Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly comprehensive set of laws and corollaries to help me traverse the rough seas and dangerous shoals our industry has us navigate every day. They may be imperfect—even inadequate at times—but without them, I would be lost. They provide a framework of understanding that has guided me through the darkest of times. They help explain the inexplicable and illuminate the unfathomable.
In the end, I know these laws are nothing more than a set of assumptions. But, they are my assumptions and I’ve decided to share at least a few of them with you because I’ve just discovered a new one.
I discovered Schneider’s first law at the very beginning of my career. Simply stated, it suggests, “No job is too hard so long as you are not the one tasked with doing it.” If you think about it, you will probably remember a time when you might not have been as empathetic to someone else’s struggle with a difficult job if you weren’t the one left bruised and bleeding.
Schneider’s second law suggests, “No job is too easy if you are the one doing it!”
The newly discovered law suggests that, “No one goes into business just to go out of business!” It revealed itself to me when it became clear I would have to find a new guardian for my child—not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Until that moment in time I had never thought about selling the business. Certainly not before achieving all the goals and objectives I had established for myself, the business and all of us working there. And yet, here I was, confronted with a truly unpleasant reality and wrestling with a series of unappealing choices.
"Even after all these years, the challenges, the ups and downs, triumphs and failures, it was the truth."
- Mitch Schneider, Owner, Schneider's Auto Repair
The discovery of Schneider’s newest law and the epiphany that followed was prompted by a simple question. It was a question asked by my friend, lead line-tech, ASE certified technician and oldest employee, Javier Acosta: “Mitchell, if you weren’t sick would you still be selling the shop?”
I thought about it for a second and quickly replied, “No … No, I wouldn’t.” Even after all these years, the challenges, the ups and downs, triumphs and failures, it was the truth. Selling the shop was not something I thought I’d ever do.
I know how absurd that must sound. But selling is not something I had ever thought about before I was diagnosed and realized that my body was slowly working to betray me, regardless of how I might be feeling right now.
My parents worked until they were well into their eighties and there was no reason to believe I would do otherwise. Working long after all your friends retired was “normal” in my world. Add to that the impish delight my parents seemed to extract from telling someone they weren’t retired and could be reached “at work,” and then watching the look of surprise in that other person’s eyes was deliciously seductive!
But what I knew, what I believed and what I'd accepted as normal violates another law. It's one of the most important of all the laws of nature: the law of progression. Paraphrased in Ecclesiastes and popularized by the Byrds and Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” it suggests to every time there is a season and that includes laying down the mantle of work. That doesn’t make laying down that mantle any easier, though, and it doesn't change the fact that in order to do that, you must ensure that your business and that metaphorical mantle of work is as profitable as it can be from beginning to end. Otherwise, you will have nothing of value to sell, which might just be the single hardest concept for shop owners to understand and accept!
Your business must be as profitable as it can be from the moment you open the doors until the moment you close escrow or all you will have to sell is inventory and equipment, which will sell for a fraction of what it is worth.
No matter where you are in the normal cycle of most businesses—at the beginning, in the middle or approaching the end—you must accept the fact that you may be asked or forced to sell at any given moment and that means your business had better be as profitable as possible. The business had better be making money, the processes had better be documented and the culture should be a part of the fabric of the business. In essence, your physically being there needs to be irrelevant!
There are other laws, but none stronger than the laws of nature and human nature. They are the laws that tie us together, compel us to find partners, start families, form groups and create communities. Laws of nature are primal; as old as time itself. It was one of these laws that forced me to re-evaluate my situation at work and my responsibilities to my family and recognize where I needed to be and what I needed to be doing both now and in the future.