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Missing the Point: It’s Like Water

The well of information out there is useless, unless you are willing to take a drink. Client wants, needs and expectations are the very essence of great service and lasting relationships.


I’ve been engaging the aftermarket as a speaker and journalist for more than 24 years.


If you were calloused or maybe even a little cynical you could suggest that I’ve been doing it just for the money and it would probably be difficult for me to convince you otherwise. But, I could counter by reminding you that in the beginning I did it all for free; and, I did it all for free for a very, very long time.

I realized very early that our mutual success was hopelessly intertwined. Neither of us can succeed without the other. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how either one of us could survive without the other.


Consequently, I made helping you understand my world and the problems people like me face every day a personal crusade.

I started out speaking for the Equipment & Tool Institute and then spent the next few years talking to manufacturers and warehouse and jobber organizations. Somewhere in the middle of all that, a number of those warehouse and jobber organizations asked me to speak to their service dealer customers.

I’d like to think I’ve achieved at least some small degree of success over the years as it’s not a particularly easy thing to do.

To maximize the result of all this extra-curricular activity, I tried very hard to concentrate my efforts on those organizations that seemed to respond to the message the best or the most. Because of the limits on my personal time, I had to learn how to identify those organizations — how to separate those who listen and understand from those who don’t, won’t, or just plain don’t care.


Truth be told, it’s not all that difficult. The organizations that understand the importance of having their people know and understand the world their customers live in, the challenges they face and what they must do to succeed, or at least survive, have them attend. The organizations that don’t, won’t.

I’ve presented automotive shop management seminars for companies whose store managers, counter people and outside sales representatives actually outnumbered the service dealers in attendance and I’ve presented for companies whose local, single representative unlocked the door to the seminar room, turned the lights on, left, came back with lunch four hours later, left, and never came back again until it was time to turn off the lights, lock up and leave!


With gross disparities in behavior like that it’s really not all that hard to tell who is serious about their service dealer customers and the future we both share, and who isn’t. It isn’t all that difficult to predict who will succeed, who will build lasting and mutual beneficial relationships, and who won’t.

If you ask me, it’s all about “missing the point” for the companies who don’t quite get it. They seem to feel automotive shop management education is a value-added service they must provide their customers in order to remain competitive — if they believe that. They don’t seem to realize that understanding client wants, needs and expectations are the very essence of great service and lasting relationships.


And, that understanding your client’s wants, needs and expectations requires intimacy — either, the intimacy of having been there yourself, or the intimacy that comes from having someone take you there, someone who has been there.

Unless you have people working with you who just left the service industry — individuals who were successful as dealers — and, by successful I don’t mean lucky — you just don’t know! Unless you have someone who had to figure it out on their own working with you or for you, you can’t know!

That’s when the window created and then opened by someone willing to bring your clients the information they need in order to be successful, the information you need to achieve success as well, becomes invaluable.


The point is information, understanding and wisdom are all like water. They will fit any container, regardless of size or shape. But, like water, it doesn’t do anyone any good unless they take a drink.

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