Our business is about change. It is the only guarantee we have. Over the years, I have seen many store acquisitions. Just about every situation turns out the same, but the journey is always full of twist and turns. Acquisitions occur for a variety of reasons. Some are on terms that are less than ideal; some are just simply because the owners want out; others are changeovers from one buying group to another; and some happen when a customer is no longer solvent enough to pay their bills and we have to take over to wipe the debt clean.
No matter the reasoning for the acquisition, our goal is to make the store a winner. Everyone who works around me knows the only promise I make: “Things are going to change.” Some changes are good, some are bad and some are just different. Coping with change in our business has not always been easy, though.
To my advantage I came into the parts business just as computers were hitting the counters; the old guys at the time were very concerned that computers were beyond them.
That change turned out fairly well for them and all of us. In 1986, we had no idea what the Internet would bring us. Those crazy electronic ignition systems did not look so great in the beginning, but it worked out. The early fuel injection systems were really not so great but, we learned what O2 sensors were and why EGR valves were more important than we originally thought. Then, we had cars without a distributor. What is that all about? We learned that cam sensors and crank sensors controlled the computer and coil packs and modules were now the future. As the throttle body injection went away and multiport came along, it all worked out yet again. So change is not all bad, is it?
Spencer Johnson’s excellent book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” illustrates change and how it affects our lives. The whole gist of the book is that four different characters go out looking for cheese. All four go out and find the cheese and begin to live comfortably. However, two of the characters find a comfort level and begin to be complacent. The other two enjoy the current victory and findings but continue to look forward and go out to find new cheese to survive. In the end, the two who are complacent run out of cheese and start to become weak and the two who are cognizant of the situation and acknowledge the fact that the cheese is disappearing, move on to a future plan of finding new cheese. Just as in the parts business, there is little room for complacency.
Cars have been in a constant state of flux since Henry Ford began to streamline them in 1908. Cars are no longer mechanic-friendly; their longevity has no comparisons to those of Mr. Ford’s day. We once had worn-out engines at 60,000 miles and now we are still going strong at 200,000. That begs the question: should we have been satisfied with conventional motor oils and a naturally aspirated carbureted engine? That is a matter of opinion. Benjamin Franklin said, “When you are finished changing, you are finished.” We can only control one person and that is ourselves.
The automotive aftermarket is coming to a crossroads of sorts as we move to alternate fuel sources. As China and India, two of the largest nations in the world, move toward more modern times and oil supplies begin to be diminished, electric and or hydrogen-fueled cars will be in our future. There will be terminologies we’ve never heard of. But we need to learn and embrace all those terms.
Change is a coming and that is the only promise we have.