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Coming Together as an Industry

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How's it going for you as we head into the fall season? Can't you just smell the opportunity in the air? Or are you hanging back, watching what's going on in the industry and waiting to see where it leads you? Maybe you're in your glory, boasting about how great auto repair is and how the future is bright. Or, maybe you’re complaining about how bad it is and the numerous challenges that exist. Whatever you’re up to, if you're still opening your doors every day, you are attempting to connect and grow.

I relate to both ends of the spectrum. I'm always looking to grow but I also see obstacles all over the place. For example, I’m in the process of hiring a technician for my shop and the pool of applicants is slim, to say the least. It requires a lot of work and effort to find the right person for your team and your culture. It’s disheartening and it makes me question our industry.

Another obstacle that has me concerned is the widening gap between what drivers need to know and what they actually do know. I can see and feel that gap all the time. History shows that what one generation does to rebuild, the next generation will enjoy. I think that has happened in our industry. When people refer to “all you guys in the industry,” it’s confusing to me. As far as I know, there is no one such entity. We’ve come a long way over the past 40 years; I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we’ve spent a fortune of time and money on tools, software, updates and equipment.

However, drivers’ first thoughts are still fearful. You know the benchmark is low when money becomes the only common denominator. The state of our industry is subpar and I don’t need any charts or data to validate this. I know it every single day when I answer the phone and the person on the other end asks for a diagnosis or price quote.

Unfortunately, drivers missed the memo about maintenance and being a responsible, accountable driver. There’s no judgment on my end! I get it: I was one of many from my generation who thought, “Ignore it” and just put black tape over the check engine light. But the fact remains, they missed the memo.

In some ways, it’s like we’re still in 1970. Customers try to haggle and use inferior parts. They compare apples to oranges and expect the same juice. It’s no wonder people are confused and don’t understand the value of maintenance! The reality is, it’s the 21st century and they should not have to suffer.

That’s where you come in: It’s your job to be their guiding light. You don’t need to go on a mission trip to make a difference. You’re needed in your own backyard! Too many people I know have been injured because of an accident related to poor maintenance. There have been countless blowouts I could tell you about. Just last week, a customer’s car stalled out and the person behind her didn’t realize it and crashed right into her.

The next generation of both repairers and drivers will thank us if we look out for them and help retrain the mentality regarding maintenance. Any kind of positive influence––no matter how big or how small––is movement. I can’t say it enough: We need to do something. And that “we” is key. It’s you and me collectively that make up the industry. It’s an open market and I see opportunities all over the place to reach and connect with drivers now.   

I believe, as an industry, it is imperative that we reach the next generation. We need to be where they are, talk like them and support their interests. Why? It’s simple: They feed and sustain us. Their generation is going to be taking care of us. They’re both our future drivers and shop owners. We need them to sustain our businesses both as customers and as all-star employees that can take over when we’re ready for the next chapter of our lives.

I know what you’re all thinking: How do we do that? Well, have you been around any 2–40 year olds lately? Then you know they’re glued to their phones. Social media is the platform to share how your shop shines at the service your provide. There are a ton of forums, groups and resources out there that you can and should take advantage of to promote your shop.

It’s obviously a big topic, and one I can’t cover in a single column. So, consider this a little teaser for what I’m going to share in my session at the conference later this month.

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