Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2004   by Bob Greenwood

What’s Your Relationship With Your Supplier?

Great shops work with their suppliers, not against them

Much has been said about the “relationship” of a Jobber business towards their best Service Provider shops. Many Jobbers are starting to listen to their “clients” and are reacting in a positive manner. These Jobbers must be supported. That change has come with much struggle, and resolve, but it has literally changed the direction, and profitability, of the independent sector within the automotive aftermarket industry.

Time has passed, and the Service Provider has started his/her metamorphoses as well. There are now some common denominators that the “better” Service Provider shops practice, and it is time the rest of the industry took note as to what they are doing with their chosen supplier. The result of this type of relationship has meant less stress between the Jobber and the shop owner, stronger communication and understanding with each other, substantially improved profitability for both businesses, plus it has freed up a tremendous amount of time for the Service shop. That additional time allows the shop owner to concentrate on real business issues, along with enhancing value and client satisfaction they desire to deliver.

Consider the following ten positive points the better shops adhere to:

1. Full payment of suppliers account each, and every month: The better shops understand the suppliers business a lot better now, and they know it requires cash, as the supplier is in the commodity business only and does not have the luxury of having a labour component to assist in his/her jobber profitability. These shop owners have learned to manage his/her business better, thus allowing them to be able to keep to their financial commitments each month.

2. Understands the importance of a professional business relationship: Past history of this industry has always seen the lack of trust come front and centre between a jobber and shop owner. The better shops, and the better jobbers, now realize that both of them are independent business people and they need each other more than ever to secure each others financial future. They have sat down and discussed this openly, understanding each other, and worked out a plan that enhances each others business. This “business relationship” has been the cornerstone to enhancing each others net income.

3. Prepared to commit “all” their business to one chosen supplier. The best shops know their time is always worth their labour rate, otherwise the owner is not a profit contribution to their own business, so it does not make business sense to sit on a telephone for fifteen to twenty minutes to shop 3 or 4 suppliers to make another $10 to $15 on a part. They understand they need time to enhance relationships throughout their entire business structure, and sitting on a telephone to shop for parts is valuable time lost. They did the math, and discovered the old way of thinking in this industry is now invoking cost into their business. These shops made the initial investment in time to set up the relationship with their chosen supplier so everyone (supplier and service shop) were all on the same page at the same time. It has reaped immense dividends.

4. Stocks their shop properly: Profitable shops understand the value to their business of stocking properly. Even though their supplier can have it there in fifteen or twenty minutes, they understand “lost potential” sales for not stocking properly, coupled with the understanding that delivery is a true cost to their supplier. If they are going to obtain the best price, along with true jobber “value”, then the shop owner must think also about his suppliers costs.

5. Believes in “quality always” for their clients vehicles: The better shops run a “quality”style business built on “client”relationships versus a “white-box” business that attracts a “customer” business. These shops insist on quality parts from their suppler and have notified their supplier that inferior parts do not cut it. Better shops never risk their image, or credibility with their clients, based on the “price of parts”.

6. Has a great relationship with Jobbers staff: Professional Service shops realize Jobber staff are “people too”, and there is no excuse to be rude or indifferent to them. The Jobber’s staff are trying to do their best whether it is working in the field, or on the counter, or delivering the parts to the shop, and the better shops clearly understand this. The fact is the better shop owners have nurtured a relationship to the point where the Jobber staff recognise, and appreciate, these type of shops, consequently the Jobbers staff will always bend over backwards 100% of the time, when that particular shop has an urgent matter, and they will do it with a smile because they are truly pleased that they could be of assistance to that shop.

7. Takes full responsibility for shop errors: The better shops today don’t play games anymore, because it breeds mistrust. Mistrust dramatically hursts profitability. If their shop breaks a part while they are installing it, and it was their fault, they do not fall back and say they have a warranty claim. They take full responsibility for their own mistakes. They won’t ask their Jobber to complete the paper work, who in turn will ship it back to the Warehouse Distributor, who ends up shipping it to the manufacturer and “let them wear it”. To the better shops, this attitude is unacceptable … it truly is a moral issue, and it has been exceptionally costly for this entire industry, at every level, to bear this incompetency. The better shops are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

8. Believes in, and understands, a win/win Jobber/Shop strategy. For two businesses to work together, nurture each other, and be profitable, a “long term” relationship must be formed. Better shops clearly recognise long term relationships are substantially more profitable than short term gains. To sustain a long term relationship, “trust” must be earned and maintained. Both parties must win, otherwise one loses, and how do you maintain trust if someone is always on the losing end of the stick? The better shops have really worked on this through their communications between themselves and their supplier, and their supplier has clearly communicated to them the necessity of both parties working together to maintain a winning formula. This strategy has really added thousands of dollars to the bottom line for both parties.

9. Their word is their bond: The better shops clearly understand the math when a Jobber makes the effort to bring a certain training course, or program, to their local marketplace. Time is money to all people in business, and that includes their jobber too. When their jobber goes out of his/her way and makes the effort, the better shops will say they will show up and participate … and they do!! They don’t mislead people by making false promises just to look good at the moment, or make up excuses why they didn’t show up. These shops truly appreciate the time it takes, and the effort their jobber put into, bringing something to the table. Whatever the course, it has always ended up enhancing a shop owners business in some shape or form, and therefore, they support their jobber accordingly. These great shops are a “breath of fresh air” to the better jobbers out there.

10. Displays a positive attitude towards the aftermarket industry: There is no doubt about it, the better shops see, and embrace, the present and future opportunities for building net income that are before us in this industry. They do not dwell on negative feelings and situations, or dump “attitude”on their Jobber or their Jobbers staff. A mutual respect is in place. You can “feel” this positive attitude when you walk into these shops as this attitude becomes a “culture” of the shop. Their Jobbers feel it too, and good things do rub off, as one witnesses it clearly when you see a progressive Professional shop owner interacting with a progressive Professional Jobber owner and their staff.

Many of us will still hear from, and witness, the “old-style” shop owner, and the “old-style” jobber , saying this is a far fetched picture that is impossible to reach. It is impossible for them to reach because they are not prepared to change their ways of thinking or doing business. They only think of themselves. Trust is not in their business vocabulary. It’s a terrible dirty word. It does not exist in their world. Well, as I travel this country, I can assure you, these old “war path” type people are wrong. Our industry will not change over night, but over the next generation, the change I am witnessing today is fantastic, and with all do respect, the bottom line created, for the effort made, is the proof in the pudding. Professional business relationships pay … and they pay well. Some people make the future; others wait for the future to make them. Consider it.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President and C.E.O. of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd., a Provincial based Business Management Consulting and Accounting Services Company, that specializes in the Independent Sector of the automotive aftermarket maintenance and service industry. He is also President and CEO of Automotive Aftermarket E-learning Centre Ltd., a leading edge inter-net company that develops Automotive Aftermarket Shop Business Management and Aftermarket Business Resource Information for learning and viewing in an E-Learning format.

Bob has 29 years of Business Management experience within the Independent sector of the automotive aftermarket industry and has created Business Management development courses for automotive shop employers and employees, which are recognized as being the most comprehensive, industry specific courses of their kind in Canada today.

On November 4th, 2003 in Las Vegas Nevada, in recognition of his contributions to the automotive aftermarket industry, Bob was the first Canadian Business Consultant to be presented the prestigious Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award for 2003 by Dr. David E. Fry, President of the University. “The award is presented to individuals in the automotive aftermarket field who have made noteworthy contributions to education, public or private, on any level, inside or outside the industry. Recipients are people of stature and the award is recognition of dedication over a number of years to the educational process and the automotive aftermarket.”

Bob can be reached at 1-800-267-5497 or 613-826-5130 Fax: 613-836-4637, E-Mail:, or Web sites are: and

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