Many jobbers throughout Canada seem to have developed a fear of changing the ways they conduct their business, and of adapting to new processes that go against the pattern they have become accustomed to. This, I believe, will become the ultimate challenge for the average jobber in 2004, as the jobber business has changed drastically from just the selling of parts.
In order to move the jobber business forward, jobber/shop relationships must be fortified, and real business value must be created for the customers of the jobber’s store. If you were wondering how to add value, or what issues to address and solve for your customer base and your jobber store this coming year, consider this list of various topics:
Keeping your customer base on top of industry issues that affect their shop profitability, through a monthly newsletter attached to your monthly statement.
Taking ownership of the process by which a shop client’s profitability is planned and is improved, by assisting them in creating a business plan.
Managing the client’s profitability by becoming a counsellor on key profit-creating items such as measuring and improving shop productivity.
Relationships are best managed through knowledge and insight. Your business is going to go up in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship that you have with your clients. Answer honestly: 1. Do I know the names of the clients who compose half of my jobber business profitability? 2. Do I know their current and future needs? 3. Can I predict what these clients will expect from us this year? 4. Do I truly understand my most important clients’ requirements? Knowledge truly is the competitive edge today.
Just as employee reviews should be done twice a year, consider completing a proper shop client review, listing the strengths and weaknesses of each client and where your store can assist in turning their weaknesses into their strengths. This is a big one, but when you take it on and complete it, it will prove to be the most enlightening exercise you have ever done in your business career with your customer base.
Having the jobber owner and all field people attend a shop-specific business management course with a handful of your top shop customers, in order to learn the ins and outs of proper shop management as well as fully understanding all current shop issues. This would allow you to approach and address shop issues with confidence. It will also start the ball rolling towards developing a true shop clientele, as discussed later in this article.
In order to achieve or deliver business values at this level, the jobber requires all the shop’s first call loyalty, at proper margin, and paid in full monthly. Many jobbers complain there is no shop loyalty to a jobber store. Understand the definition of loyalty: Loyalty is just the lack of a better alternative, which means the jobber has to take action before things start to happen. Consider setting your business plan so there is no better alternative to the shop owner.
Consider that in our June 30, 2003 statistical report, we asked shop owners on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being poor and 10 being exceptional) how they would rate their business relationship with their jobber. The average was “3.” We then asked, on the same scale measurement, how they would rate their jobber’s ability to serve their future needs. The average answer was “6.” The answers are not stellar by any means; however it points out that the average shop feels their relationship with their supplier requires definite improvement and that they feel the jobber, with some effort thrown in, can contribute to the shop’s future needs. This opportunity for the jobber is standing on the doorstep. However it is up to the jobber to take action, and to have the conviction to see it through.
In our statistical survey, 38% of the participants were prepared to pay their jobber an additional 3% premium if they delivered proper value-added services to the shop business. Obviously this is a far cry from 100% of the shops, but once again it opens the door of opportunity when handled correctly by the jobber.
Start the ball rolling in your market area. Consider developing a true clientele where the jobber business has 20 to 25 top client shops. Start by setting your objective to obtain one shop a month, and bring this shop to this client relationship level this year. Develop the relationship with these chosen shops to the point where these shops have total loyalty to the jobber business because of the value the jobber brings to the table for them. Manage this relationship to a win/win strategy. It will begin a process that will give you an incredible jobber store within two years.
Finally, consider that we asked survey participants, what was their biggest business challenge with their shop? The number one challenge, answered by 56% of shop participants, was having the self-discipline to manage the business. Now sit back and think about the opportunities with that acknowledgement. What if you, the jobber, were able to assist the shop owner to achieve his business and personal goals? Imagine the relationship of mutual trust. Imagine the personal satisfaction of having made a contribution to the success of the shop’s business. Imagine the reduced stress in your life because you decided to deliver business added-value to your shop clientele.
Consider addressing the challenge of addressing the challenges of your customer base this year. The opportunity for your business is here now. The question that must be asked is, is your attitude and outlook one of adopting to new positive processes and mind-sets that open the doors for business opportunity, or are you one of the jobbers who is forever a naysayer?
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.