That Was the Year That Was – Wasn’t It? - Aftermarket
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That Was the Year That Was – Wasn’t It?

By Ron Slee

Article Date: 12-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Every now and then it is good to kick a year out, not just welcome the new one in.

In the late '70s there was a BBC show called TW3, "That Was The Week That Was." It was a very tongue-in-cheek approach to the news of the day. It was hilarious. Looking back at the year that was, however, is hardly hilarious. It has been a very difficult year for many businesses and many people. It is not likely to get much better anytime soon.

We started the year in the first quarter asking you to look for your sacred cows. Those methods, processes and things that have always worked in the past but no longer are applicable. We then moved on to your systems, trying to get more effective at what we do while becoming more efficient at the same time. Finally we asked you to look internally at your skills and how current they are in today's environment. I think in retrospect (given that the columns are written and sent to AED some five weeks or so before publication) we were on target. Give yourself a check-up from the neck up.

In April I thought a little optimism was appropriate and so I quoted the National Automotive Dealers Association and noted they were looking for an increase in their parts business nationally. Please note that this is before two of the big three automakers became wards of the state.

Then on to the big Kahuna, "The New Reality." As many of you know I am a very opinionated advocate for Parts & Service. I believe that we have done ourselves a disservice by not being much more professional in our approach to the parts and service businesses. This is both from within the Parts and Service groups and from other departments in the dealerships. I have been working in and on this industry since the late 1960s and I am very proud to have been associated with it. There are wonderful people within terrific companies who do magnificent things. The equipment we sell and support provides for so many life necessities. It is a terrific industry.

"The New Reality" that I've been talking about sets many people's teeth to clenching. I understand that. As I will outline at the AED Summit in San Antonio, the information we deal with comes at us hard and fast and it is difficult to analyze and keep up with it. Recognize that I don't want any one department to suffer in this new world. I want us all to work together for that common good, making life better and easier for our customer. But there are many sacred cows to deal with, many system limitations to overcome, and yes, many of our own skills need a tune-up, if not an overhaul.

We can't continue to do what we have always done and expect different results.We need to adapt ourselves and our departments to become more relevant in this new world, my so-called "New Reality." We need to touch our customers more frequently and more consistently. We need to get into the maintenance business with a passion. We must find every part ordered every day before we go home. And yes, we must make money.

We need to re-examine our market coverage models and come up with one that works in this new world. Perhaps it is time to sell the house not just a department. One thing for sure is that we will not get the parts and service business just because we are the dealer. I think it is very clear now that the "shingle" does not sell. That was the old argument in the '60s and '70s: "What sells – the shingle or the salesman?" It is rather difficult to understand that perspective in today's environment, isn't it?

We also need to re-examine all of our pricing philosophies as a supply chain. We can't continue to take a piece of profit at every level in the supply chain. From initial creator, to assembler, to distributor and dealer to the customer. We continue to do this at our peril as the Internet has become the tool that eliminated the barrier to entry into the parts business we used to have – that thing called information. Everyone can access everything if they know how. And believe me when I say that the current generation of Twittering, Facebook, networking twenty- and thirty-somethings knows how to do much more than we can ever dream of knowing.

Let me close with something to think about going into 2010: The children in kindergarten today will be doing jobs we don't know about today using technology that doesn't even exist today.

Happy New Year everyone, and I wish you and yours all the best in this Holiday Season. See you in San Antonio.
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