Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2003   by Robert Greenwood

MYOB: Are your staff trained to make you the first call?

You should not be surprised to hear that your future lies in large part on the skills of your staff.

Jobbers, coupled with shop owners, are beginning to recognize some common denominators that are present in their business today. They include increased and diverse competition, the need to deliver greater value and customer satisfaction, and internal business requirements to control operating costs.

These facts push to the surface the recognition that the old ways of marketplace selling will not work in our future. It must be acknowledged now in order to improve the health and prosperity of the jobber’s business.

Consider that over the past 30 years, jobbers won sales orders by going head-to-head with the shop owner. The shop owner lined up the jobbers’ sales reps and looked at the best deal. The acute penalty for this method of carrying on business is that the jobber realizes substantially reduced margins, has tense shop relationships, and the shop owner remains focussed on price rather than on the value delivered by their business.

Thankfully, a new understanding of business is emerging within the marketplace. Jobbers are realizing that in order to increase their share of business, and attract the best shops to grow the business, educating customers on services offered makes sound financial sense.

Competing with other supplier companies on overall services available to a shop owner–services that enhance the profitability of the shop–provides real-value competition rather than just price competition. The jobber realizes it is just too hard to win on price and sustain proper margin. When the math is recalculated, he can compete openly on value services.

The obvious problem that arises from going to this level of business is that it will require a retraining of the current sales force, and perhaps even bringing in some new talent from other businesses that are already trained in this way of doing business.

The key to changing the way a jobber’s business appears on the outside is to change the inside first. This does mean, however, that jobber management must overcome three main challenges.

The first challenge is to address the considerable resistance to change throughout the business. When your system has been the same for 25 years and staff don’t see what the problem is, they are obviously going to ask why it needs changing.

The key to changing the way a jobber’s business appears on the outside is to change the inside first.

The second challenge is the requirement to create a whole new skill set among the current staff. This potentially involves merging them with new recruits that have very different skills.

The third and biggest challenge is changing the behaviour of existing sales staff.

To accomplish this, jobbers must seriously consider new techniques and systems that challenge everyone to raise the bar.

First, consider the better shop owners today realize that because of vehicle technology development and a more educated consumer, they do not sell parts to install; they sell service solutions to their chosen clientele. It would be very wise for the jobber to elevate his thinking to the same level. Consider moving your jobber business from selling products to selling business solutions. This creates the tie-in of developing a strong one-on-one relationship with your jobber store and the service shop. Relationships build loyalty, and with loyalty value has been created. Consequently, jobber parts volume can increase at a higher margin.

To accomplish this, consider an on-line learning course that teaches the entire jobber’s staff about the shop owner’s business and what it takes to drive, and sustain, a shop owner’s business bottom line today. Consider If everyone within the jobber business has to pass this course, it gives management an excellent measuring tool as to the progress of each person within the company.

Second, consider a direct link on all sales reps’ laptop computers, and store computers, to the following web sites: and, which allows store representatives and jobber staff to have access to on-going, industry specific, information to assist them with marketplace issues that may affect their customer. Refer to these sites daily, along with their links, to stay on top of industry development and change.

Third, consider developing a format throughout your jobbing business where everyone within the store fully understands the vocabulary of how to deal with shop customers. This system creates a relationship understanding with shop management. This system creates the clear message that the shop you do business with is the reason the jobber store is open; that it is your goal to ensure that you never let them down.

The jobber staff must understand that the purpose of this over-all change in how business is to be done, is so that the shops the store does business with can clearly identify that they are dealing with a team at the jobber store, and not just with one person who looks after a geographical territory. It is the team that meets all the shop’s needs.

Many jobbers across Canada may have a problem identifying with this change in strategy. Clearly, it is time for jobber owners and managers to re-evaluate their individual position in the marketplace. It is also time to re-evaluate the profitability of their individual jobber store.

The trends are pointing in the direction of smaller margins, as well as the big one no one seems to be talking about: fewer shops.

Beating up WDs and manufacturers on price is not the solution, as their margins are under pressure also. The real way to grow jobber profitability, with proper, sustained margins, is to deliver real-value business solutions to chosen shops. This is really a business investment since one can clearly measure the financial results. Increased parts volume per shop, at proper margin, in relation to the value provided, creates the bottom line required to grow a jobber business today.

Finally, everyone throughout our industry, at every level, must realize change strategy is not a 30-or 90-day trip. It will become a never-ending journey for the jobber store that it must follow as the metamorphosis of our industry continues. The important point is to get started and not to procrastinate to see if things over the next year will change back to the way they were. They won’t . And if you wait, you are now another year behind your competition, or a year closer to the store’s demise.

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

Bob can be reached by e-mail at or

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