Failure, as a Motivator

I’ve lately been working on a new mechanical shop venture for the company I work for. The shop was previously occupied by a tenant whose business was failing. The business was apparently unable to keep up with its rent, utility, equipment, payroll and other payments. There was a prior owner who apparently has some secured interest in the remaining assets, which of course significantly adds to the complication and pain.

The names and location and specific details don’t matter in illustrating my point. This is a scenario that is all too common in our world and in our industry, especially during the recession and during our industry trend of declining numbers of shops. (During the 1980s it was often reported there were about 80,000 collision repair shops. Current estimates range in the area of about 35,000.)

As I interact with the various parties, including the shop staff, the pain and anxiety is compelling. Dreams have been shattered. Livelihoods have been in question. Uncertainty abounds. Long-term aspirations have been put aside with focus on surviving the short term. There is an element of desperation in the actions of some people.

I find a powerful message in this. The ending of a relationship, the ending of the life of a friend or relative, or the ending of a business can be a significant life event that causes one to pause to consider what can be learned through the experience of the pain. It has a way of putting things in perspective in terms of what is important. As some of these endings cannot be avoided, some can. We all take risks in life. We must answer for ourselves the degree of risk we are willing to take. Some failures can be beyond our control. For those of us willing to take the risk of being in business, I don’t believe it is wise to dwell on the fear of failure, but instead use our understanding of failure as a motivator to cause us to succeed. I am frankly now even more compelled to pay attention to business performance and to be prepared to take steps when I observe early signs of poor performance.

It is up to us as business operators to take action. As Dick Cross, author and AutoInc. contributor, suggests, we should formulate a vision for our business, followed by developing a strategy, then establish a way to execute. Hoping that things will change is not a strategy for success.

ASA membership provides value in terms of benefits and representation. Yet there is more value when we as members put the effort into seeking the benefits provided through networking and education. There are opportunities at NACE, CARS, affiliated functions, and in AMI training, that provide information on auto repair business performance that can help us avoid the scenario I described above. There are articles in this issue on best practices on lifts, vehicle damage estimating, and being a successful shop owner. I encourage you to read them and participate in our other forms of training.

Lou Vickery stated, “Nothing average ever stood as a monument to progress. When progress is looking for a partner it doesn’t turn to those who believe they are only average. It turns instead to those who are forever searching and striving to become the best they possibly can. If we seek the average level, we cannot hope to achieve a high level of success. Our only hope is to avoid being a failure.”

My wish for you is to avoid the pain as we strive to become the best and achieve success.