Last night was special. My wife was “out.” I was “in.” Neither of our two grown children was in crisis and it looked like I could do just about whatever I wanted to. As luck would have it and, despite the fact that I have access to more than 200 stations through my super-duper, high-definition, fully digital, satellite-enhanced, entertainment provider nothing caught my interest and I wound up watching “V for Vendetta,” a movie I had already seen before, more than once.
Perhaps, you’ve seen it. If you haven’t and you like dark action films with a futuristic twist, you won’t be disappointed.
If you have seen it, you will recognize a scene toward the end of the movie where the “hero” knocks a single domino over starting a chain reaction that is really quite spectacular. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of black and red dominoes begin to topple, forming what is at first an indiscernible pattern until the hero’s intricate calling card becomes visible a stylized blood red “V” cutting though a blood red circle in an ocean of black.
I should have been paying more attention to the movie, especially because the action really begins to ramp up right about then. But, I couldn’t. I was too busy focusing on the dominoes: the way each stood independently solid and still, and yet, remained absolutely dependent on the dominoes in front, behind and alongside to do the same.
Allow one domino to suddenly teeter and fall against its neighbor unanticipated, and an uncontrollable chain reaction begins that can only result in chaos where every domino has been toppled after having been impacted by another. It’s a pretty powerful metaphor for the present state of our industry.
It’s not unlike the present financial crises we are currently facing where foreclosures in Stockton, Calif., have forced multi-national banking institutions half a globe away to their knees. Our aftermarket is a symbiotic ecosystem in which every entity both contributes and is dependent upon another. If the cost of fuel goes up a dollar or two a barrel today, that increase will be reflected in the cost of a gallon of gas at the pump tomorrow. That increase in fuel cost will result in higher prices for everything, because virtually everything ultimately finds its way to market by car or truck.
While there are some repair professionals who will fight and fight hard to increase market share during difficult times like these and, they will, if the motoring public is forced to motor less, there will ultimately be fewer vehicles to work on and less work to do. Shops like mine will attempt to make the changes necessary to survive while others fail. Businesses like yours will begin to feel the weight of those failures as dominoes begin to rock back and forth more and more violently until they begin to fall, some right against your door.
There has never been a question of whether or not something like this would happen … This isn’t the first time our economy has seen peaks, valleys and the sometimes violent oscillations in between.
The question is and has always been: how will we respond as an industry? And, how we respond as an industry will ultimately determine when and how quickly we recover.
You’ve got a better than average chance at remaining better than average if you:
*Understand the impact a single domino can have on all the dominoes that surround it, and recognize the importance of keeping each domino strong and stable regardless of where it is on the floor;
*Can discern the patterns those dominoes form before they are formed, where and how they are likely to fall, and if they are allowed to fall at all;
*You appreciate that being committed to your own survival and success is not enough, that in order to both survive and succeed you will need to ensure the strength and resiliency of those around you;
*You realize the important difference careful consideration and planning can make when choosing where and how you place yourself on the board.
If you don’t recognize the critical importance of each of these relationships, if you can’t or won’t see the important role each of us has to play in the success of our industry, rent “V” for Vendetta” and pay particular attention when the dominoes begin to fall.
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, Calif. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.