Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

Election Day

At times it is so easy to focus on looking ahead, making progress, clearing the slash, that it is easy to forget who is pushing the wagon and hauling the load.

As is evidenced by the letter elsewhere in this issue, it is a point not missed by everyone. It seems that too often we take for granted those who are carrying so much of the load: the counterpeople, drivers, warehouse workers, etc. Simply put, if they don’t do their job, no amount of planning can make a jobbing business successful. Yet, we seldom let them know that.

And, while I differ with the letter writer’s assertion that we don’t recognize their importance in Jobber News in fact (we dedicate space in every issue to counterpeople and have printed articles specifically for drivers), I cannot argue with it in principle.

Stewart Hayes, a veteran of the industry, wants us all to recognize more completely the contribution to our industry of those whose names seldom appear on any plaque, any membership roster, or any sign. While it’s not really any different from many other industries–many industries have difficulties in treating their front-line workers with respect–that fact alone does not make it right.

When seen in combination with the results of a business study, the shortcomings of this industry come into sharp focus.

“Few industries have talked more about–but then done less about–critically eroding business conditions than the automotive aftermarket,” concluded the study conducted by Park City Research (PCR) and anonymously paid for by CCITriad.

While the study focused on supply chain issues and how technology can mesh with the changing needs of the aftermarket, that damning statement can be equally applied, it seems, to other facets of our industry.

Probably a decade ago, Jobber News held a focus group for counterpeople. We wanted their input on a variety of topics, but mostly wanted just to sit down and listen to what they had to say. I recall very little about the substance of these discussions, but one comment has stuck with me to this day.

Talking about the way counterpeople are treated, a senior counterperson lamented the lack of respect provided to him and his colleagues. He said that they were continually treated without respect, that in fact they were treated with scorn by their bosses and their customers. Counterpeople were, he said, the whipping boys of the industry. (Except he used the “N-word,” which was startling enough in itself, more so because this gentleman was a member of a distinctly visible majority.)

It is, I can hear you thinking, just a lot of whining, that you really do value your counterpeople and your drivers. You know, as do I, that they are the most public face of your business. But when was the last time you defended them when a customer had a beef? When was the last time you praised one of them for handling a situation well? And when was the last time you asked their opinion on a line, a computer system, or pricing?

And, if you have asked their opinion on matters important to your business, have you listened to their answer?

It seems, on the face of it, that you haven’t. At least that is their opinion, and in matters of business as in life, that is all that matters. Most of the people I have met in the aftermarket want their companies to succeed. Too often, though, they have a tough time maintaining the motivation required to go the extra mile. Success breeds success; resentment breeds apathy.

Think of it this way: If you didn’t own the business, but had to be elected to lead, would your staff vote for you? If the answer is no, then you had better start campaigning for their support before they vote with their feet.

–Andrew Ross, Editor and Publisher


Next Month

The phenomenal growth of the Light Truck Aftermarket will fill August’s pages with info on a variety of underhood and undercar systems.

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