufacturer, shipping companies, Australian customs, and in some cases insurance companies — and sometimes delays and problems are completely out of my hands. Keeping them across what is happening, sometimes on a daily basis, is key to this customer satisfaction. And I think it is working, because we have had a lot of repeat custom, and word of mouth referrals over the past five years.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

I track consignments using an iPhone app called Parcel, which for a very small investment, is great for iPhone and browser-based tracking of shipments. I had intended to develop an integrated solution with my order system, but Parcel just makes that unnecessary.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Customer experience is the key to successful marketing. If a customer is happy, they will tell people. Is a customer is unhappy, they will tell people. Have your story told in a positive light.

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