Jon, you are shining light where there is no darkness," said the voice on the other end of the phone.
It was my good friend Dick Morgan, president of Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance. He was (in a nice way) telling me that my idea of coming up with a new name for the aftermarket was lame. For those who don't recall, in the February issue I asked readers to suggest a new name for our industry. "Aftermarket," I surmised, just wasn't cutting it.
After some discussion, I realized Dick was right: There is no need to come up with a new name for our industry. But we both agreed there is a need to create a stronger and greater awareness as to exactly what the aftermarket really is and what it really does.
As for the re-naming exercise, I was overwhelmed by the amount of responses I received. More than 40 different descriptions/phrases were submitted, with names like "Replacement Parts Market" and "Repair Parts Market." All good, but in the end, we're just left with the term "Aftermarket." So be it.
Most every response commended me for the "crusade," and for that I am flattered. I now realize the mission is not really to create a new name. Rather, it is much more complicated and challenging than that. As I see it, the "crusade" is to enhance our image, to get people to really understand our industry, regardless of what it's called.
Improving our image, in the day-to-day transactions and realities of our industry, is the most broad and complex challenge we face. What does image impact? Here's a short list: whether or not a young person decides to pursue a career in our industry; whether or not a consumer chooses our industry to receive service and/or repair on a vehicle; whether or not an independent installer chooses to perform vehicle service and/or repair with aftermarket products; whether or not a financial analyst is impressed enough by what we do and how we do it to recommend our publicly-traded companies as prime investment opportunities; whether or not lawmakers are aware of our challenges and impressed (or, better yet, influenced) by our solidarity; whether or not our industry is seen as ethical and trustworthy; whether or not talented professionals stay in our industry - the list could go on and on.
So, where do we begin?
Here's a thought prompted by Dick's advice: Rather than shining a light where there is no darkness, let's shine a light on our industry's image. In order for our industry to have long-term success, every single person within it must provide unmatched service and value to every single customer at every level of the market every single day. This is most important at those moments when the general public comes into contact with our industry. This is the "state of awareness" that each person in our industry must have; it's the issue I will begin to shine my "light" on. There is definite "darkness" in our industry's overall state of customer service awareness and we must seek to expose it, and hopefully begin the process of eradicating it for good.
Call our industry whatever you like, but carry a flashlight to work each and every day, and shine a light on conduct that may be detrimental, in any way, shape or form to our overall industry image. Only then will we be able to bask in the light of unparalleled growth and stability.