As I write this article, I am on the flight home from attending the AIA annual convention in Penticton, B.C.
I was very disturbed by the lack of jobbers attending this important event. This convention was extremely informative and provided valuable information and numerous necessary tools and information for the jobber to take back to his installer customers. This information allows the jobber to provide true value for the installer, and assist the installer in moving his business to the level required to address today’s issues. And when the installer moves forward the jobbing store moves forward, too.
If you were one of the jobbers who came up with the typical excuse for not attending–price, lack of time, that it’s not that important–then you need to assess the true nature of your relationship with your installer customers. A jobber like this is using the identical excuses his customers use to explain why they don’t participate in activities that their jobber comes up with.
By not attending this convention, you have lost big time this year. I believe you have made a huge strategic error in judgement for your business that could set you back a year, a year that no one in our industry can afford to lose in these turbulent times.
This is a new era in the aftermarket business. The ’80s and ’90s are over. This is the age of relationship building between installer and jobber, the age of providing value to the installer customer. It is required for a professional jobbing business to move forward and be profitable. Too many jobbers are not profitable, as their installer customers are also not profitable, because both parties are running their businesses based on price. If you’re not profitable–do the math–your days are numbered. The AIA convention addressed the issues and laid out a road map that will enhance a jobber’s and installer’s business. It truly clarified the real issues.
Why is this relationship issue the issue today, and why is this annual event so important?
It is because the installer’s business is changing so dramatically. The next three to five years are going to be the most challenging years an installer business will face, more challenging than any in the past 10. It is the same for the jobbers, warehouse distributors and manufacturers, businesses.
It will be a professional business relationship of working together–the jobber and the installer, and the jobber, WD and manufacturer–to create the net profit required to get through the challenges that will ensure that they are here in five years’ time.
If a jobber does not understand how to build a professional relationship with the installer customer and bring value to the installer, then the only thing the jobber relies on is price. Prices can’t go any lower; they are too low now. The fact is, too, that there are too many jobbers for the number of good installers out there. Any business today, at any level, that relies solely on price is on its death bed. Its days are numbered.
The convention, as always, provided a central, unbiased forum where the entire industry was literally in one room. The decision makers, the action players themselves were all there. It is the one function each year where one continues to learn about his industry and business, clearly defining issues, present and future.
It allows the jobber to focus and understand the direction his business must take to survive and to build net income. It is also the forum where the jobber learns about the total installer issues coming up that affect the installer’s net income potential.
The annual AIA convention is the jobber’s continuing education course, and too many jobbers played hooky.
Imagine if there was a surprise test tomorrow on the information and strategies presented, and it counted for 70% of your year’s mark. Imagine, too, that if you fail your customers can potentially fail.
By not attending, you lost out on helping your installers to possibly survive and prosper well into the future. Many are close to failure today. Consider that if your installer customers fail, who is right behind them? Consider seriously also, that is a responsibility you, the jobber, are taking far too lightly.
Many serious installer issues need to be addressed and your better customer will be looking to you for answers. Consider how to explain the upcoming OBD II issue to your installers and what it means to them, and you, and why. Consider how to explain the new technology development required in an installer’s and jobber’s business and why. Consider how to explain what i-Shop is and why it is critical to the installer’s bottom line. Consider the effect of actions being taken by car manufacturers to impose technology lockout and how to handle this with the consumer. Consider how to explain the integration of the industry and its margin reduction, and why and how it is going to affect the installer’s and jobber’s business. Consider, too, how to explain the WD’s actions, directions, and issues in the marketplace and what they mean to the installer and jobber business.
These issues and many more were clearly laid out at the convention, as were solutions. But you had to be in class to hear them. The class this year was in Penticton, B.C., and if you were not there, consider re-reading the road map you are using.
What road are you on that ensures that your business, and your installer customer’s business, will realize net profit growth over the next three to five turbulent years? What do you truly think the real cost to your business was for not participating this year?
Consider that the better installers look at critical information on the industry, issues, and trends, as a value the better jobbers can bring to the table. When the relationship of clear, informed communication is in place and a jobber can offer true value to an installer’s business, the price of parts become secondary; the value delivered is creating far more profit for the installer’s business than another 5% off on parts.
The message here is “slow down, get focused!” Revisit your business’s strategic direction and how it is going to involve the right installers, ensuring growth and prosperity for them and your store.
P.S. Oh yes, one final thing, the recess periods at school this year were just fantastic and you missed those too!