Jobbers from coast to coast in this country must take the time to do a reality check on their business and their approach to their marketplace.
In my travels around this country, I have found that too many jobbers:
Ignore the changes going on around them.
Don’t enjoy their business or their customers any more.
Seem to approach their day-to-day activities with the attitude “I just want to get through the next few years so I can get out of this.”
If you even hinted at a “that’s true” response to one of those three statements above, then I challenge you to take the following test and to answer the questions honestly and carefully.
Close the door to your office, put up the Do Not Disturb sign, and make notes as you consider your answers to the following questions. Take the time to discover the source for your answers.
Do the top 10 shops in your market area make your store their very first call, always? If not, why not?
Do your field representatives spend more time talking to their customers about the price of parts, or how to enhance net profit in the service provider’s shop? What are you doing to get your customers off the price issue?
List five distinct items of value that your business consistently brings to your customers that other jobbers in your area do not.
Do you really commit to the flag you fly (UAP/NAPA, Bumper to Bumper, Uni-Select, Auto Sense, Bestbuy, Carquest, etc.) in terms of your image and your actions? Do your customers believe that you believe in the company that you are tied into and its vision of the industry?
Do you communicate frequently, and get together regularly, with your peer jobbers flying the same flag in your market, or do you perceive your fellow peers as competition to you?
Does the marketplace perceive that you and the other jobbers in your program are working hard together to “capture” the entire market in your area?
Do you fly the actual flag of your group proudly in front of your store?
Are you up-to-date with your computers and internal systems, or are you still using green screens?
Is your business connected to the Internet? Do you encourage your customers to be connected? Do you help them move to this next level of technology in their office? Do you communicate frequently with your customers by e-mail on business issues, or are you really using e-mail to send too many jokes, perceiving you are keeping up good business relationships?
Do your customers trust you? When you speak, do they listen and act on your advice and recommendations more than 90% of the time? If not, why not?
Do you believe your customers cannot, and will not, change in your market area? Why?
Is the glass half full or half empty in your business?
Each question could warrant a full discussion on its own merit. However, the overall point is to determine if you are a modern progressive jobber, or really from the old school and not willing to change.
Are you a modern progressive jobber, or from the old school
and not willing to change?
Today’s modern jobber has a progressive image in his marketplace, and has a vision for his business and his customer’s business for the next five years. It is a vision that sees both entities growing and prospering together. He is an entrepreneur, not just a salesman with the title “president” or “manager” behind his name.
Most importantly, today’s modern jobber has “DD” disease, and is proud of it: Distinctly Different. These jobbers are a force within their marketplace, and even their peers recognize that.
With the integration of our aftermarket industry continuing down the evolutionary road, as it must, each jobber must step back and really examine the status of his own business, and how it fits within his marketplace during this evolution.
Many WDs and buying groups are working hard to change for these challenging times, but in many cases the relationship with their jobbers is not at the point where the jobber buys in. They have the same problem that my last question highlights.
That having been said, jobbers must not point the finger of blame outside their own business. Come to grips with your own attitudes and the weaknesses within your company.
Slow down and start to address them honestly; then you will see how your past and present beliefs and actions have carried over to your marketplace and created the current level of relationship that you have with your customers. The fact is your future business profits are going to go up, or down, in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship you have with your customers.
It is always easier to criticize than recognize positive progression. It is always easier to complain than compliment. That seems to be the nature of many people in our industry. I am a fortunate person because I know many within this industry who are the opposite. They embrace “DD” disease with a passion, and their personal attitudes and their actions display it proudly. They are different from the rest.
The challenge for every jobber is to stop blaming other market forces, players and customers, and work to improve themselves and their business.
Many jobbers believe their business value is calculated based on current annual sales and profits. There is some merit to that, but I challenge that thinking as being the only criteria. I believe a jobber business today must be valued based on the type of customers it has, and on its future retention of revenue and profits.
If your customers are not financially successful today, focused on growth and prosperity for the next five to seven years, then what is the probability that they will survive and still be in business at that time? How are they doing now? Do they pay their account with you in full each month? Why not?
If your customers are not financially successful now, and lack the know-how and tools to be successful tomorrow, then what are you selling today? Yesterday’s successes?
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.