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The Rules of Engagement

By Mitch Schneider

A long overdue invitation to the service and repair sector.
Mitch Schneider
I just spent the last eight days reflecting on Industry Week and everything I encountered there. Even with the contraction forced by a “soft economy,” it may have been the best AAPEX I’ve attended in a very long time. In fact, I don’t remember another show where the general consensus of opinion was as universally positive or upbeat.

It may have been the best AAPEX I’ve attended in some time, but if you read “Whatever Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” the column I just finished writing for our sister publications in the Tech Group (Import Car, Brake & Front End & Underhood), you will understand that topping the best week I’ve ever spent in Las Vegas isn’t really all that difficult. It’s not my favorite place.

Nevertheless, I did something in that column I think you should be aware of.
I followed through on a directive, a kind of non-specific request to increase repair community awareness, interest, attendance and participation in the show and in the aftermarket in general. I invited the people who do what I do to attend next year’s Industry Week and I invited them to attend at least partially on your behalf.
I didn’t do it because I was asked to. I didn’t do it because I was told to. I don’t generally respond well to that kind of authority.

I did it because along with a number of other industry leaders, I believe the show could be expanded and enhanced by increasing service industry participation and involvement; because I believe that participation is essential for the survival of the aftermarket and our industry; and, because the invitation is long past due.
Because this invitation is long past due and because we really do know so very little about each other and the worlds we inhabit, I think it appropriate that we establish a list of suitable behaviors: Rules of Engagement, as it were, so that when we encounter one another we will know how to act — what is both expected and appropriate behavior for each of us.

I began this difficult task toward the end of the column referenced earlier, suggesting there is more to the show than seeing who gets to go home with the most “free” junk: “Tchochkes,” as a friend so aptly described the stuff “in the bag.”
After all, there is no prize for accumulating the most “take-a-ways.”
I told my colleagues there are warehouses, groups and jobbers interested in expanding the dialogue they have already begun, just as there are manufacturers with a genuine and profound interest in building relationships with the repair community. And, I told them they were invited to AAPEX to participate in this critically important work.

I know this interest is sincere because I am privileged to know many of the warehouses, groups, jobbers and manufacturers personally; privileged to know many of you personally!

I told them they had a right to be taken seriously and to be treated as any welcomed and invited, first-time visitor should be treated: graciously, with patience and respect.

And, I told them that if they found themselves at a booth where they weren’t being treated accordingly: if they encountered someone who wouldn’t speak to them, someone who didn’t take them seriously, they should immediately ask to speak with someone else. And, if that didn’t work, I told them to move on. We could deal with that another time.

You see, I feel knowing so little about each other puts us all at risk. It is both dangerous and wasteful, and results in programs that don’t work and products that won’t sell.

I’m not sure whether or not my invitation will be successful, whether or not service providers will take it seriously or respond. After all, we’ve been excluded for a very long time. I’m not sure how you will feel about my Rules of Engagement either. But, I am interested to find out.

Regardless of what you think or how you feel, you have to admit these Rules of Engagement are a beginning: the start of a dialogue that like an invitation to the show is long past due.
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at

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