Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2014   by Auto Service World

No Silver Bullet

Perusing the responses to this year’s Annual Shop Survey, it’s interesting to note just how many of those who took the time to respond ended up suggesting that you, the jobber, focus on a number of factors to keep their business.
It is true that though the list – quality products, quality service, quality personal relationships, and proper pricing – is not particularly long, it is certainly multidimensional. Respondents were not apt to suggest that if you would do only one thing, that they would pledge their undying loyalty.
And this is as it should be. In business, as in life, and in sport for that matter, managing the complex factors that breed true long-term success goes beyond any single move, even if we might wish it to be so.
It’s human nature to look for simple solutions, the “silver bullet” that will slay our competition (figuratively speaking of course), but we all know that it’s never that simple.
When thinking about honing and refining so many moving parts, I’m always reminded of my much younger days when my evenings and weekends were spent karting with my father Eryk, as detail-oriented a crew chief as you’d ever find.
Numerous tweaks to both the equipment and my driving gave us some fair bit of success back then. I couldn’t help noticing that while many of our competitors were found at shops trying to buy this or that magic fuel additive, I’d spend hours filing down the edges of a piston, smoothing engine ports, adjusting the chassis, ensuring that sprockets and gears lined up perfectly, and of course, putting in more than a few laps to keep on top of my game.
In a sport where there was very little difference in equipment from one competitor to the next, it was really a question of gaining a little here and a little there. I used to explain it to people this way: if, on average, I can gain one-half of one-tenth of a second (0.05 sec) each corner and straight of a typical 10-turn track each lap (typically less than a minute long), through this or that slight change, tire pressure, gearing, various other setups, and not actually making so many mistakes (you always make some), that’s half a second a lap. In five laps, I’d have gained two seconds, and in 10 the gap is virtually insurmountable.
I want to be clear here that we didn’t always win (far from it), but we definitely had more success on less money than most. A lot less money.
Now racing is not the same as running a business, which requires a much more sustained approach to performing well against the competition, but it is also a game of incremental improvement.
And there is another common aspect: There are lots of excuses out there about why some perform better than others. As long as business owners and those who work for them fall back on this or that excuse, they simply can never expect to be a high-performing business, and that goes for jobbers and the shops they sell to alike.
In the end it’s really about the approach of the people in charge. The fact is that the folks in charge usually know what needs to be done, but don’t do it – because it’s hard, or different, or both.
Winning takes courage. To do things that are hard, and to try things that you haven’t done before, takes resolve. First you have to admit that there’s room for improvement. And put a bullet, silver or otherwise, in the excuses that keep you from trying.
—Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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