Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2006   by Robert (Bob) Greenwood

Embracing the Culture of Change

10 Tips for a Better Future

Many jobbers in Canada have never embraced a new way of doing business and continue to bring old attitudes to their job.

Their outlook that nothing has changed, and the shop owner only wants price to be the issue within his marketplace, flies in the face of evidence and of history.

Consider the following “enlightened” statements:

–In 1898, Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, said, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.”

–In 1943, Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, predicted that there was a world market for “about five computers.”

–In 1977, Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corp., authoritatively stated that “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

These statements were made by men who were experts in their field. They based their statements on their own experiences and the realities of their time.

Many jobbers will focus on the words “realities of their time” and justify in their minds why price remains the key focus issue in their marketplace.

I respectfully suggest that it is time to seriously consider the following statement:

“We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims.”

A jobber or parts distributor has a tremendous amount of influence within a marketplace, if the business truly understands that it can create a future. Are you, as a jobber owner or manager, an architect of the industry’s future?

This is probably one of the most serious questions of the current generation. We have never looked at our industry in this way.

Consider that if the average jobber in Canada has been in business 14 years, he now has a responsibility to set up the next generation, not only within his own business through succession planning, but also for the state of the marketplace that he will leave behind.

“Price” is a culture. “Value added” is a culture. The “wow factor” is a culture, and so is “service.” Ask yourself, which one of these words and phrases does not guarantee a successful future? Going to market on price jeopardizes the entire industry’s future. The other approaches enhance the aftermarket’s future.

Consider that a jobber or parts distributor can be the architect of its marketplace. This is done by establishing a completely new culture throughout the entire operation.

Instituting policies that focus on areas other than price can develop a culture that will change a given marketplace, as well as the net income of the jobber store and its shop clients’ business. Consider the following policies:

1. Staff are clients too.

The internal workings of a jobber business are just as critical to establishing a culture as the external workings of the store.

Counterpeople and delivery people should realize that their client is not only the person on the end of the telephone and the shop they deliver to; it is also the store’s field representatives, who are trying their best to build a loyal client base. There needs to be more communication between the internal parties. Improving service improves net income. Does each person within the store understand what service means to those they work with?

2. Be fanatical about customer service.

In other words, nobody blames anybody within the business, especially in front of the client, when something goes wrong; they simply make it right. They also understand that they have been given the authority by management to make it right. The shop client rules in this jobber store. Live by the words, “We will not let you down.”

3. Continuously strive for improved service levels.

All staff and management have an attitude that there is a way that they can do this better, and they want to be part of the solution. No one within the store should ever believe that they have the best service in town. There are always ways to improve service levels, and everyone must find that solution.

4. Policy and procedures that alienate clients must be eliminated.

Get rid of procedures, rules and so-called company policies that chase clients to the competition. As a jobber store, you are there to serve and stand by your clients. This is a culture change that is long overdue. Remember, we are talking about shop owners as clients, not customers.

5. Allow your people to make decisions.

This is called empowering your people. How can you expect your employees to handle difficult client situations if you haven’t taught them how, or given them the authority to correct the situation? It is far easier and less costly to correct most situations than to find another shop of equal volume and cash.

6. Believe that service drives net income.

Today, service rules. A shop requires the right part fast. If the culture within your jobber store and parts distribution system is totally service-driven, the net income of the store will improve.

7. Listen to your clients.

If you are not prepared to listen, really listen, to your clients, how do you determine what they consider of value? You may perceive value means price, when in reality shops value something else. Consequently, over time, the jobber loses the shop’s business because the jobber didn’t deliver what the shop valued.

8. Explain the new plan to your market and to your staff.

What do you mean and how are you going to deliver it?

9. Care about your people.

Staff relations will mirror your client relations. Treat your people poorly, and they will in turn treat the business’ clients poorly. The opposite also is true. Treat your staff well, and watch the difference in your client relationships with the store and in the volume of business they bring to you.

10. Staff reviews are a must.

Jobber staff in every department must understand just how incredibly important they are to the success of the business. How the bookkeeper or controller collects or manages the receivables is just as important as the delivery person delivering the right part in a timely manner. There is a very powerful saying about staff relationship building: “Praise your people in public, condemn your people in private.”

Your relationship with each staff member reflects on the bottom line of the business. Think about this carefully when analyzing the store’s profitability.

The culture of a jobber or parts distributor reflects on the marketplace within which it works. A weak jobber culture will produce a weak shop marketplace, whereas a strong, positive jobber culture will produce an excellent marketplace to sell in. This is most prevalent in smaller communities. If all jobbers within the larger city communities carried out their industry responsibilities properly, then price would not be as powerful a factor.

No one else has more influence on a shop in terms of how they do business than the jobber. When you train a shop owner well, and the jobber has earned the shop’s trust by never misleading them or letting them down, the culture of that shop changes for the better.

A price-culture jobber develops a price-driven marketplace and attracts price-driven customers. A jobber with a value-added, service-oriented culture develops and attracts a value-added, service-oriented shop client that is less stressed, more profitable, and enjoys a better return on investment.

If you don’t believe it, consider that you are the expert within your marketplace, and then remember what was said by experts of the past.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President and CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has 28 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 AAEC at . 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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