Many good service provider shops are making a solid effort to improve their circumstances. It has not been easy for them. Change is difficult for any business, but these shops have made the effort and the results are there.
I have talked with many of these shop owners and they have reached their tolerance level with the jobbers in the market that insist on conducting their business affairs with no regard for the value they deliver to their customer.
Many jobbers are still not familiar with basic computerization and store technology, as too many are still trying to work their jobber business with green screens instead of modern, more efficient, systems.
They have ignored the Internet, and the value that this technology provides, and how it assists their customer base to serve them more efficiently. The Internet can provide knowledge for jobbers and their representatives, and enhance communications with customers. These jobbers don’t even have an e-mail address, which would allow progressive shop owners to communicate quickly in real time as their time allows.
Better shops have embraced technology and do their best to stay up with it, as it has allowed the management of that shop to better organize itself, in order to measure what is really going on in the business.
Many progressive shops measure their business better than their jobbers, and believe me they know it.
Many sales reps are not allowed to have any real authority with their customers, and it frustrates progressive shop owners when the rep constantly has to say, “I’ll have to check on that,” or, “Leave it with me, and I will get back to you.”
Better shop owners have learned to train and delegate to the people that they trust. If a jobber can’t or won’t train its own people to develop a professional relationship with the shop it is doing business with, and doesn’t trust its own people in the field, what does it really say about that jobber’s management?
Consider that there are still many jobber-owners who do not respect the service provider business and the challenges facing the service provider today. The progressive shop owners see this in the attitude of the jobber management.
One example that is very clear to the better shops out there is the value of a professional, trustworthy relationship with their customers. When those shop owners make a recommendation to their clients that they have worked very hard to develop a relationship with, their clients listen and heed the shop owner’s advice. Their shop clients trust them.
How many jobbers can say that they have a valuable, professional, trustworthy relationship with their service provider customer? When the jobber owner makes a recommendation, such as attending a specific training course, does the shop owner heed the advice and act upon it?
The fact is that often the jobber does not have that kind of relationship in place, and consequently blames all his customers for never wanting to participate in anything the jobber tries to do.
“I try but those garages don’t want to do anything. They never do,” says the jobber. How about understanding the service provider’s point that “you haven’t earned my trust yet. It sounds like you are trying to sell me something. Prove for once that I really win and not just you.” Many progressive shop owners have seen this happen and wonder why the jobber doesn’t understand the problem.
Now, this is not another dirty hit list of complaints. The purpose here is to point out the fact that this industry, at the wholesale level, is not progressive enough. Too many jobber owners operate just like the shops they hate to do business with. They always have an excuse not to change and progress to a more professional level.
Consider that progressive jobbers attract the more progressive shop owners. They also have a tendency to attract the larger shops in the market area. Consider that when jobbers offer true value and not gimmicks to their customers, the jobber’s customers are not price shoppers, but really appreciate the effort the jobber is making and are very conscious about bringing in excess of 85% of the shop’s business to that jobber.
Consider that the progressive jobbers lead their marketplace and become the voice of that marketplace because that jobber is a credible player.
Consider that you just don’t hear progressive jobbers blaming their lack of profits on their customers. Progressive jobbers don’t talk about all the non-professional shops out there because they prefer to bring to your attention their best customers and what a thrill, and challenge, it is to keep up with them.
The progressive shop owners wish this jobber was typical in the industry today, but they know it just doesn’t exist as a rule.
A jobber can influence so much in a marketplace, but when he runs his jobber business as a one-sided affair, his own affair, with no regard for the service provider shops he does business with, you have to ask what the future is of the independent shops in that marketplace. Without a good, progressive jobber taking the responsibility for marketplace development, the future is very bleak indeed.
Yes Mr. (and Ms) Jobber, you really do have that much power. The best shops in your marketplace just wish you understood that and took it very seriously. The entire independent sector would benefit from it handsomely. The progressive shops know that if you want a thing you never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done. They know this because it is what the best shops have had to do to become the best.
It is time to slow down and re-evaluate your jobbing business and the value you bring to each shop. Re-examine every customer. Re-evaluate the volume level and gross profit level you could take them to if you focused on them. Re-evaluate the level you can take your own business to by embracing technology and getting focused on your marketplace.
I am confident that, once you have done your homework, you will be able to achieve an additional 3% to 5% growth in additional gross profit percentage points within your business. In a $1,000,000 business, that is an additional $30,000 to $50,000 gross profit. It is also net profit.
If you have another 10 years left in your jobber business, that type of focus represents an additional $300,000 to $500,000. Now, with that opportunity, it’s worth your time.
The only limits to the possibilities in your business tomorrow are the “buts” you use today.
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.