Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2004   by Bob Greenwood

Are Service Shop Owners Lacking Self Discipline?

Do service shop owners lack commitment? Are you guilty? Are you part of the real problem?


Over the past year I have watched many Independent Jobbers, Warehouse Distributors, and Manufacturers make a serious effort to really understand and reach out to the Service Shop level. These levels of our industry now realize that they are “toast” without the right relationship in place with the right Service Shops. They now understand they must have a commitment level where a sincere relationship is in place with both sides of the table understanding that “we must do better business together.”

This is no time for the Independent Service Provider to get their hair up on their back and snicker “I’ve been telling you that for years.” This is no time to take an egotistical (or child-like) attitude approach to their actions. It is, however, time to stop, slow down, open the gates of communication and welcome the opportunity to start working together for the survival of your business, for the survival of their business and the entire aftermarket industry.

It is appalling to watch Service Shop owners go through the motions where they say they will do this, or say they will support that, then watch them NOT execute their words at all. Typically there is little trust between a Service Provider owner and their Jobber and many Jobbers realize the lack of developing a business trustworthy relationship is their biggest past mistake. They know now that they blew it. Now we have Jobbers trying to change, trying to make a concerted effort to instil new added values that truly will help their customer/client base. It may include things as training courses or computer items or additional services of a nature that would financially benefit his/her customer/clients business. The Jobber makes the commitment, takes the time to put it together, and then only receives every excuse under the sun as to why “now” is not the right time. To be very blunt, if we don’t have the time to realize what is happening here and support these actions, then what the hell are we doing?

These type of positive actions by progressive Jobbers are just great, but when you have the Jobber experience negative results from Service Shop owners, it continues to re-enforce the old adage to the Jobbers that “ah, all they do is complain, and whine, then when you try, they couldn’t care less. They don’t know what they want.” I’m not trying to take sides here, but with all due respect, I’ve seen and heard it myself and Service Provider shops must clearly understand the effort that goes into a Jobbers business when they are trying to bring added value to their customer/clients’ business. If we keep operating shops with defensive barriers up, with the smoke and mirror Jobber support, with no financial commitment to the Jobber that tries, and with the dog and pony show language of support given by shops that are operating out there today, then our industry, and a lot of people within our industry, are going to be seriously hurt financially and emotionally very soon, if it is not already happening. Shop Owners must make the concerted effort to get this relationship to work!!

I have watched WD’s try to work better with their Jobbers to be basically put flat on their back for trying by their Jobber members.

I have watched Manufacturers try very hard to work better with WD’s and Jobbers to only be put out to pasture after all their effort.

If over the past three months articles you think I sound a little “negative” towards the industry, well to be honest with you, you’re right, but I’m determined not to let it win. Look at the amount of lip service out there today, all over the place — people don’t care — they say what they think other people want to hear to their face. It has no substance to it! The amount of non-support, or commitment towards companies that are trying to make a positive difference in our industry is truly unacceptable. If people within our industry, at every level, just want to sit back and complain about how bad things are and not be a contributor to the positive movement that must take place to secure a future for the next generation, then please move on and get out. On behalf of the rest of us, we are sick and tired of you.

Now that, that is out of the way, let’s start back at the beginning.

Shop owners must consider their relationship with their chosen Jobber. Take a good hard look at the effort your Jobber is attempting to put into his or her business that would, in turn, assist your business. Recognize the effort and support it — but support it with your chequebook. Patronization does not pay the bills.

There are Jobbers in this country who really care and want our sector of the industry to really become the very best that it can be. They support that message not just with words but also by their actions, but understandably, they are getting very discouraged. They are often told by many what an outstanding job they are doing, however, shop owners will not send them a major portion of their purchases — the purchases the Jobber has earned by offering real value, not phoney gimmicks. It appears the following could be the two main reasons why shops are not changing to these better Jobbers.

The “non-initiative” Jobber is owed too much money due to past poor shop business practices and the shop feels they can’t switch for financial reasons, but the shop owner really sees the value the other Jobber is offering and has a strong desire to be part of it. Solution: Consider setting up a confidential, private meeting with the better Jobber and laying your cards on the table. Have a sincere discussion with the better Jobber that you are really interested in supporting fully, his/her business, but acknowledge you require proper business advice, and now you are ready to listen and act in a way that resolves the shop’s financial problems. The better Jobbers welcome the opportunity to help with practical business advice, however don’t ask them to finance your shop for you. That is not what this is all about. Start supporting them fully, and watch what they can do for you. Listen carefully to their advice and work, sincerely, with them. I can assure you the better Jobbers will be talking with you about such topics as shop productivity, charging the right price for your knowledge, and receivable management. Take their advice. These are the Jobbers in the country that understand the big picture now and are in it for the long term.

The shop owner wants everyone to like him/her so they like to do business with “everyone” which usually boils down to two or three Jobbers with a “cherry pick” relationship with each, a relationship where the best Jobber gets “burned” for all the efforts he/she is trying to provide to their marketplace and clientele. It is time to realize that our industry has changed, where today, business people must make ultimate business relationship decisions — decisions that support the right Jobber company acting fully in the best practices manner that secures the shop’s financial future. This is not about parts pricing, this is about long-term shop/jobber business development.

Too many shops see a Jobber business only as a business that sells parts at the lowest price. You are stuck in 1990!! It is time to move beyond that. It is time to get into this new century.

An excellent Jobber business today offers various depths of services to its clientele. Services may include such things as training on computer hardware and software for shop operations and management, providing specialized shop technical training courses, and/or making available specialized shop equipment not commonly used in every shop, and/or one-on-one confidential business counselling to enhance shop profitability, and/or assisting in development and execution of a shop credit policy, and/or devising a shop marketing plan to attract a certain type of clientele, and/or offering specific shop business development courses, and/or assisting in the preparation of a specific shop business loan. These are but a few examples but notice the service depth is NOT about parts prices — it’s about business value. The question must be asked — what part of this picture do you not understand?

The ultimate message is — fully support the Jobber that is making the right effort to bring you business value that enhances your long-term businesses profitability and financial security. Don’t get caught by the Jobber looking at only today’s short-term parts pricing game. You may think you win “today” — but you will pay a terrible price “tomorrow” when the best Jobbers in our country totally give up on you and — LEAVE.

Truly consider the consequences of your short term pricing actions to your long-term business solvency.

SSGM

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President and CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has over 27 years of Business Management experience within the automotive industry, counseling individual shops in Ontario. E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive industry, preparing analytical operating statements for Management purposes, personal and corporate tax return completion, Business Management consultation and Business Management and Employee Development Courses. Visit E. K. Williams & Co. on the Internet at www.ekw.ca and sign up for their FREE monthly management letter sent to you by E-mail. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is a company devoted to developing Automotive Shop Business Management skills through the E-Learning environment over the inter-net. Students learn at their own speed, and at a time, and place, that best suits their needs; available 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Visit Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. on the Internet at www.aaec.ca Bob can be reached at (613) 836-5130, 1-800-267-5497, FAX (613) 836-4637 or by E-mail; greenwood@ekw.ca or greenwood@aaec.ca


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