I’ve been accused of being too idealistic in the past, and this month’s topic may represent idealism at its highest. But, never accuse me of not appreciating what I believe to be our industry’s most valuable asset: store personnel.
My column last month received a lot of negative feedback. Clearly, my point was missed like a shanked nine iron. For the record, I’ve shanked many nine irons, so let’s take a mulligan and try again.
Regarding my disappointment in the lack of store personnel attendance at the annual AAPEX show in Las Vegas, I fully understand the challenges and justifications store owners (both big and small) have as to why they and their personnel don’t attend. One reader explained to me that the exhibitors are to blame. According to him, exhibitors lack focus, the proper intentions and the right personnel at their booths in order to justify the expense of bringing more store personnel to the show. I can’t argue with that. It all boils down to the “value” of attending any show or exhibitor event. I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve paid for it, and I’ve questioned the value myself a hundred times.
The bottom line is that low trade show attendance by store personnel is symptomatic of a larger problem: the lack of attention and overall investment the industry makes in store personnel. What prompted my rant last month was our own Counter Professional of the Year, Harris Steinberg.
Harris is the owner of a single location, independent store. No single entity, throughout our industry, faces a more difficult task to succeed than an independent, non-affiliated traditional jobber. Yet, Harris succeeds. Quite nicely I might add.
Harris also attends, on his own dime, the AAPEX show every year. That’s no small task, considering he’s the owner and one of the counterpros at his store. His attendance “costs” him a minimum of four days away from his store, and because it’s his dime, he assures it’s the most productive four days it can possibly be. As you read about Harris in this month’s issue, you’ll see why we chose him as this year’s Counter Professional of the Year, and you’ll also see why he is so successful.
In the end, we’re left to ponder the value of attending any trade event. The point I should have made in last month’s article was that, to me, there is no debating the value of store personnel. As such, I would like to see more investment in them, and trade show attendance is but one example of where that investment can be made. By enabling store personnel to experience the size and importance of the industry, and helping them gain an appreciation for their very valuable role within it, we are not only investing in their knowledge and understanding, we are also investing in ourselves, our own businesses and the future well being of the aftermarket.
If we fail to make the necessary investment in store personnel, we’re essentially saying that their role is no more valuable than that of a cook at a fast-food restaurant. We all know that’s simply not true — store personnel are critical to this industry’s success. They just deserve far more attention and appreciation than they’ve received.