Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2004   by Bob Greenwood

Training or Development — What Do We Really Need?

Are You Ready For Some In-Depth Analysis?

Shop owners from coast to coast talk about training required for their shop. Consider the terminology “training”. This terminology creates a certain mind-set in terms of results desired with the approach to the topic from the person speaking the words. Perhaps it is time to re-examine what words need to be embraced to get our mind-set focused properly to allow us to really move the shop forward considering all of today’s realities.

I would like to submit for your consideration the following definitions:

Training: Limiting the behavioural responses to a given stimulus.

Development: To increase behavioural alternatives to the same stimulus.

It has often been thought that “technical training” was always required for a shop in order to learn which “right way” is required to do it. This worked very well in the “mechanical” world years ago. I am submitting to you that it is not technical “training” that is required today but in fact today it is technical “development” that is required. The on-going development of building a technician’s Diagnostic skill level and knowledge does not lead to a “right way” to do something, but in fact it leads to providing many alternatives to explore an approach in order to discover the correct solution to the problem. The proper “development” and building of this knowledge, in the end, allows the technician to provide time effective solutions, which in turn, ends up serving the shop’s client in a very professional manner. Without the proper “development” of this technical knowledge, which must be recognised as continuous and on-going, and instead where Management is only focussing on limited “training”, ends up producing results where the technician “fumbles around” for a number of hours without the proper solution. Consider “training” is specific whereas “development” is all encompassing. Think about it … no shop can afford a training process today.

It is also well spoken in our industry that Management requires Business Training. I submit that “Business Seminar Training” today, in fact, only relates to one facet of the business, such as a product knowledge session. Consider that other “Business Seminar Training” produces “hype” to create short-term immediate sales, or activity, for the sponsor of the “training” as it creates the conditions for the attendees to become very motivated. Consider that “hype” type motivation is now out of date in terms of addressing the real problems of our industry and is truly a waste of money in terms of a vision or culture for a shop. This type of “hype” training always has a habit of disappearing within two to three weeks, if not sooner. The statement must be made that “Hype training” lacks the “test of time”.

I submit to you that we do not need a “fire under the bum” type motivational training which is an exterior motivation format that gets an individual “pumped” that quite frankly worked 10 to 20 years ago in the much simpler commodity era of our industry. Today’s shop business realities are very in-depth, knowledge based focussed, very complex and all encompassing. This is why “fire under the bum” type training disappears too easily. It has no substance.

Consider today, we need a “fire in the belly”. This is different. It creates the results environment of learning business knowledge at a depth level effectively enough that it creates a gnawing at ones inside gut, which in turn, creates the personal determination, a personal self-motivation if you will, to get on with it and get it done. It is also time consuming and not an “over-night” visit. The atmosphere and attitude approach required to create this gnawing is called “Business Development”, not “Business Training”. Development provides the tools in the form of a proven business concept for the owner to embrace coupled with the on-going availability of business knowledge to support its depth. The most important key word here is … support … which in turn allows for sustaining behavioural development. Behavioural development is very personal in that it is totally adaptable to the individual’s own personality. Development is exceptionally in-depth in its presentation and especially its content message. It creates a picture in the mind as to what can be. Business Development does not “limit behavioural responses” but it, in turn, “increases behavioural responses” due to its depth of perspective. It has many angles to be examined by the individual in its understanding which allows for the development to be achieved. Business development understanding is not just spending a few hours at night, or a attending a one day stand, but, in fact, encompasses many days in order to understand its focus.

Don’t be surprised if you have to read the above few paragraphs two or three times as it is important to understand the differences between “training” and “development”. I spent a lot of time trying to create the sentences I have written here to try to get across my point. The explanations truly are in-depth but, I must admit, difficult to explain in this article format. My hope is that you begin to recognize that this is not a simple topic.

The other discussion that goes along with this is the dollar investment required today.

Consider our sector of the industry has been weaned on short fixes. We put out fires. We, as an industry, do not traditionally create long-term solutions. Everyone has attended these type of ‘training” seminars. They are designed to be short in its time frame delivery; they are designed to be only topic/problem specific; they are designed to be “cheap” in price as we, as an industry, evaluate everything based on cost rather than return. The industry does not and can not measure their return on the “expense” incurred for these fixes. The sponsors figure if everyone is happy leaving the room and “motivated” at that moment in time then it was a good thing to do. This thinking and delivery does not stand the test of time and is exceptionally dangerous for the future of our industry.

Shop owners have a tendency to look at these fixes as a cost and not as an investment. The typical shop owner asks “how much does it cost?” not “how much must I invest?” Shop Management’s traditional answer is “It costs too much.” Obviously what ever it is in your mind, you can not measure the return when you consider it a cost and especially when you haven’t even taken what has been offered yet. We are very quick to “judge”.

Let’s get down to the dollars and cents of it. The vast majority of our industry think that spending $100 to $150 a day is enough to approach the problem. Boy, have shop owners been led down a garden path.

Technical and Business “Development”, not the creation of instant Power-Point “presentations”, but true Business Development courses, take, on average, 12 to 14 hours of development time for every one hour of delivery time. Many technical trainers have confirmed this with me from their perspective many times, and sometimes it is even higher. The time it takes today to put together QUALITY, SOLUTION-DRIVEN material is truly incredible and our industry continues to refuse to recognize this. This reflects the complex world we live in today. I know from personal experience, to develop proper business courses definitely takes this time frame (12 to 14hrs : 1 hr) and that does not include the time for out of town travelling to do the research attending symposiums and functions in order to stay on top of the industry issues. Technical instructors experience the same research problems.

Consider what we want from a competent technical instructor today. He/she must stay ahead of the very best technicians in the industry because if a competent technician shows up in class, the instructor MUST be able to satisfy his/her needs in terms of addressing his/her questions with thorough, complete answers/solutions.

Now, consider the environment a technical instructor is saddled with in our sector of the industry … travel and live out of a suitcase away from their family continuously; instruct only at night because the industry doesn’t want to learn how to run its business to do otherwise; read, read, investigate, investigate, read and read some more, as well as, attend industry functions to understand the trends that are coming down the pike and also understand the depth of technical skill and solutions required today to do it right.

The same characteristics apply to business development courses.

What is my point? This is not a “sobbing” article for technical or business development; it is a reality check educational article for this industry to pay attention to.

Let’s get on with it and understand that you MUST start to prepare yourself to pay on average $300 to $400 per day for professional competent technical and/or business “development”. The industry desperately needs “development” NOT “training” and competent instructors are prepared to give a money back guarantee on what they are about to instruct to a “student” who invests the time and completes their entire course. That is reasonable.

Get off of the price issue and seriously realize the return on investment matter.

The industry has always taught the independent sector to be price focussed (price competitive they call it) and that “cheap” is better. That is why they are focussed on “cost”. They were/are wrong. You know and understand that cheap is not right in the terminology of purchasing parts as you first focus on quality of parts, however, you must understand the same applies to business and technical development issues. We have lost many competent technical and business instructors across Canada because we, as an industry, were weaned on price rather than quality of the product. They gave up on the industry as it was not worth the effort for the return.

Competent technical “development”, once implemented, pays very large dividends to the business. Competent business “development”, once implemented, returns to a business a tremendous bottom-line and great lifestyle to you and your family. Both are on-going!! Neither technical or business development is a one-time visit and one doesn’t experience results “overnight” as the industry always seemingly wants. In reality it takes time, however, when you don’t measure it properly, how can you see results? The commodity side of the industry is activity driven (sales, sales, sales) rather that bottom-line driven (net profit focussed). This approach, this attitude, is destroying our sector of the industry.

Consider your position. Are you prepared to “invest” the time and dollars required to learn to do it right today, or are you going to remain in the traditional aftermarket cycle they have weaned you on, the cycle you have been trapped in for the past ten years; activity driven rather than bottom line focussed?

Ever noticed how the average shop owner doesn’t want to take the time to address this issue … ” too expensive, I don’t have the time, I can’t get away” are the traditional reasons BUT, he/she can get away for ten days of hunting or two weeks of fishing?

Step out of the box … technical and business “development” will serve you very well, but it is up to YOU to put in the effort. If you are not willing to do that, then, from my perspective which is the business side, show me the math on how you are going to survive and enjoy a professional livelihood for the next five years. You can send me your solution to “”. I look forward to studying your solution in-depth.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President & CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has 29 years of industry-specific business management experience. He has developed shop business management courses for independent Service Providers recognized as being the most comprehensive courses of their kind available in Canada. Bob is the first Canadian Business Management Consultant and Trainer to be recognized for his industry contributions when he received the prestigious Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award in November 2003. E. K Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive aftermarket industry preparing analytical operating statements for management purposes, personal and corporate tax returns and business management consultation. Visit them at and sign up for their free monthly management e-newsletter. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is a leading edge company devoted to developing comprehensive shop management skills through the e-learning environment. Visit and take the free overview. Bob can be reached at (613) 836-5130, 1-800-267-5497, FAX (613) 836-4637 and by E-Mail: or

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