Over the years, few businesses in the racing industry have done more with less than California-based Good Vibrations Motorsports, and for it’s patriarch Jim Maher and his entire staff, little has stood in their way of serving an entire corner of the marketplace.
Good Vibrations, based in Whittier, California, was founded rather inconspicuously more than 25 years ago in Maher’s garage, as the drag racer and entrepreneur sought to meet the needs of his fellow racers on the California Independent Funny Car Association (CIFCA) circuit — an organization he has presided over for more than two decades and has garnered five championships in as a driver.
“The business really evolved out of my association with the Funny Car circuit,” explained Maher. “I was a go-to man at the events, responsible for having the cars there. As the guys would forget their safety equipment or break parts, they’d come to me. So I started carrying spare parts with me, and next thing I knew, I was getting calls through the week to bring things to the races, and all of a sudden, I’m in the mail order business — and the rest is history.”
“It wasn’t really a master-plan, to be honest. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and seized the opportunity,” he continued.
Today, Good Vibrations Motorsports is one of the leading performance products companies in racing, and with their specialization in superchargers and fuel injection, services an entire segment of the auto racing industry. As you may have guessed, their customer base spreads from drag racing to sand drags, tractor pulling, mud bog racing, and marine applications, to street rods, and everything in between —a clientele that stretches around the globe.
But Maher, an intelligent businessman if there ever was one, has transitioned Good Vibrations from a small, part-time operation out of his garage into a global supplier, not by expanding and spending, but by sticking with what he and his employees know, and by investing in the people that work for him. He did it all, for many years, out of a facility not much larger than 2,000 square feet — a “closet”, as he calls it.
Today, we’re going to take an inside look at Good Vibrations Motorsports, their staff, and how their successful mail order business continues to flourish, even in the wake of the economic downturn, with Maher and longtime employee, Jessica Arteaga.
Inside Good Vibrations
For years, Good Vibrations has operated out of a single facility located in Whittier, just outside of Los Angeles, measuring in the neighborhood of 2,100 square feet — or about the size of the average American family home. Within this small space were the offices, shipping and receiving areas, warehousing, and assembly departments. In recent years, however, due to their consistent growth that had their original facility literally bursting at the seams, Maher and company purchased a neighboring structure that formerly housed the Top Fuel drag racing operation of Robert Reehl to serve as an overflow building with additional offices, assembly, and warehousing, providing them some 6,000-plus square feet of space to utilize.
At the front of Good Vibrations’ original shop are the offices, where all of the technical and customer service staff answer calls from around the world. All of the accounting processes involved not only in sales, but also in ordering and inventorying product are handled right here. The new, larger shop offices have provided the company a place to conduct all of their advertising initiatives, as well as additional offices for accounting, technical support, and sales.
In addition to Arteaga, the sales and technical staff includes Mahers’ son, James Maher, who wears many hats including IT, web design, public relations, and social media; Randy Walton, who has been with the company for more than 11 years and does much of the web design and IT work; office manager Maribel Menchaca; Kasey Smith, who also manages the shop area, Shawna Snyder and Rod Alvarez, who both handle account receivables/payments and order processing; Jose Campos, who enters orders and handles inventory; and David Barron, who works on the website and in shipping and receiving.
In all, there are 12 full-time employees at Good Vibrations. This number can vary, however, as Maher is a strong supporter of his younger employees pursuing their education, and has shifted his full-timers to part-time or worked with their schedules to maintain their studies while continuing with the company.
Arteaga says, “With the business growing each year so has our sales and tech team. The team is there to take your order and answer your questions so that customers are 100-percent confident they are getting the right part the first time. Because the Good Vibes team are racing enthusiasts themselves, it’s more than just taking an order for them — they enjoy helping their customers achieve their goals. The technical team is very thorough with each question and if you find yourself talking to Randy Walton or Kasey Smith, you’ll be sure you are in good hands.”
Because the Good Vibes team are racing enthusiasts themselves, it’s more than just taking an order for them — they enjoy helping their customers achieve their goals. – Jessica Arteaga
As a strictly mail order supplier, product is continually moving in and out the door at Good Vibrations, and as Arteaga tells us, this process can move along rather quickly, with such a large clientele from so many disciplines of racing placing orders over the phone or via the internet around the clock.
“Our shipping and receiving department is always in high-gear,” says Arteaga. “Parts are carefully inventoried, assembled, and placed on the shelves and pulled for orders. Each part is checked and double-checked before each order is processed to minimize any error. A happy, satisfied customer is what we strive for.”
According to Arteaga, Good Vibrations keeps an extensive amount of product in-stock on their shelves and ready to ship upon the customer placing an order. In all, Good Vibrations carries product from more than 25 different manufacturers, and at any one time, there are multiple pieces of each product on-hand.
“We stock everything that we advertise. I can’t think of anything we carry that isn’t on the shelf,” says Arteaga. “The only reason we wouldn’t have it is if, for some reason, a vendor wasn’t able to supply it at that time.”
Like any business whose sales are somewhat “seasonal”, Good Vibrations evaluates their re-orders from suppliers through the year, and typically during the fall and winter months, will reduce their stock due to the decreased demand during the racing off-season. All of this is typically overseen by Maher himself, who remains very hands-on with the business that he was once the one-of-one employee at.
“That’s one of the great things I like about working here, is Jim’s work ethic. He doesn’t cut any corners and he thinks ahead. I’ve worked other places outside the racing industry, and they just aren’t as thorough as Jim is,” says Arteaga.
According to Maher, over seven figures worth of product is kept on-hand at any given time, which is certainly a lot of product. “We have more product than most of the manufacturers that we represent have on their shelves,” says Maher.
Good Vibrations submits orders for product on a near-daily basis, meaning there’s product from the numbers of suppliers they work with, from Enderle Fuel Injection to DJ Safety to JAZ Products, coming in the door in a constant flow every day. Good Vibrations’ inventory system actually keeps a “minimum stock and re-order” flagging process that will ensure no product is left out-of-stock.
And although they utilize every inch of the space they have, you’ll find nothing but perfect organization around these two facilities. Whether it’s in totes, in boxes, or just placed on the shelves, everything is orderly and where it should be, making everyone’s jobs just that much easier.
Although strictly mail order, there’s indeed some assembly work that goes on at the Good Vibrations facilities. However, you won’t see complete engines or anything of that magnitude on the assembly tables. Rather, much of the processes involve cutting product like rubber hoses down to the ordered size — given that it’s sold by the foot — or assembly of the Good Vibes’ own polished belt guards.
The team will also routinely assemble fuel injection kits and fuel pump kits with their Enderle systems that don’t otherwise come assembled as a convenience for their customers.
After all, it’s customer-first around Good Vibrations.
Despite the economic downturn in the late 2000s that affected virtually every corner of the automotive and racing aftermarket industry, Good Vibrations has continued to grow year-over-year, and as Maher tells us, the blown alcohol market is as strong as ever, all across the world.
“Our numbers just continue to grow every year — even during the recession. We’re up eight-percent this year alone. I would say the nitro and Top Alcohol markets are down from years ago, but our niche remains strong,” he says.
For Maher, it’s perhaps his people-first mentality that’s owed to the success of Good Vibrations. His business was born out of his efforts to take care of the racers around him, and today, he continues to put his customers and his people first. It’s this approach that has kept many of his employees around for more than a decade and has allowed this business, which truly operates in a niche marketplace, to continue to excel despite the odds stacked against it.
Photos by Jake Amatisto and Good Vibrations Motorsports