There are few things that will set a business owner’s teeth on edge more than being told by an outsider (and by “outsider,” I mean anyone outside his or her own head) that they’re running their business “the wrong way.”
I have to say that there are a good many open-minded business owners in the aftermarket, but when it comes to advice, it is often only accepted in part. Bits and pieces of advice may be accepted from the most trusted of sources – although what passes as trusted sources (like the brother-in-law) sometimes amazes me – but as far as wholesale change or even major adjustments go, that’s another matter entirely.
Anyone looking to make such suggestions, whether at the jobber level or to the owner of an independent repair facility, had better keep his coat and boots on, if you know what I mean.
I would hazard a guess that if Warren Buffet himself were to sit down at the table with a group of aftermarket business owners, at least one of them would point out that his opinion didn’t carry much weight on account of his having failed at to make a go of a Texaco service station business back in ’52.
At the time the young Warren Buffett was also teaching investment principles to night school students and working as an investment salesman during the day. If that had been the end of it, it would have made for a perfect example of an investment “expert” failing to translate that into real-world success. Of course we all know how things have turned out for Mr. Buffett; I think it’s a safe assumption that he has learned a few things on the way.
What I am politely suggesting is that you keep an open mind over the coming months at seminars (yes, you should go); the management books you might read (yes, you should read them); and people you talk to in and outside of your business. Look for kernels of good ideas, rather than focusing on what you think won’t work in what they’re offering and then throwing out the whole package.
You simply never know when some rookie rep might sit down in your office and say, “Hey, have you ever considered . . .?”, and that such a suggestion might actually make a considerable difference to your business.
While I have always shied away from offering much in the way of direct advice, one of the underlying truths in business is that there is no silver bullet to solve all your woes. The other underlying truth is that we keep looking for one. That has to stop.
The only key to a successful business model that will endure is continuing evolution and continuing improvement, which avoids the disruptive effects of massive change that leaves customers wondering if you’re the same supplier they’ve known and trusted, and staff wondering what’s expected of them.
The reality is that this business is about small successes, incremental wins, fleeting gains, and learning every day. Enduring truths about this being a people business remain true, but how that loyalty is built and lost, and the tools we use to get it back, continue to change as society and technology changes.
It is true that you don’t need to be Warren Buffett to succeed in this business – but you should probably read one of his books.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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