The 25th anniversary of anything is usually designated as the “silver” anniversary, or “silver” edition. So, as this particular article represents my 25th since I began writing for Counterman, I wanted it to be something special.
The problem is that I wasn’t sure what that “something special” might be. I thought of reviewing the central themes from previous articles, or recapping a speech of a prominent industry speaker I had just heard. But none of that seemed appropriate. I had been thinking about this for weeks, when out of the blue, it came to me.
There I was — flying from Las Vegas to visit my family in Minnesota. A gentleman seated next to me noticed that I was reading one of our industry’s publications. “Automotive, huh?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Been at it for a long time?” he asked.
And again, I responded, “Yes.”
The man then began telling me of a previous flight he had taken years before during which a man sitting next to him was also reading one of our industry’s publications. He didn’t remember the name of it, but he did remember the gentleman reading the magazine.
“The strangest thing,” the man next to me said, “was that the guy reading the magazine actually wrote one of the articles in it! He showed it to me and even gave me his copy to take home with me. He was a guy of medium build, not big like me. He had dark hair and his name was Brian. I don’t remember his last name.”
“Cruickshank?” I asked. “Brian Cruickshank?”
He nodded in agreement. What a small world!
As many of you already know, Brian is the editor of Counterman and his features and columns appear in this magazine every month. Brian and his staff also edit all of my editorial contributions.
It turns out that the man seated next to me owned four or five pizza stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He was a very large guy, who took up more than his share of a standard coach-class airline seat.
“I eat a lot of my pizzas,” he told me. He also told me that he was thrilled to have met Brian, a guy who really writes articles for a real magazine.
I explained to him that Brian is an associate of mine and that we both write articles for the same publication and that’s why I knew his name. He thought it was so cool that I knew Brian and that he had somehow re-connected with his earlier experience. I thought it was pretty cool too and that coincidental meeting becomes the theme of this, my 25th article.
The automotive aftermarket is a complex and diversified array of many different businesses serving the needs of the motoring public. Ours is a global market that increases in dimension and scope every year and incorporates the economics of every nation in the world. The industry employs millions of people with varying educational backgrounds, interests and skills to serve in every kind of position imaginable. And yet, at any moment, it can all become very small. At any moment, circumstances can come together that will remind you how your contributions are linked to another person’s. That connection can be perceived by others as something really special — or something very negative.
What were the chances that I would happen to sit next to someone on an airplane that had a previous encounter with an associate of mine from Counterman magazine? Pretty slim, wouldn’t you agree? And, how would my neighbor have reacted to me had his experience with Brian been a negative one? Birds of a feather, you know?
As it turned out, Brian left this pizza store owner with a very positive impression of our industry. That gentleman and I were rewarded as a result.
Everyone involved in this industry has a responsibility to always portray it in a positive way. Like it or not, you represent the automotive business, whether you’re “on duty” or not. That sort of attitude benefits all of us.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you can promote our industry in a positive way. In much the same way that one employee in a business can make the environment a positive or negative experience for many others, the same employee can affect the attitudes of others outside of our industry too.
It’s not always easy to be a positive person, a positive role model or a positive ambassador for our industry. But everyone reaps the rewards. This industry needs all the positive interactions it can get. Like so many other things, the choice is yours – every time!