What is a true parts pro? It depends on whom you might ask. If you ask an outsider to our chosen profession, then you will get a different answer than what the veterans of the business will give. Also, if you were to ask the person using this profession as a go-between until something better comes along, you’ll likely get a different answer, too.
A true parts pro would likely say this:
We need a vast knowledge of automobiles and the components that run them from front to back.
We must understand the customers’ needs and how to assist them.
We must understand aspects of our business that have nothing to do with an automobile such as farm tractors.
We likely have to know something about four-wheelers and motorcycles.
So how do we learn all that we need to know? It takes time and more important than time, it takes dedication to the profession. A veteran will tell you that someone who walks in off the street and is hired will simply be overwhelmed by the amount of need-to-know information. Let’s face it: This job is not as easy as many of us make it look.
SO WHAT’S A TRUE PARTS PROFESSIONAL?
“Professional” often is reserved for doctors, lawyers and pro athletes. We as parts professionals tend to overlook the amount of schooling (on-the-job or otherwise) we have had to attain the status of professionals. Many of us have taken a lifetime to learn and study, and re-learn and study to the point we can consider ourselves a true professional. I found a dictionary definition of “professional”:
1 a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession b: engaged in one of the learned professions c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.
The definition does not say anything about having been to college for any length of time. It says simply taking on the character of conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. We don’t have to concern ourselves with how many schools we have attended or even how many years we have spent behind the counter or even how many years we have lived on earth. Our consideration as a true parts professional has to do with ourselves and our dedication to the business.
Anyone can come in off the streets and look up parts. But the attitude that you take in doing this becomes the question as to whether you are a true parts professional or not. Dedication and attitude are the two things that we veterans cannot teach the new employee. If this is just another job to a person then that is all it will be. If the only things someone cares about are payday and quitting time, they will be like others who run to the back and pretend to be on the phone with a customer while someone else deals with the hard stuff. If this is the case, you’ll never be satisfied in the parts world.
DEDICATION AND ATTITUDE
Both dedication and attitude mean a lot to a true parts professional. We’re required to know lots of things as discussed before, but we don’t need to understand all aspects of everything that come across our counter. There’s an old adage: “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That adage applies here.
Retail customers can be a demanding and difficult bunch, for sure. This fact isn’t likely to change. Considering this though, parts pros can often defuse a situation. Likewise, a negative condescending attitude can cause a conflict and we have all been on both sides of this.
However, attitude is something we cannot teach. The person in question, no matter who it is, must have the right attitude in order to be taught. If you have the run-to-the-back mentality, then the true parts professional cannot teach you because you do not understand the value of dedication. Dedication to our profession has to come from the person in question. Every day is a learning opportunity or adventure if you chose to take it. It is very rare for any store to not have at least one true parts professional. It makes very little difference whether you work in a big box store or the smallest of independents someone is there who can teach.
Take the initiative to ask the questions. Stand beside a veteran and learn how to handle the tough situations. With the right attitude and dedication, you will certainly move up the ladder to management, if that’s your goal. And if you have the attitude and dedication and are willing to travel or move, then there can be many other opportunities for you. But if you are here to draw a paycheck, then that is all you will get out of it.
Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.