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  Chairman's Message

Be a Professional

Posted 8/18/2006
By Charlie R. Elder, AAM

Is auto service a trade or a profession? Generally, a trade is defined as an occupation, craft or vocation, especially one of skilled manual or mechanical work. A profession is defined as an occupation requiring advanced education. A professional is a person who is an expert at his or her work.

Tradesmen and professionals are viewed differently by society. People in trades are often viewed as less educated, less trained, less capable and are usually paid only for their time - hourly workers whose time has value but their knowledge and expertise have little value.

Often there are no standards for these occupations so there is no method for the consumer to gauge the quality of service they may receive, except by trial and error. Often, the service and competency varies greatly.

Professionals, on the other hand, are viewed as better educated, better trained, more capable and are paid for their knowledge and expertise as well as their time. Professionals usually have standards they must adhere to and meet to pursue their occupation. This gives the consumers a minimum level of expectation and assurance of some level of competency.

One distinguishing trait of trades is often you find competitors talking negatively about each other, hoping to gain an advantage to get more business. On the other hand, you seldom find professionals doing that. Professionals choose to promote their ability and expertise to gain business and refuse to ever talk negatively about anyone in their industry.

I was in a training session once where a nationally known trainer was promoting a telephone script that insinuated that other shops were dishonest and incapable of proper repairs to convince the customer to bring their vehicle to your shop. I challenged him on his methodology. He denied that he had meant that, but everyone knew that is what he intended to communicate to the customer. He quickly dropped that line of thought and moved on.

If our industry is going to move from being a trade to being a profession, then we must do what other professionals do on every front - in our training, standards, service and behavior. I believe we are an industry in transition. How long that transition takes is up to us and how we respond. What do you think? Please send your comments and responses to

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