Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with David Overbeeke, BPI

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David Overbeeke is president and CEO of Brake Parts Inc (BPI), a global supplier of premium quality brake components. 

Prior to purchasing BPI with investors in 2013, Overbeeke held the role of president, global brake and chassis for Affinia LLC while it was owned by Cypress Capital Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm.

Overbeeke began his career at General Electric, where he spent 20 years and advanced to become a company officer, before joining Oak Hill Capital Partners, a private equity firm with more than $6 billion of committed capital, as operating advisor focused on aerospace investments in 2006.

Overbeeke’s unique blend of international experiences with complex industrial operations, coupled with extensive financial discipline, has resulted in the completion of extensive business transactions throughout the world.

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

My leadership style is to face reality and be proactive since changes happen constantly. I believe it’s important to make decisions in a timely manner – speed matters – and lead in a candid and outgoing way. Since the brake segment of the industry is very competitive, staying true to my beliefs and solving problems with solutions that address overall economics has proven to be successful.

What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

The biggest challenge right now is managing cash flow, the life blood of any company. Right now, demand is anything but predictable and supply chains are experiencing numerous interruptions driven by government mandated shelter-in-place orders globally, making cash flow management even more critical. Because our goal to fill customer orders at 95 percent remains in place, we must balance the forces at work and be mindful that if we run out of liquidity, the rest loses importance and can be difficult to control.

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How has the global Covid-19 pandemic impacted your operation? What will the brake world look like in light of the pandemic in the near term?

The global Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our business. One day we were in the office, collaborating face-to-face and traveling to see customers. The next day we started working from home; plants closed randomly based on government orders; and customers placed fewer orders since their demands slowed and they needed to conserve cash. The balance was upended. Today, we are moving quickly to bring our complex global supply chain back into balance within the next 60 days or so. As for the brake business as a whole, we have seen the early signs of those companies that have been hit hard and those that didn’t control manufacturing. Changes have started to happen and it looks like the healthier firms will become stronger.

What do you look for when evaluating top talent?

The best talent must have the skills for the role that they are going to perform, and they also need to have the right attitude. The smartest person that isn’t flexible, action oriented or doesn’t have that “can do” drive isn’t as valuable as the competent person that has a winning attitude, won’t take no for an answer and finds a way to succeed. Being outgoing versus more introverted can make a huge difference when it comes to driving change, which is something constantly in front of us.

What is the best career advice you have been given?

The best career advice is to always be yourself. Don’t be something that others want you to be or what is politically correct. If you are not authentic, your flaws will simply shine through.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find inspiration in the team around me, my key business partners and anyone that provides genuine insight with the best intentions.

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

The industry will change, but being in the aftermarket, we have seen change coming years in advance from a product perspective. Many of the changes will be in distribution with more ecommerce and more fleets on the roads as transportation use becomes more group-use oriented versus individual use. Things will shift gently and I see time to adapt.

What is the major challenge(s) facing your organization commercial vehicle operations now, in the near term and the long term?

The major challenges are rapid migration to air disc, continued proliferation of parts that require more complex planning and cataloging, and an aging expertise in the space, making the entire category wide open for a new leader to emerge over the next five years.  

What are the best opportunities for the company?

The best opportunities for BPI are having financial strength and staying power because those factors allow us to gain market share and address acquisition opportunities as they surface.

The overall automotive world is being overwhelmed by the concept of autonomous/automated driving for both safety and efficiency reasons. How soon do you believe we will see truly autonomous commercial vehicles on the road?

I see electric vehicles as the more near-term transition and fully autonomous driving as years away. The sheer scale of the infrastructure will require significant time.

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

Wow, there’s not many secrets with me or BPI, so I would say truly being partners for another 100 years is our goal.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.