One Danger of Shop Ownership

Getting out of your office and connecting with others in the industry can pay off in big ways.


It takes vision, inspiration, perseverance and hard work to build and maintain a successful repair shop. Pursuing the ideal dream of “absentee ownership” can lead to serious problems.

One danger of shop ownership is that there is no office into which you’ll be dragged and redressed by your superior for becoming a bit of a slacker. You can constantly remind yourself that it’s now “my way or the highway” and this is your own personal castle.

You’re now free to unbuckle your seatbelt and roam about at will. It’s your place, park where you want. Feel free to pack the grounds with all sorts of toys. The more chrome, the better.

Well, peek out the window. Change and innovation is coming at you faster than new models of smartphones. If you still have a flip phone, you might be in danger. Cars that can park themselves are so last year. Now, they can partially drive themselves and the day may soon come where we can send our car down to Louie’s to pick up our pizza and return it to us. It will even use the seat warmer to keep it hot, of course. You won’t even have to check the sofa for change for the tip.

If you pursue any sports, you already know that your skills improve when you match up with other players who are better than you. It helps you raise your game.

I recently joined the Women’s Board of the Car Care Council and attended its winter meeting. I was totally impressed with the whole organization and the event.

There are only a few shop owners who are members. Most of the membership is from industry corporations that encourage their employees to join and participate to aid their development.

This enables the people of the manufacturers to get to know distribution people, marketers, end users and everyone in between.

Benefits of attending

Joining and attending the winter meeting did several things:

  1. It helped me meet some people who are very important to my shop operation. One person works for an effective web-based shop marketing organization, another for a parts manufacturing company and yet another for an automobile manufacturer, and on and on.
  2. The meeting included powerful speakers who provided outstanding information that will be very useful to me in personal development. I learned things that will be keys to reaching the next plateau in my life as a business owner and as a person. A number of lightbulbs went off during the course of the presentations.
  3. Seeing women of all ages who were so organized, professional and educated has inspired me to raise my game. I don’t recall ever meeting so many people in one place who were so in tune with success and driven to achieve.
  4. I became better educated on companies in the auto industry and learned about additional resources that are available to improve my shop operation.

These four things caused the curtain that isolated my shop from the world around me to drop down and let me see what’s really happening. Success is not some island destination that we reach, where we can now sip little drinks with parasols in them on the beach. It’s a continuous journey, the progressive realization of a worthy objective that is true success. While it’s very important to stop and smell the roses, we just can’t afford to lie down in the rose bed and stay too long. Bugs, you know.

Yes, even if you’re on the right track, if you’re standing still, you’re going to get run over. This was never more obvious to me than when I was enjoying the company of many wonderful and successful people.

The vision, inspiration, perseverance and hard work that builds a business can slowly fade away as a business owner believes they have it easy now. Eastman-Kodak, Blockbuster Video and Montgomery Wards have learned hard lessons this way.

Be ready to learn … from others!

This is far better, far more fun than getting beat up in some crummy office. Meetings build relationships. My latest experience included friendship, wine, great food and a really neat silent auction to raise money for scholarships. While I have made it sound like being a business owner is serious, there’s also a fun side. Haul yourself in the fun way. Join an organization like this, stay in a great hotel, see a historical city, ride the hotel’s loaner bikes around to see the sights.

Leave with motivation and the tools to make some really great plans.

For me, I’ll be working with a manufacturer to help them improve their parts cataloging, at their invitation. Ideally, this will help us solve some parts lookup problems.

I’ll also help a parts company better understand what their customers – shops like mine – really need in their product. They’ve already sent me emails. This will reduce our parts cost and time lost dealing with certain parts.

My shop marketing is about to take a giant leap as a result of learning more about an organization that I previously had not fully understood. This will make selling easier, pricing more competitive overall and increase market penetration.

The interpersonal chemistry of our shop staff will improve dramatically as a result of training from a new management trainer that presented at the meeting. Our chemistry is quite good now, but I learned some simple techniques that enabled me to see how relationships can become difficult and subsequently be more easily corrected when they do. This should help make coming to work more fun.

Educational events create new opportunities

Listening to a panel discussion on how an enormous amount of data gets mined in the parts business, then turned into strategic plans, opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve always understood the value of a technician’s time by the minute. Now, I’ll be looking at the entire process of how data mining and analysis can greatly influence shop production, marketing, customer and worker satisfaction, worker efficiency and profitability.

Most importantly, I’ve made friends with a lot of people who are smarter than I am and far more successful. Competing with others is enjoyable, but working together with them is even better.

We often discuss the impact of new technology in the automotive industry. Most of us think of new car features and designs when this comes up. Many of us don’t really go any further than that, or the tooling and training it will take to service and repair it.

Believe me, we’re about to see a whole new way to easily analyze a shop operation and use the information to greatly increase efficiency and profits. It will make it far easier for the workers to do their jobs and require them to have to remember far fewer things to perform effectively.

So, as soon as possible, haul yourself into your office. Join any of the outstanding industry associations available (like ASA!). Get on your computer and sign up for the best training conferences, including the ones presented by the Automotive Management Institute and at NACE and CARS. They are being held all year, in a lot of easy- to-access locations (check out the calendar on the left). Get out of your shop and into the new modern world. It’ll make your job easier and you’ll be able to buy more chrome.