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The Power of Peer Networking

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Staying on top of industry trends is not only essential, but also a valuable part of making your business successful. In order to grow your automotive business, you must be willing to change.

Jeff Odom, shop owner of Evergreen AutoWorks, a dual mechanical and collision repair shop in Bothell, Wash., has worked to actively grow his shop by staying in tune with what’s going on in the industry as well as how others are doing business.

“To build the business, create an environment where people want to work, and have something that can live beyond the owner—I think that’s [where] personal development, to me, is really important,” Odom says.

Aside from focusing on in-house training and making a point to create leaders out of his staff,  Odom has spent a majority of nearly 20 years hanging out with a crew outside of his business that has inspired him to grow: a 20 Group.

“It’s been so many years and I’m still learning,” Odom says. “Not only learning, but I need that accountability; as a shop owner, who is holding you accountable?”

To stay ahead in the industry and make the most out of your time, Odom shares his suggestions on how to participate in an automotive group and what to do in order to effectively bring lessons back into your shop.

As told to Kiley Wellendorf

No matter where the meeting is at, make sure you have a pen and paper on hand. I’ve been going to meetings for years now, and I still learn something new each time. When I take notes, I always end up having pages and pages by the end of the meeting, so it’s nice to make sure you have necessary materials in order to bring lessons back to your shop. Talking to other shop owners gives me inspiration, and when you’re associating yourself with other successful people, then you’re also learning about how those people became successful in the first place.
You never know what type of scenario you’re walking into when meeting with a group of shop owners or checking out someone’s shop. One time I visited a shop and took note of a bathroom that I thought was absolutely filthy. At the end of the visit, I brought my notes back to my shop and made a plan to redo my bathroom because I realized that there were improvements that I should be making as well. There are always lessons that you’ll learn, you just have to be open to recognizing that it might mean you have to make changes to your business along the way.

Avoid your cell phone and stay the entire meeting. At the end of the day, it can be hard to leave behind your business, especially when you have a device that can keep you in the loop. I’ve seen people sit on laptops and check their security cameras, or head out before a meeting wraps up, and I just don’t think that is right.

To me, there is so much knowledge being shared that there is no reason why anyone should want to head out of a meeting early. I would encourage full participation because you never know when you’re going to hear something that could change the course of your business.

I would encourage you to speak in the meeting when there’s an opportunity. This can be about anything—when you have the confidence to talk about your business, other shop owners might feel compelled to share as well. If you’re in a situation where you’re asked to bring back information about your security systems, then I wouldn’t shy away from going all out and creating a PowerPoint.

If you come to a group with other shop owners, be willing to participate and present something that others can learn from. You want to be prepared when you’re talking about your business, so I would come with something to share. If you don’t fully participate, it’s hard to get anything out of it and make an outside meeting worthwhile. We learn from one another when we participate.

When you’re given a suggestion, take it into consideration and follow through. If you get the chance to hear advice from other shop owners about how to improve your business, it’s important to listen and be open to hearing how your shop can change. It’s sort of like answering to a board of directors—as owners, who do you really answer to besides your shop? When you’re able to take advice and use it, you might find that your shop benefits from an outside source.

Also, if you make a goal for yourself and announce it to the group, make sure you actually do what you say. Think of it as a motivator, because there’s nothing worse than getting asked about how your new plan is going when you haven’t even started it.


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