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Scratching the Niche?

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Writing that headline made me laugh. For those of you who know me fairly well, you’re well aware that I like puns—and often make them, along with other “regular” jokes that are met with, well, let’s just say, mixed results. I mean, I think they’re funny (most of the time), but I get it: Some crowds are tougher than others. For instance, my wife rarely finds me funny; my 5-year-old thinks I’m hilarious. 

You win some, you lose some, and you can’t make everyone happy all the time, right?

(Do you see where I’m going with this yet?)

This month, our lead story is about a new focus on specialization among many independent shops across the country—a demographic that is often referred to as “general repair.” And that’s where the debate in the future of this industry comes in: Are the days of the true general repair shop fading away? With the advent of newer, more sophisticated vehicles—and the immense amount of training, tooling and equipment necessary to repair them—can your business continue its quest to serve every customer who might come in the door, regardless of the make and model of the vehicle? I’d have to guess that you had an instinctive and immediate answer in your head to that last question. Most folks across the industry are adamantly on one side or the other of this conversation.  

In the story that our associate editor Megan Gosch put together, she highlights a handful of operations that have taken to specialization and carved out their own, clearly defined niches in their markets. Their success has a lot to do with that approach, and certainly their reputations were built on it. 

Now, specialization can mean different things to different businesses. Maybe for some, it’s focusing on certain makes of vehicles. Maybe to others, it’s certain types of repairs. Maybe, it’s about demographics of customers. There are different ways to specialize and find your niche in a market. But, regardless of your approach, there comes a point where you realize that you can’t be everything to everyone. It’s not possible, and spreading yourself that thin will only negatively impact what your true core competencies are. 

The takeaway from this month’s story (and the overall dialogue around the topic): Focus on your niche, know who you are, and build your success off that. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, so focus on those you can. For me, I’ve just explained to my wife that she isn’t in the intended niche audience for my jokes. She didn’t find that funny, either.

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