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A Tale of Two Industries

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This is a tale of two Industries. Perhaps, more than that, it is an exercise in self-awareness—the ability to explore and accurately assess one’s current reality.

Self-awareness is possibly the single most human of all capacities. But, to be human is to recognize that our awareness is based upon our experience, perception and preferences—what we know, what we believe, what we choose and what we choose to see.

I had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon through the eyes of a good friend, colleague and former shop owner when he returned to the industry as an independent sales representative for a leading aftermarket software developer soon after he sold his shop.

When he owned his shop he was everything a shop owner ought to be. His shop was clean, professionally run and staffed by ASE-certified technicians. He was active in the industry and his life was rich in the relationships he shared with many of the professionals he knew through the industry and associations he actively supported.

And those other professionals he came in contact with were invariably just like him. They cared about the same things he cared about. They shared the same values, the same vision. They aspired to achieve the same goals and pursued similar objectives. They fought for the same heroes and against the same villains and even when they disagreed, they did so with an element of respect and understanding. To him, this was the automotive service aftermarket—his automotive service aftermarket.

That was until the sky opened and the fog lifted, until he ventured outside the safe, cloistered environment of his world. It seems the industry he knew was not fully representative of the industry as it is. In fact, it wasn’t even close. The industry he knew was apparently the tip of the iceberg, the part he saw above the waterline.

It was composed of the shops that were affiliated, engaged and committed. It was made up of the shops that were fully insured, staffed with certified technicians who were paid a professional’s wage on the books and not under the table. It wasn’t the industry that exists below the waterline, the part that remains hidden, that every successful shop owner I know has either left behind or never seen.

The industry in which he found himself suddenly immersed wasn’t anything like the industry he knew, despite the fact it had all but surrounded him.

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These were shops without adequate technical resources, technicians working without guidance, supervision, the right tools, appropriate training or the benefit of a living wage. He saw owners unwilling to manage and unable to lead, and pricing models that were antiquated and inadequate decades ago. It was as if he was finally able to see the industry as it is, not as he and his colleagues had willed it to be.

We need to see the industry as a whole, with all of its imperfections and inadequacies. We need to see the industry that exists beneath the waterline in order to fully understand how far we have yet to go to improve our reputation as an industry.

You need to see the industry as it really is because you, like my friend, might not feel compelled to change anything if what you see and what you know doesn’t leave you feeling uncomfortable.

If you truly want to change the industry, you will have to do more than just see it for what it is. You’ll need to get wet, because the shop owners who need you, your knowledge and your experience most, work deep below the water line. We need to reach out to them, especially those shop owners who want more—especially those shop owners who have seen there is an industry that exists above the water line, even if reaching out starts out simply enough with an introduction and a handshake.

Let’s talk to each other, let each other know we exist. Let’s talk about where we want our businesses to go, what we want this industry to achieve. Learn from your peers and help guide others who want to grow to your level.

This is a tale of two industries—the one we see and are a part of and the one we choose not to see. But, they both exist in the same physical space and because they do it becomes our collective responsibility to ensure that the majority of shops, the bulk of the industry, is above the water line and not below it. It’s our responsibility create one industry: powerful, positive, successful, vital and vibrant. An industry that we all can be proud to be a part of. 


Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at mitchschneidersworld.com. Contact him at mschneider@ratchetandwrench.com.

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