Growing up in this industry my whole life, I have learned to respect many of the most recognizable names of manufacturers in the automotive aftermarket. So, when one of them contacted me to make a presentation for a sales symposium at its world headquarters, representing the interests of import specialists parts distributors from all over the country, I couldn’t refuse.
Prior to the symposium, the company sent me two pages of questions I was going to be asked to answer at the event. It was obvious the employees had taken this project very seriously and that it would be equally important for me to respond to their questions honestly and seriously.
I was especially intrigued by the very last question on the list. It was that question that became the opening of my presentation and one that made me view the company as a caring and concerned corporation. The question was, “How do import specialists view our company as a distributor?”
As I stood before nearly 60 managers, including the president and all of his key sales and marketing people from around the world, I began by repeating the question. Then I said, “I can answer this question in four words: big, old, domestic and expensive.“ At that moment, I had the audience’s attention.
Keep in mind, many people in the industry view this manufacturer as one of the oldest, most respected corporations in the aftermarket. And now, here I was, telling this pillar of automotive aftermarket icons, that it was missing something — something quite important about supplying to the import industry.
As I continued my presentation, I could sense that the audience was truly challenged by the information I was sharing. You see, like all of the great companies and great individuals in our industry, this audience appreciated honest answers to difficult questions. They rose to the challenge of the difficult answers and they responded with more questions, more ideas and more determination to resolve their company’s issues and build on this new knowledge for the future.
If approached positively, difficult questions and the answers to them can and should be the building blocks of an enlightened enterprise. They can also be the building blocks of an enlightened individual with a promising career.
So, how are you and the company you work for asking the really tough questions? How are both of you reacting to the difficult answers to these questions? This is not always an easy exercise, so start out thinking small and slow. Remember, pain is just part of the process and like the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”
There is a lesson here for all of us: Challenge yourself and your company to ask the difficult questions, and most importantly, don’t be afraid of the answers. This particular company discovered that after 96 years of operation, and while supplying components to more than 50 percent of OE import manufacturers, it had very little presence at the import specialist distributor level of the market. That’s pretty staggering if you’re a company of its caliber.
Now the company is challenged to get the word out about its import component capabilities. I have no doubt you will be reading and seeing more of this manufacturer’s response very soon.
They get it. Do you?