Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2002   by Auto Service World

Now It Gets Personal

I’m sure you’ve all gotten over my column of last month by now. You are acutely aware of the fact that it was intended to highlight a perception problem among many technicians about trainers, a problem that has its roots, unfortunately, in reality.

I am sure, too, that you took this in the spirit in which it was meant and haven’t precipitously flung said copy of the magazine across the room in full fury of indignation. I am sure of these things because of one simple fact: I respect you.

Respect is, of course, the root of all successful business dealings. It is also the root of all successful relationships, both business and personal. If you lose respect for a friend, it’s hard to keep thinking of him as a friend. If you lose–or fail to gain–respect for a customer, it will affect the way you deal with him.

It will also affect the way he deals with you, because you will behave badly and he will fail to gain respect for you.

Respect, it is said, must be earned. I disagree. I believe that you should enter a relationship, in business or personal life, with a kind of respect for the other: the kind of respect that allows you to accept that the other person knows their business better than you, that they know their own abilities better than you, and that they have the right to make decisions based on their own mind, regardless of what you might think about it.

Respect is also, it would seem, something that is often lacking in many of the conversations I have with others about our industry. I’ll bet you have experienced the same.

How many times have you thrust your palm to your forehead in disbelief at the actions of a customer or a supplier? Enough times to leave a mark is my guess.

It’s an action usually followed by an insult, though sometimes unspoken. Pick one: What an idiot! Are they crazy? What a tool! I’m sure you can add to the list.

Think about it in these terms: What was your reaction the last time you threw a training clinic and few if any technicians showed up? I’m thinking it was something like “don’t these guys know what’s good for them?”, possibly followed by one of the aforementioned insults.

Okay, maybe not by you. After all, you’re far more professional than that, a fact I respect you for. However, I have heard tell of cases where little respect is shared among individuals working at various levels of the industry, individuals who, like it or not, are partners in business.

I know it can be hard to pull back on the rhetoric and be less quick to judge in this industry. This has been a male-dominated industry since day one. We often treat each other like brothers–real brothers, and all that that implies in the way of rivalry, impoliteness and brawling.

What we need to do is take a step back on occasion and realize that, if we don’t get the response we want, perhaps we haven’t provided the right stimulus. Get infrequent, indifferent service from a rep? Maybe you should treat him, or her, better than a toothache. Have a bunch of technicians who won’t come to training? Maybe you should ask them why. Puzzled by the lack of motivation among your own staff? Maybe you need to ask yourself what you’re doing wrong.

I am not for a minute suggesting that we have to eliminate everything that is real about this industry or the people in it, where laughs come easy and “fuck you” is a term of endearment, but there are times when we need to look past the casual attitudes and communicate like adults engaged in business.

The starting point is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Sock it to me! —Andrew Ross, editor


In the July issue you’ll get the full story on John Zuk’s Automotive Trade Supply, the 2002 Jobber of the Year. Plus: Cabin Air Filters, A/C Parts and more on tap.

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