By Charlie Elder, AAM, Chairman
This is the time of year we start thinking about falling leaves, cooler weather and Thanksgiving. It is a great time to reflect on the past year and look forward to a new year. I would like you to think about how beneficial it is to be a part of such a large and stable industry like the automotive service industry.
Over the years, I have heard my share of people bashing our industry and advising their children to choose some other career. I learned, at an early age, that there would always be people who had more than I did, but there would also be people who had much less than I have. The key for me was not to worry about other people, but to focus on and maximize the opportunities that came my way.
The opportunities that the automotive industry offers are almost endless. Even though our industry has ups and downs, it is very stable compared to other industries, such as construction or manufacturing. We have never experienced the huge swings of boom or bust seen in the oil or computer industries.
Is our industry an easy one? No - none are. My father was a country doctor, a general practitioner who desperately wanted my brother or me to follow him. Neither of us did, but he did convince my college roommate to enter into medicine. I talked with him recently and he described the environment he's in as being awful. He said the insurance industry and government health programs control 99 percent of his business. It is much worse than the collision industry. Dealing with the insurance industry can be challenging enough, but how would you like for Medicare and Medicaid to pay for more than half of your repairs? He said he was working 50 percent more hours but making 40 percent less income than he was 10 years ago. Sound familiar?
My wife and I also own a horse farm and recently had the horses' teeth "floated." I was interested in this procedure, so I asked the vet to show me what he was going to do. He let me help on the first horse. It consisted of prying the mouth open with a tool to hold it open and grinding the sharp edges off of the teeth. After 15-20 minutes of a large tongue flopping around and huge amounts of bad breath, I decided I had made the correct career choice.
Consider two friends of mine coming out of high school. They both entered trade school to become TV repairmen, which was a promising career in the 1960s. They graduated and started their careers and were successful for some time. What are they doing now? Something else.
There are no perfect careers in the workplace, but there are opportunities that we can either seize or let pass by. A good career should provide for your financial needs. But it should also be something you enjoy and get satisfaction and fulfillment from, providing a needed product or service and meeting the needs of others.
I am thankful for being a part of one of the greatest industries in the world and the opportunities it has given me. My son recently returned to our business, and I believe he has a bright future ahead. He spent four years in the music industry as a sound engineer, but decided our industry showed more promise.
As I look around, I am truly thankful for my career choice, and I hope you are as well. Keep those cars and trucks a-rollin'!