change v.t/i. make different; to enter upon a new phase.
progressive a. moving forward; striving for reform.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Consider that I have had my moustache for over 30 years. My wife, my kids, and her family have never known me any other way. I consider myself to be an open-minded, progressive person who embraces positive change; however on the outside I still appeared the same. I didn’t see that. It took my 18-year-old son to point out the obvious. “You say you are doing things, Dad, but it still looks like the same old Dad to me. Prove to me you are really willing to change. Show me.”
The dare was put in place on Canada Day around the breakfast table, and my youngest son and wife were enjoying the sparring match. I couldn’t back down. It was pretty smart of the kid to corner me like that.
Isn’t it the same with your business? Consider what your jobber business looked like the day you opened the doors for the first time. Now compare this to what it looks like today. I am confident that you will notice some changes; however, has your business ever actually had a real “make-over,” convincingly noticeable to your shop client base?
Most of us fall into the trap of thinking we are changing, and progressing. However, to the outside world everything really still looks the same.
To make radical positive changes to your jobber business is to tell your service provider clients that you recognize that change and progress go together. If you are to be recognized in your marketplace as up-to-date, on top of issues affecting shop owners, they had better see that you can handle it.
Many jobbers are totally stagnant today, not willing to progress and not willing to change. Consider too how it compares with the need for the expansion of inventory due to the technology development of the vehicle. Consider how that attitude compares with the shortage of competent people within our industry and the need to retain the best counter and field sales people. Now, consider how that attitude contrasts with the progression made by the best shop owners in the business.
If you don’t change, if you don’t become seen as a positive, forward-moving jobber business, your client base will notice. Then a perception may develop that you are not capable of handling the way business has to be done in order to deliver value to shop owners today. If you asked, would you expect to hear, “You were great in the past, but now I must seek out someone who is up with the latest technology and business methods required to bring value to my shop now .”
As you know, the wrong perception can kill you.
The argument I hear against this physical change is that it is not worth it. “My customers don’t care about that,” I hear and, “My business is doing okay today.”
Sit back and really think about that statement and compare it to the overall reality in the marketplace for many jobbers.
1. The jobber business is probably strapped for cash now as margins are too low and receivables too out of control to provide the cash resources required to actually make any physical changes. On-going upgrading has not been a top priority, and the thinking now is that it is a matter of just competing until things turn around.
2. Management is obviously saying that they haven’t noticeably changed at all for some time.
3. Management must be saying they are behind in the latest internal computerized technology that would help improve jobber store efficiencies, and enhance the business relationships between the jobber and shop owner. Getting up-to-date would require significant upgrades and reorganization to deliver the value-added services required by professional, progressive shop owners.
4. Management has positioned and marketed their jobber store based on white-box inventories and pricing policies that focus on the lower half of the marketplace, and wouldn’t dare think of striving to be part of the top 10% of the jobber marketplace.
5. Management has attracted a very price-conscious shop customer base, and not a value-focused shop client base.
6. Management lacks vision and progressive, disciplined determination. They are only “determined to stay the same.”
The bottom line? Management is the problem. Management is scared of change and it is using the customer as its excuse, its reason not to act.
For these jobbers, their business will eventually fall by the wayside to become another Canadian statistic.
It takes courage to survive and change. Don’t be afraid to embrace a progressive attitude. Don’t be afraid to move in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to open your mind to new adventuresome possibilities. Don’t be afraid to act. When you do, you will be proud that you are one of the few who can make this type of business very financially successful and personally rewarding, too.
However, be very careful of what conversations you get into around the breakfast table!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.