“Why is there such apathy in our industry when it comes to training and getting involved in meetings that will better our industry? When we have classes of any kind, we can hardly get anyone to come. How do we get that to change and get everyone involved? I believe the only way to make our businesses better is for everyone involved to become better educated about our industry. Then, everyone will become better at what they do. Only then will the industry lose the mindset that others control our destiny.” — Michael Kline, president, Kime Collision Corp., Standish, Mich.
I’ve pondered this very question for more than 20 years, and just in the last few have developed a perspective that has helped me come to peace with this burning issue.
I believe the overarching issue is human nature. We see apathy toward almost everything, including some of the most important things in life. Parents with their children and voting are two examples that come to mind.
When it comes to our industry, I believe there are some underlying issues and agendas that drive much of the apathy we see. However, many shop owners just think of their businesses from a local perspective. They see themselves as so busy that they only have time and energy to think locally, and the larger industry picture doesn’t interest them. More importantly, they see no value in it and the politics often involved. To their credit, their focus is often – at least from their perspective – on the customer and not on industry-related issues or events.
You’re the Pro
I had an interesting experience with a shop owner who I greatly respect. He gave me an insight into the behavior that drives apathy toward training and industry meetings and events.
This shop owner has been in business for nearly 30 years. He had been very involved in his local community. He had an antique truck with company logos that was well-known and seen in every city parade, loaded with 4H kids or his granddaughter’s dance group. He sponsored a softball team and contributed to his community generously. He was very focused on the community and the customers in it. However, his business had been struggling for years. Each year seemed to be tougher than the last. The techs who stayed with him were aging, repairing newer vehicles was becoming more challenging and they were experiencing more comebacks. He could not interest younger techs in coming to work for him when he had openings. He also got less and less insurance and dealership work. He was frustrated and planned to close his doors.
I wanted to get firsthand feedback from him so I could better understand his perspective and why he never attended classes, meetings or anything industry-related. It took lots of patience and persistence to get him to agree to come to the equivalent of a 20 Group meeting. Once there, he was great! He was warm and likable. He sat next to a young shop owner whose business was growing rapidly. We discussed new technology, new management approaches and why key performance indicators were so important to the shop owner, not just insurers. The contrast between he and the young entrepreneur next to him was obvious to everyone, including himself.
When we broke for lunch, he seemed down and visibly sad. I made it a point to sit down with him to ask what he thought. He said he had just realized that, though he had been community- and customer-focused, he had done his community an injustice all these years by not making sure he and his staff knew everything they could about their customers’ vehicles and the repairs they were making on them. As a business owner, he also realized he had missed out on better understanding how to run his business more profitably, which had penalized his family.
I left that meeting sad for this veteran shop owner, and I realized he represented thousands of shop owners across the country. So many times, the ones who can benefit the most from training and industry networking are the ones who never show up. Those who seem to have apathy toward industry involvement and learning are not necessarily bad people, they just have never seen beyond the challenges of their day and have failed to be open to a larger picture of the inner workings of our industry.
I firmly believe learning is the only source of a sustainable competitive advantage, so those not open to learning all they can will continue to struggle with profitability and professionalism. Just make sure you don’t allow them to bring you down. As an industry, there will always be winners and losers, those who are truly competitive and those who are not. I realize at times those who have apathy toward learning seem to be competitive, but they’re not.
Keep learning and being involved, as that is truly your competitive advantage. Thanks for caring about our industry and those in it!