Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2001   by Andrew Ross, Editor


There is a growing sense of frustration at many levels of the aftermarket that there is little or no desire on the part of jobbers and garages to improve their situation.

Successful companies in any industry did not get that way because of what they did today; they are successful because of what they did yesterday. Think about what this means to your business. What did you do in the last few months that could have an impact on your business situation beyond the short term sale? How much time did you spend thinking about the health of your customers’ businesses and what did you do about it? How much training did you do of you, your staff, and your customers?

With the exception of a handful of you, you did not take the time to go to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s convention.

There were certainly issues surrounding the economy and the distance to be traveled to Penticton, B.C.–I have personally raised both issues with the asso-ciation–but the reality is that this is just the latest in a long line of excuses perpetrated by many of you and your customers on trainers, distribution organizations, associations and manufacturers.

Too many ask for too much, then fail to turn up. Too many jobbers and installers treat with suspicion every initiative and business program that comes their way, whether from a manufacturer or warehouse distributor. They demand commitment, then fail to make one.

Worse still is the continuing lack of willingness to invest the time to learn more about running their own businesses.

Don’t get me wrong–I am continually amazed at the prowess of many individuals within this industry on so many fronts. I love talking to the counterpeople who can tell me which spark plug is the right one for a 1978 Buick LeSabre (350, 4 barrel). I love talking to techs who rejoice in the ingenious solutions to insanely complex problems. I am rapt by the financial information that some jobbers can carry in their heads.

But when I see great programs being presented and the ones who need to hear it most absent, or when I hear manufacturers and warehouse distributors wondering if there is any hope at all for a huge proportion of the aftermarket, it shakes my confidence in the industry to say the least.

Ask yourself why you didn’t go to Penticton. Ask yourself why you didn’t go to that training session last week or the week before. What reason did those installers give you for not showing up at the last training session you threw? Too busy? Forgot? Too expensive? Too far? Or, my favorite, “I didn’t have the time, I had to take care of the business.”

These are, all of them, my-dog-ate-my-homework excuses, especially the last one.

Judging by the level of profitability of many aftermarket businesses–single digit profitability at best, losses at worst–“taking care of the business” is the one thing they’re not doing.

Ironically, the principals of some of the most successful jobber businesses in the aftermarket did take the time to learn. You could see them, front and center, listening intently, learning something new. The argument could be made that they should be doing the teaching, but nevertheless they were there to learn. What about you?

As I said, Penticton was just the latest volley in a battle to get important information to you, the auto parts wholesaler. I for one will not stop trying to continue that battle–we’re planning a fall training session for jobbers–but at some point everyone has to ask themselves whether their efforts are worthwhile.

We have, each of us, only so many days on this planet. Many people in the industry are feeling a sense of frustration bordering on resignation that they care more about your business than you do. I wonder if you feel the same way about many of your installer customers.

As the saying goes, the Lord helps those who help themselves. It is likely that non-traditional players are preparing to help themselves to your business, if they aren’t doing it already. You do not have an entitlement to this business. Everybody needs to raise their game. The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time is right now.


We’ll feature a profile of the 2001 Jobber of the Year, Charlie Main, and the business he founded, Sussex Auto Supplies Ltd. We’ll also cover numerous aspects of Light Truck Service Parts, and prepare for Winter Products and Programs.

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