Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2002   by Auto Service World

MYOB: A Letter From the Edge Asks “Are You Listening?”


Perception in business is everything.

I am very fortunate to interact with all levels of our industry. One privilege I enjoy is that I regularly receive e-mails from across the country, from various people, at various levels of the industry, with various comments.

As we start a brand new year, I believe it is appropriate to share an e-mail with you that I recently received from a licensed technician.

“At 31 years of age and having worked as a licensed technician since I was 20, I guess I have always been stuck in the generation gap. Too young to be a manager . . .

“I feel that many of the existing problems in our industry have been created by the old and existing guard. Many of their great ideas have resulted in such great achievements as a seven-day workweek and the associated manpower problems. The move toward better customer service by providing extended hours and weekend service has only taken qualified professionals away from their families and spread a five-day workload over seven days and multiple shifts.

“I won’t even discuss the free inspection policies which come at the expense of the technician. I wish these people understood how to measure their business, and what their actions/decisions really accomplished.

“These policies and a few others have damaged the morale of the industry and have actually, in my opinion, caused the public to mistrust garages in general. The ‘new age’ technician is a highly trained professional. When did anyone go to their doctor’s office and get a free check-up and how would the doctor respond if we complained that our appointment was for 11:00 a.m. and it’s now 11:05?

“New business practices and new leadership is required in our industry. In the past, technicians used to be kicked out of kindergarten for shaving – not anymore. Now it’s the managers . . .

“The current hierarchy must be willing to change and map out a new path for the future. Ideas that are as old as disco no longer work and the owners must see the need for change and then promote the leaders of tomorrow to precipitate this needed change.

“I could go on and on about various aspects of the industry but I don’t want to take up all your time. The automotive industry must take the time to stop and plan for the future. The best starting point would be to get back to the basics–customer service, what/who would make the best managers, and how do we keep the technician happy, as they are the engine of the industry; without them there would be no automotive repair.”

You are probably thinking, “This guy is in the minority, as there are not too many technicians who think like this or have this understanding.” You are wrong.

Many technicians are very skilled at expressing themselves; it’s just that you haven’t taken the time to really get to know this new generation. Many of them keep very well informed on the industry and its issues. Most of your service provider customers are just as guilty as you are, because very few within our industry ever asked for the technician’s input.

The point I would like you to consider is this:

Whether you believe it or not, jobbers do have a big influence on the industry within their marketplace. Consider that it may be very prudent for a jobber to slow down and start to understand the big picture, the perceptions that are out there, and then to start communicating that picture and those perceptions to his own customers.

A jobber could dramatically enhance his business relationships, which builds loyalty, by taking the responsibility to stay abreast of the industry and his marketplace. He should facilitate discussion with and among his customers to promote professional shop management. He should understand how perception shapes the opinions of staff and the public. A positive perception, managed professionally, leads to a healthy bottom line for all.

New Age jobbers will rewrite the rules. New Age jobbers are great listeners. New Age jobbers are prepared to create a clear, long-term vision–a culture for their business–that includes shaping the future of our industry within their own marketplace. This now gives the jobber and his business a purpose beyond the day-to-day.

Are you listening, or are you still doing all the talking? Too many jobbers run their business based on the previous generation’s methods

This industry has changed dramatically; the new generation is better-educated, with higher expectations. The jobber today has no choice but to change the way he does business if he expects to enjoy a professional personal income and healthy bottom line in his business. It is time to listen and to understand each customer’s business in depth.

This will be invaluable to the jobber’s business because he can then focus on the better customers who are prepared to take our sector of the industry to the next level, a level many technicians would like to see. These are the shops that will still be here, and growing, in seven years’ time. These are your future clients. These owners-managers-technicians are your future profits, and you had better get to know and understand them today.

Become a real value to these service providers. Become the leader in your marketplace. Take your responsibility seriously, and watch your jobber business excel.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is president and CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has more than 27 years of business management experience within the automotive industry, counseling individual shops in Ontario, and has developed business management courses for the independent maintenance and service sector proven to enhance the shops’ profitability and grow the business. Bob has also worked with wholesale jobbers on how to do a better job for the service provider by providing valuable insight as to the real challenges faced by the retailer today.

E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive industry, preparing analytical operating statements, personal and corporate tax return completion, business management consultation and employee development. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is devoted to developing automotive shop business management skills through the e-learning environment of the Internet at www.aaec.ca.

Bob can be reached by e-mail at greenwood@ekw.ca or greenwood@aaec.ca.


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