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As automotive service and repair businesses, we certailnly are an independant bunch.

Well, that's the whole point of having your own business, doing what you love and being in control of your own destiny.

At one time, not that long ago, this goal was within reach of most who were committed to this trade. But, as we have all experienced, the world around us has changed and it's no longer that easy to start your own business and, as many have realized, it's become harder to keep your business alive and profitable.

Of course, there are huge financial factors pulling at us from all angles like property values and taxes, bylaws and permits, insurances and of course, there are the developers looking to rezone your prime location property for condos. 

We may have been deemed an 'essential service' by our Governments, but we're still not considered valuable enough to help protect it from being bulldozed over.

We have little defense action we can take against these rising costs of doing business. All we can do is raise our door rates to adjust for it. That's just a cost of doing business.

But, there is something bigger and more devestating that has been slowly eroding our industry from the inside.

It's not something that happened over night or just one or two issues. Otherwise, you would have taken immediate action. No, these things have happened slowly and are taking it's toll on us. It has not only increased our stress as business owners, but it has also affected our ability of accepting and doing business on time, on budget and with pride. 

Answer this question. As an experienced business owner, would you recommend or discourage anyone thinking of starting an automotive repair business?

If your immediate thoughts were to discourage young hopefulls into having an autotomotive repair business, you already know there's an issue that goes beyond just dollars and cents, but you may not be able to put your finger on it.

We're losing our support network.

What? Did you think we didn't had one?

Well, it was all around us. It was just part of the natural order of this industry and we never really appreciated it.

Remember when.....?

Factory Field and Service Reps;

Regular visits from the reps. was normal. They would check and adjust our inventories, answer our questions, train us on the features of their products along with service tips to make our jobs easier. They took care of warranty issues, supplied us with P.O.P. materials for the customers and incentive programs for our staff and also kept us appraised on market trends and the occasional gossip. In other words, they took care of us and we supported them with brand loyalty and trust.

What happened?

Isn't the internet great? Well, the product manufacturers thought so too. They were convinced by the web gurus that websites were the answer. They could post sales ads and technical information on line, work for them 24/7 and have a bigger audience than they ever dreamed of. That also meant they could save money by eliminating or reducing their army of field reps. Well, that didn't work out as well as they hoped. Their commercial customers either didn't know their websites existed or were nervous about using the open net for business. Their audiences did grow, but it had moved to the younger, general consumer. Their next move was to remove the technical information that was originally slated for their commercial customers and tranformed their sites into brand building for the consumers.

Result?

We no longer had the support we needed. Over time we lost the knowledge of the products we were using and there was no reason for brand loyaty. We are now shopping for parts with the same knowledge as our customers and price is our main guidline.

Are we not supposed to be the professionals our customers look for?

Training;

There was always training courses and seminars happening. Whether it was from the product or service reps to teach us about their stuff, training businesses visiting us to let us know of upcoming courses or promotional material delivered through our daily postal service. We could always pick and choose what interested us.

What happened?

It was always tough for the training companies to fill a classroom regularly to keep their businesses alive and to keep our industry 'ahead of the curve'. With expenses like traveling and venue fees rising, it simply became cost prohibitive for a half filled classroom and when you look at the limited ways they had to be able to reach us, it's no wonder most had to close their doors. Some even tried aligning themselves with local parts distributors to have their sales staff promote the classes, but even that came with limited and inconsistant success.

We're supposed to be Proactive by planning ahead to make training an important part of our continuous growth. It was bad enough that we ignored most training available to us in the past and now we have so little to choose from.

Staff Shortages;

There was always an abundace of motivated and skilled people you could choose from to fill the ranks of your business. But now, the pool of potential employees just waiting to fill our ranks has dried up and not having the people to do the work just adds to the stress of having your own business.

What happened?

Remember the saying "Well, you can always be a mechanic"? Those days of having little technical skills and even a smaller tool box are long gone. Today's technology is testing even the best of us. So, it's not a stretch to see many, who have been in this business for years and those who thought this was going to be an easy trade, deciding to hang up their tools for something different and a little less taxing on the 'grey matter'.

The technical requirements are obviously a lot higher than than it was in yesteryear and one would think that our secondary school system would be grooming young hopefulls towards this challenging and rewarding 'proffessional' career. But our education system has failed us and the other trades as well.

Also, it certainly doesn't help our plight when even our own Government and Education Ministries do not consider us 'proffessionals' by ignoring the need of mandatory certification for our industry.

What Can We Do?

Like I said, we have lost most of our support network and, for the most part, it's our own fault.

We may have chosen to be alone and independant in this business, but we did have a network of support sevices around us to help us get over a variety of hurdles. Of course it was in their best interest to support us because if we succeeded, so did they. But, when the support services began to dwindle, we kept our mouths shut. Of course we all grumbled and complained about it, but we didn't voice our opinions to the people making the decisions.

The worst thing you can do is to continue to keep your opinions to yourself.

The best thing you can do is to sign up to The Automotive Service Business Network and start complaining.

This network was designed and built for all who are part of this industry. That means everyone who depends on this industry for their livelihood is a stakeholder.

ASBN may be still in it's infancy, but we have already developed many tools to ensure your messages can reach the people who should be listening and making the decisions and how we continue to develop will be totally up to you, the stakeholder, on what our needs are and where to focus our cooperative energies.

We're all in this together.

 

 

 

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