Service at the heart

In March 2024, Business Update5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 19, 2024

Ambitious, passionate and values-driven, Ryan Marra has a vision for a truck service network that puts the customer first.

We’ve heard it before … “It’s amazing how you notice trucks when you enter the transport industry,” comments Ryan Marra. “It’s one of those industries that’s hugely addictive. The people in transport are just good Kiwi, salt-of-the-earth people and, in general, are all trying to do good by each other.”

A mechanical engineer by trade, the 36-year-old managing director of Industry Growth Partners (IGP) has built up more than 15 years of management and directorship experience, including time at Fonterra, Tira (formerly NDA), Visy Board and DEC International. Now, under IGP, Ryan has delved headfirst into his journey of growing a network of trusted truck service centres across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Ryan’s entry into the transport sector unfolded eight years ago when he and his wife Sharra acquired a 10% stake in HTSL Diesel Mechanical (formely Hobbs Transport Services), a company founded by his in-laws. Reflecting on this move, Ryan shares, “When I came in, it was to continue the family business and enable expansion.” Over time, they increased their ownership until, in July 2022, they bought the company 100%, following Kevin and Cathy Hobbs’ decision to retire after 20 years in the business.

Ryan and Sharra Marra.

Having had his fill of the corporate world, Ryan wanted to provide customers with an alternative option for transport repairs and set his sights on Morrinsville-based BLM Engineering, which he took over on 1 June 2023. Explaining the significance of this acquisition, Ryan notes: “BLM is a nod to my history in that mechanical engineering space. But part of the reason for the purchase was to extend it back into that transport space. The company used to do a bit of heavy vehicle engineering, and it’s currently got a couple of niches it will continue with,” he says.

Ryan had also identified the need to expand geographically and looked at other businesses during 2022. In December of that year, he approached Bert and Debbie Hayden of Central Diesel Services (CDS) in Mt Maunganui, with the support of Murray Kidd at ABC Business Sales.

“CDS stood out as an established heavy diesel repairs and transport engineering business, offering synergies in relationships and locations. Despite not being on the market and Bert and Debbie being halfway through a five-year plan, Murray adeptly managed expectations – the involvement of a third party was crucial. Bert and Debbie, not keen on dealing with a corporate, valued our alignment with family values. They trusted in our vision, recognising in me a younger version of themselves, committed to upholding the same values.”

Following the acquisition of CDS on 1 September, the network now spans seven locations across Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. Ryan stresses the importance of preserving each business’ unique identity, stating, “We’re retaining the names on the doors to honour brand loyalty. The focus is on aligning operations and visuals to ensure a consistent experience across the network, with the ultimate goal of creating a seamless service network that provides customers with a uniform standard of responsiveness, service excellence and competitive pricing. This approach proves especially beneficial for customers with end-to-end routes, such as Tauranga to Waikato, enabling the creation of comprehensive truck data and history.” The result: expedited repair times, consistent service quality and cost efficiencies.

Looking ahead, Ryan envisions expanding the network further by bringing in related SMEs under the Industry Growth Partners umbrella. The early results are promising, with customers returning due to the network’s commitment to exceptional service. “It is a sort of network that when you start looking after your customers, they naturally come back to you. You can have frank conversations with them all; they’re real people – even the larger businesses. Many travel some distance because of our service, and that’s a cool nod to how we do business,” he concludes.