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Allen & Allan: For the Aftermarket, the Future is Now



By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber

Recently we noticed an interesting article by Alan Murray in The Wall Street Journal, “Managing the Future Workplace? Start Here.” The article opened with, “The last three years have seen an unprecedented financial crisis leading to the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s.” It went on to say, “Trust in business by the public at large is clearly at a low point and is likely to stay there for some time.” All of this has long been known to us on the frontline, however, some in management are starting to wake up to these realities. We’ve compiled some tips we believe counter professionals should keep in mind in the New Year.

Stay flexible
Parts professionals will need to be part of a flexible organization, so that it can be repositioned quickly to address new threats and master new challenges. Think how this pertains to you in dealing with your customers. Address their needs then consider their wants; stay in touch with your customer if they are having a difficult day; do not add to their anguish; just say “yes” and smile; and never draw a line in the sand (It may work today, but that customer could be gone tomorrow.)

Devour data
Parts professionals need to have their ears to the ground in order to hear changes as they are coming. You are the eyes and ears of your company and usually see and hear news regarding customers as it happens, both good and bad. Pass on pertinent information, not gossip.

Be (somewhat) humble
Parts professionals will not be able to assume they always know the answer — because more often than not, they won’t. You’ll need to be willing to hear hard truths from your fellow workers, your customers, your suppliers and anyone else as close to the changing marketplace as you are.

The days of keeping your head down,
focusing on single tasks instead of external communications, are over. More than ever, managers have become advocates. We cannot stress the importance of communicating. Developing listening skills is part of communications. Remember, most times it is better to talk less and listen more.

Plan for contingencies
It’s natural for people to focus on what they know, but as a result, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan,” says, we “time and time again fail to take into account what we don’t know.” With rising uncertainty the advantage goes to those who can imagine the improbable.

Be proactive
If you see a problem coming, don’t wait until it hits you — by then it will be too late.

Insist on candor
To succeed in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment, it’s critical that everyone be brutally honest.

Stay involved
You must have multiple skills, and not just be qualified in one task. You must be prepared to be redeployed as the situation demands it.

Use your judgment
No team of Ph.D. students building computer-powered mathematical models will ever be a good substitute for common sense.

Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop. For more information, go to or e-mail

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