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What You Don’t Know

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As I write this, it’s my first full day back from the 2014 Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo in Overland Park, Kan.

This was the Ratchet+Wrench team’s second year exhibiting and attending training at the event, which I have found to be among the best of its kind in terms of educational offerings, exhibitors and attendees. Plus, if you’re a fan of barbecue as I am, the restaurants alone should be reason enough to go.

Attending events like Vision allow us to do a few things from an editorial perspective: meet some of our valued readers, introduce the magazine to those who will, hopefully, become new readers, and develop story concepts from both the show floor experience and training seminars.

Leaving Vision this year, I was surprised by the long list of potential articles we were able to put together. We heard about industry trends, struggles and solutions in presentations from experts including ESI’s Maylan Newton and Bill Haas, Automotive Consultants Group’s Scott Wheeler, Danny Sanchez of Autoshop Solutions, Rick White of One Eighty Business Solutions, and others. We mingled with past feature subjects, but also discovered many other stand-out shop operators who had a number of success strategies to share.

From marketing tactics to strategies for better shop throughput to best practices for customer service and more, our heads were stuffed with information. The topics might have been similar to those we’ve heard covered at other events, but there are always different perspectives, real-world anecdotes and commentary from attendees. 

I thought we had a pretty solid direction for content before Vision, but we left better educated and inspired to take the magazine to a higher level. There’s no question that the shop owners, operators and technicians at the event left planning to do the same with their businesses.

It’s an old cliché, but you don’t know what you don’t know. If it’s been a while since you and your staff got out of the shop to attend a trade event or training seminar, I’d recommend you make a point of doing so, regardless of how well you think you’re doing.

Especially in this era of rapid vehicle advances, changing customer behavior and economic uncertainty, shops that isolate themselves will find it hard to survive. When it comes down to it, every shop can improve, and you might be surprised by what you don’t know.

I hope we are bringing you some of that new knowledge in each issue of Ratchet+Wrench. In this month’s cover story, “Small Shop, Big Success,” shop owner Scott Brown shares how his tiny service station in Springfield, Va., manages to generate an incredible $4 million in annual revenue from less than 2,000 square feet of shop space. Staggering a staff of 18 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week helps.  

“We focus on the right people that fit what we’re all about, and I can tell you that I have some of the hardest working, most focused employees you’re going to find,” Brown says. 

And columnist Joe Marconi in this month’s Straight Talk  drives home another reason why all of this education, regardless of where it is sourced, is important: Future generations need to see auto care as viable and appealing.  

“I know how hard this business is and sometimes just getting through the day is an ordeal,” Marconi writes. “But we need to think about tomorrow; what will our lives look like in five years, in 10 years? If your shop is not operating as a business should, then take a long hard look at the person in the mirror and tell that person to do something about it.”

We’ll be here each month to help guide you along the way.

Jake Weyer

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