Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Borise Cota, Akebono

Borise Cota is Western Regional Sales Manager Aftermarket for Akebono Brake Corporation. Akebono is a global manufacturing organization offering a wide range of brake friction materials and foundation brake assemblies, including disc brake calipers and drum brakes. In the following Q&A, Borise shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.

TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?

BC: I’m responsible for sales and customer relations in the western half of the U.S., and I also oversee the Canadian market.

TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?

BC: During an interview I was conducting, a prospective hire asked me, “What kind of manager are you?” My response was, “I’m not quite sure what kind of manager I am, but I know what kind of manager I don’t want to be.” My job is to give my associates the tools needed to be successful, give praise when it’s deserved, and guidance when something needs to be changed. I also believe that trust is extremely important between management and associates. In today’s market, there are so many external occurrences out of our control that can influence our job performance. Our careers need to be something more than just a job.

TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

BC: While there are many challenges, the one I see that could change our industry is the influence online companies have on pricing. They continue to challenge everyone involved to race each other to the bottom in pricing. Profits for the manufacturers and the brick and mortar distributors continue to shrink. Service industry demands, like training classes, promotions and product change overs, are still requested from the manufacturers and brick and mortar distributors, adding to the strain.

For the companies like Akebono that have taken the time to build a strong brand image around ultra premium offerings, that image in today’s world has, for many consumers, been reduced to a price. A start to changing this cycle is to implement Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP). Value must be reintroduced in the buying decision, not just price.

TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?

BC: Passion. Is this candidate excited about this job, their future, and the possibilities? We can teach them about our products and the messages we want conveyed, but what I get excited about is the style in which all of that will be delivered to our customers. You can’t teach passion. In Akebono’s Aftermarket division, we are fortunate to have a strong team of individuals who are passionate about the company and in turn have built very solid, and sometimes personal, relationships with our longstanding customers over the years.

TBR: What was your first job in Industry?

BC: My first job in the industry was a counterman in retail at 10,000 Auto Parts in El Cajon, California. I helped build the first store. I built shelves, checked stock in and set it up. I built displays for the walls and learned to run a skin packing machine which we used to make smaller displays. The owner’s philosophy was if the product is in a box then the customer can’t see it. Anything on the sales floor needed to be on display. A valuable lesson early in my career.

TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?

BC: On my first job as a manufacturer’s representative, I was on a hot streak for sales. My manager told me to remember that all waves eventually reach shore and break. There are going to be good times and bad times. You need to learn to manage all of them.

TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:

BC: I’m not the book reader in my family; my wife is. But, I will read almost every industry magazine available, along with all of the car magazines. I have started reading on the many flights I have been taking. Someone gave me a huge list of books that I downloaded onto my iPad, and I started at the “A’s” and am working my way down the list. I do tend to enjoy genres such as action, mystery and magic. Not sure what to make of that.

TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?

BC: From Lee Iacocca: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” This comes from my experiences with many managers and different corporate styles.

TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?

BC: We will see more acquisitions and the shrinking of the number of distribution players. The evolution will take place at the service end. Who is going to work on our vehicles? We have a serious problem getting younger people attracted to the service industry. High schools for the most part have discontinued auto shop classes. The same for most junior colleges.

Our industry must somehow show that we have great jobs that can pay good money. We must find a way to elevate the image of the service tech. We can make great vehicles, but someone still needs to service them. At Akebono, we have plans to launch more initiatives with junior technicians and students so we can incite that passion I talked about earlier, and get them interested in a career in service or at Akebono.

TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.

BC: I’m the most senior associate with Akebono in the Aftermarket division, beginning my career with the company in 2000. I was fortunate to be one of the three “founding fathers” involved with the creation of this division.


About Author


Brian Hagman is President of Hagman Search Group and Founder/Publisher of The BRAKE Report, an online media platform dedicated to the automotive and commercial vehicle brake segments. Brian’s mission is to inform, engage and connect the most avid members of the brake community.