Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2005   by Jim Anderson,Editor

Professionalism Starts Here

There are lots of serious issues facing our industry right now, from the right to repair, to stalled shop profitability to technician wages. This month, however, I'm going to get a little off the beat...

There are lots of serious issues facing our industry right now, from the right to repair, to stalled shop profitability to technician wages. This month, however, I’m going to get a little off the beaten path and address an issue that few of us in the aftermarket consider: the image we present to the public. In too many shops, techs frankly, look like hell. I’m not excluding myself here; most of the time I spun wrenches for a living I rarely wore anything that wasn’t stained, torn or both. As I looked over a few old black and white images from the 1930’s and ’40’s the other day, I noticed that that generation of service providers, who truly were “mechanics” often wore uniforms. Bow ties and peaked caps were common, too, and while that clearly doesn’t make sense in the modern shop, it does seem like a real contrast to the jeans and tee-shirt environment prevalent in many shops today. Look at the major chains, for example. Uniform programs are common. Why? Because sharp looking personnel give consumers confidence, which helps build the brand image. Modern technicians have to know as much or more than service people in almost any other high-tech industry, yet we often look like the proverbial “grease monkey” whose image we hate to be compared to. In my office, for example, the photocopier service man arrives in a jacket and tie, yet works with tools that don’t seem any more sophisticated than a rag and a vacuum cleaner. Nobody’s life is in the balance if he screws up, yet he looks like a business executive. It builds his credibility. Personally, I like the NASCAR crew chief look that some banner programs provide for the same profile-building reasons. If we’re going to pull the image of automotive service up to the level it belongs, however, we’re going to have to be a lot more conscious of our public image, both in the bays and out. If we’re expected to carry the knowledge of an automotive engineer or technologist, then why not dress for success? Is it crazy to arrive and leave the workplace in a sport coat or jacket? Are ties or dress shoes out of line? The same argument could be applied to the rest of our image. With modern skin blocking creams and work gloves, is it necessary to have the hands of a blacksmith? Or hair straight out of Starsky and Hutch? Or for that matter, a functional vocabulary that injects a four letter word every thirty seconds? Again, don’t take this diatribe to imply that I’ve been a shining example myself. I learned from people who forgot more than I knew and they all looked like they were destitute. Between the dirty baseball caps, ripped jeans and “I Love my Hooker Headers” tee shirts, my buddies and I looked like a bunch of criminals. We were proud of our abilities, but to the outside world, we looked like, well, grease monkeys. And with the ability needed to succeed in today’s shop environment, we’re closer to business men and women than many of the so-called white collar workers out there, too. Dress for success? Why not?

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