Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

MYOB: Will the Every-Man-For-Himself Approach Leave No Man Standing?

Over the past two months, the frustration of doing business today has been become more and more obvious. I have had three calls from three different jobbers from different parts of the country who are fed up and want to just get out.

Why? The race to the bottom.

They say they can’t believe their peers and the way they still conduct their business and marketplace affairs, continuing to market their business based on price, only coupled with moving inferior parts (white-box) as their norm. “They don’t have the b_ _ _ _ to change and deliver the right message to the service provider that would make the improvements required to secure our future aftermarket. They live for today and today only,” is what they are telling me.

Make no mistake about it, there are a great many frustrated puppies in our industry.

Although in the minority, there are jobbers out there who do see the error in this approach. They have made the physical and philosophical changes to their business which are required to really secure a profitable future. Now they are looking at their own peers and shaking their head in wonderment. Which brings me to a strange word: “coopetition.”

In every city that I have visited in Canada where there are several jobbers waving the same jobber/WD banner, I have never run into one where a jobber has had any success at image partnering with his fellow banner peers to really own the marketplace. All groups are guilty on this issue. Never once has a jobber manager or owner said to me, “My fellow banner peers and I have a marketplace strategy of total cooperation to knock out, and keep out, the banner competition from the top 40% of the shops in this marketplace.”

Instead these jobbers compete head-to-head against each other, affiliate against affiliate, often right in front of the service provider customer.

Now, think about what this says about your WD banner name that you wave in front of the service provider’s face. What does it tell the shop owner about how you view your peers? What does it say about your business acumen and professionalism? What does it say to the marketplace about you?

In fact, many service shops sit back laughing and watch the show. Jobbers really lose a lot of credibility here, because they truly contradict themselves. One jobber waves his banner, crowing about how great he is, but will do anything to knock out his banner peer to obtain the business from the shop, conveying an every-man-for-himself image and attitude. These jobbers strut their stuff: “I am a self-employed individual and I will do what I want.” Wow!

Perhaps it is time to address this issue, since there are so few good shops remaining in most marketplaces. The bottom line is that good shops are required for a successful jobber business to sustain a profitable future, and there are too many jobbers within the marketplace for the number of good shops out there.

Consider picking up the telephone and calling your fellow banner peers to arrange an evening meeting, to start the process of devising a proper business strategy for all of you to capture all of the business from the top 40% shops within your marketplace under your WD banner name. The objectives are:

1. To make your WD banner name number one.

2. To remain number one within your marketplace.

3. To maintain proper margins required to create the required jobber net income.

4. To deliver the necessary enhanced business value to shops that greatly enhances their own bottom line.

5. To never, ever let these service providers down!

Now I’m sure there are some of you out there just chuckling at this suggestion, because you can’t see yourself getting together with many of the jobbers within your network to discuss such a strategy. Okay, so what does this really mean for your future then? How is your stress level?

There are probably some WD personnel out there wondering how such a thought could even come to mind. Perhaps it is time for the WD to become far better at communicating to the jobbers their vision and five-year action plan to capture the marketplace.

Some of the very best jobbers don’t understand how the WDs are going to do this yet.

There are probably others who think this means getting together and fixing prices. Wrong! It means getting together to discuss and formalize a plan to knock out the competition by capturing absolute first-call status from the top 40% of the shops within the marketplace, by working as a group to provide better service than anyone else.

This is real “coopetition.”

For example, consider collectively stocking the right parts, maintaining the best counterpeople, best field people, and most efficient technology, and allowing the jobber to always deliver the right part fast. This way you can collectively deliver true shop business value that really helps a shop owner to continually grow his bottom line, while at the same time reducing the stress level his business generates.

Obviously this is going to require some thinking to work things out internally for each jobber store, but the rewards are very meaningful. Store communication is greatly enhanced. The jobbers capture necessary market share, increase their bottom line, and become well respected by shop owners and managers. The jobber exudes professionalism, and shop owners enjoy the financial benefits for their own business for the total business value brought to the table by the WD jobber banner group.

Finally, there are many out there who think this is some kind of bubble or la-la-land idea, and just doesn’t address reality. To them I say, “You are the jobbers and the WD staff that the most exceptional, most frustrated jobbers are talking about.”

It is time to get out from behind your desk, get into the grassroots marketplace, and listen to what is really being said. Don’t just hear what you want to hear. There are many tremendous people within our industry who are going to be hurt financially, and with financial hurt comes tremendous emotional decay. All this because our sector of the industry refuses to change.

I have had the privilege of meeting many of these people over my career, and I always struggle with the question of why we, as an industry, continue to do this to ourselves. Perhaps the answer is that there are too many people just trying to collect a paycheque until their time is up, instead of taking pride in what they do and making the effort to make a real difference in the industry over their career.

Consider the possibilities if the majority of the people in our industry, at every level, joined the industry’s progressive minority, and for the next five years, truly became dedicated to making a difference, contributing to the transformation of the aftermarket that is needed.

This is “coopetition” and I believe, should it come to fruition, it would create an absolutely phenomenal industry for the next generation to take over.

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