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  Management Feature

Good Jobber, Shop Relationships Pay

Posted 11/1/2008
By Bob Greenwood

Ten ways a good jobber relationship enhances your ability to run a more successful shop.

Much has been said about the relationship of a jobber business toward its best shop-customers. Many jobbers are starting to listen to their clients and are reacting in a positive manner. These jobbers must be supported. That change has come with much struggle and resolve, but it has literally changed the direction and profitability of the independent sector within the automotive aftermarket industry.

There are some common denominators that some of the better shops practice, and it is time the rest of the industry took note as to what they are doing with their chosen suppliers. This type of relationship has meant less stress between the jobber and the shop owner, stronger communication and understanding, and substantially improved profitability for both businesses. Plus, it has freed up a tremendous amount of time for the service shop. That additional time allows the shop owner to concentrate on real business issues, along with enhancing the value they desire to deliver and the customer satisfaction they want to achieve.

Consider the following 10 positive points that successful shops adhere to in regard to their jobber relationship:

1. Full payment of suppliers' accounts each and every month. The better shops understand the suppliers' business a lot better now, and they know it requires cash, as the supplier is in the commodity business only and does not have the luxury of having a labor component to assist in his/her profitability.

2. Successful shops understand the importance of a professional business relationship. This industry has always seen lack of trust between jobbers and shop owners. The better shops - and the better jobbers - now realize that both of them are independent business people and they need each other. They have sat down to discuss this and worked out a plan that enhances each other's business. This "business relationship" has become the cornerstone to increasing each other's net income.

3. They are prepared to commit all of their business to one supplier. The best shops know their time must always be worth their labor rate, otherwise owners are not profitable contributors to their own businesses. So it does not make business sense to sit on the telephone for 15 to 20 minutes to shop three or four suppliers to make another $15 to $20 on a part. Shopping for parts is valuable time lost. They have done the math, and discovered the old way of thinking in this industry is invoking cost into their business. These shops make the initial investment in time to set up a good relationship with their supplier so that supplier and shop are on the same page. It reaps immense dividends.

4. Stock their shop properly. Profitable shops understand the value
of stocking their business properly. Even though their supplier can have it there in 20 minutes, they understand "lost potential" sales for not stocking the basics, and understand delivery is a true cost to their supplier. If they are going to obtain the best price, along with true jobber "value," the shop owner must also think about his supplier's costs.

5. Believes in "quality always" for their clients' vehicles. The better shops run a quality business built on good relationships with their clients. These shops insist on quality parts from their supplier and have notified their supplier that inferior parts do not cut it. Better shops never risk their image or credibility by basing the quality of their work on the "price of parts."

6. Has a great relationship with the jobber's staff. Professional shops realize the jobber's staff are "people too," and there is no excuse to be rude or indifferent to them. The jobber's staff is trying to do its best whether it is working in the field, at the counter or delivering the parts to the shop; the better shops understand this. The fact is, the better shop owners have nurtured a relationship to the point where the jobber's staff recognizes and appreciates these professional shops. The jobbers' staff will bend over backwards when a shop has an emergency, and they will do it with a smile, because they will be pleased to be of assistance to that shop.

7. Takes full responsibility for shop errors. The better shops today don't play games anymore because it breeds mistrust. Mistrust dramatically hurts profitability. If their shop breaks a part while they are installing it, and it was their fault, they do not say they have a warranty claim. They take full responsibility for their own mistakes. They won't ask their jobber to complete the paperwork to send it back to the warehouse distributor, who ends up shipping it to the manufacturer. To the better shops, this attitude is unacceptable ... it truly is a moral issue, and it has been exceptionally costly for this entire industry, at every level, to bear this incompetence. The better shops are part of the solution, not the problem.

8. Believes in, and understands, a win/win jobber/shop strategy. For two businesses to work together, nurture each other and be profitable, a "long-term" relationship must be formed. Better shops clearly recognize long-term relationships are substantially more profitable than short-term gains. To sustain a long-term relationship, "trust" must be earned and maintained. Both parties must win; otherwise, one loses. And how do you maintain trust if someone is always on the losing end of the stick? This "win-win" strategy has added thousands of dollars to the bottom line for both parties.

9. Their word is their bond. The better shops clearly understand the math when a jobber makes the effort to bring a certain training course or program to their local marketplace. Time is money to all people in business and that includes their jobber too. When their jobber goes out of his/her way and makes the effort, the better shops will say they will show up and participate ... and they do! They don't mislead people by making false promises just to look good at the moment, or make up excuses why they didn't show up.

10. They display a positive attitude toward the aftermarket industry. There is no doubt about it, the better shops see and embrace present and future opportunities for building net income. They do not dwell on negative feelings and situations or dump "attitude" on their jobber or their jobbers' staff. A mutual respect is in place. You can "feel" this positive attitude when you walk into these shops. Their jobbers feel it too, and good things do rub off, as one witnesses when you see a progressive, professional shop owner interacting with a progressive, professional jobber owner and his or her staff.

Our industry will not change overnight. But the change I am witnessing today is fantastic, and with all due respect, the bottom line that results from the effort made is the proof in the pudding. Professional business relationships pay ... and they pay well.

Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that is being contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. Throughout 2008, a full lineup of AMI instructors have been sharing their knowledge on a variety of topics including training and equipping your staff, goal setting, cross promoting, increasing car count during slow times and much more. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.amionline.org.

Bob Greenwood Robert (Bob) Greenwood is president and CEO of Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. (www.aaec.ca/newsite/index.cfm), providing shop business management resources and interactive education through the Internet. He also delivers live industry specific business management courses. He can be reached at (800) 267-5497 or greenwood@aaec.ca.


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