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It’s A Small, Big World After All

Despite all the growth and proliferation of major corporations on both sides of the counter, the automotive aftermarket is still a one-on-one relationship business.


I generally don’t give too much guidance to Counterman’s contributing writers. I just encourage them to write about whatever happens in the course of selling auto parts, fixing vehicles or servicing customers. Some of the stories they tell in their columns are so crazy, no one could make them up; life itself makes for the best theatre. And so, the columns are generally a non-connected mix of topics, as life tends to be in the automotive distribution business. Some of it is critical. Some humorous. Some poignant. All relevant. Since they all stem from the real world, they all reflect real life in the real automotive aftermarket.

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Then, there are those months when the columnists, for whatever mystical reason, write about very similar topics. Of course, they’re never exactly the same — when was the last time any two days in your business were? Maybe it’s something in the collective aftermarket waters that makes these things happen, but when they do, it usually makes for a better orchestration of copy than I could have ever created on my own.

This month is one of those months. Without getting into the details of their columns (I’ll let you read them yourself), both Import Insights writer Gary Garberg and Mitch’s World author Mitch Schneider independently and in their own unique ways, relate very important lessons about the interconnected world we live in and the relationships within it.


As Gary points out on page 52, the automotive aftermarket can be a pretty darn big place. Huge, in fact. But every so often something will happen that brings it all home. Something will happen that makes you step back and think about all the connections you’ve made in your life, both coincidental and purposeful. On page 28, Mitch writes about these connections and relationships too, but in a way that reminds us to be human when we interact within those connections. Customers, suppliers, competitors — they’re all people who have families, mortgages, dreams, hopes. We all just want to be treated fairly, honestly and with dignity. Sometimes we lose sight of that in the heat of battle.


What Gary and Mitch remind all of us is that this business, despite the computers and the technology, is still very much a relationship business. It’s a business that was founded by entrepreneurs who built their businesses one customer at a time. Although many of those entrepreneurs have sold their businesses to large corporations, it’s still all about one-to-one selling. You see it in the largest store chains and the smallest single-store jobbers. You see it every year during Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas, which the Counterman staff will be attending in less than 50 days. I see it everyday, and I bet you do too. If you’re successful, it’s likely one of the key reasons.


Speaking of relationships and Industry Week, next month we’ll announce the winner of the Counter Professional of the Year, presented by the Affinia Group. It’s been my experience that those who are awarded this prestigious title are those who forge the best relationships with their co-workers, store owners, program groups, vendors, reps and community. So far we have a very impressive group of finalists, and I am really looking forward to hosting one of them next month in Las Vegas.
By the way, I can vouch for the veracity of Gary’s weirdly coincidental story. Either the planets were aligned in just the right way that day, or Gary and I spend entirely too much time on airplanes!

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