As we approach this year’s quarter pole, I want to know how much planning you’ve done for 2018?

I know everyone likely has a five-year plan and 2018 is obviously a part of that, but what I’m asking is how much short-term and daily operational planning discussions have you had on the upcoming year? Have you started any projects that will conclude next year? Are you working on rolling out any product lines or services in Q1? Have you set your sales and revenue goals?

I admit, that last question is tough with three months to sell laying ahead. The winter sales uptick is a common occurrence in the aftermarket, but whether it comes is far from a certainty. Expect it this year and it comes in January and your numbers could tank heading into the holidays. Push it off to next year and if it starts early—or worse, not at all—you begin 2018 in the kind of hole where you spend the rest of the year climbing out.

Not ideal.

But, this problem isn’t unique. Or new. Every year you’re forced to make projections for the coming year before the current one is over, and every year you do it.

So, what are you expecting for 2018? I ask because it’s important, and it’s something I’d like to know.

In January, we will publish our biennial update on the state of the aftermarket industry, where we look at how the market has changed over the past two years and using your expertise and as much data as we can get our hands on, try to make predictions for what’s ahead for the next 24 months.

It’s a monster article and one I love to write, because it lets me take the pulse of our industry. I ask my fair share of “How is business?” questions during the year, but nothing to the detail and extent of what you’ll see in January.

If you’re interested, I’d love for you to be involved. I’m asking any distributors, service providers and suppliers who would be willing to talk about our industry to let me know. In past years, I’ve blasted out emails to dozens of people on both sides (and I’ll do that again), but I also want to give others an opportunity to speak up.

If you see a trend arising in your business and would like to talk about it—see if it’s spreading elsewhere—let me know. If you believe the after-market is on the precipice of a major change, let me know. If you believe the aftermarket is in danger or at risk, and want to warn others, let me know. If you just want to provide an honest assessment of industry sales for this year and expectations for the next one, I want to hear about that, too.

The more people I interview, the better our article will be. I’ll have more information at my disposal. I’ll be able to discover more of those potential trends. I’ll be able to ask suppliers about issues posed by distributors, and vice versa.

The best way to provide a true assessment of the independent aftermarket is for the independent aftermarket to speak up. To say what is and isn’t happening, and why.

In addition to my interviews Truck Parts & Service will also send a survey to our readers this fall to ask some basic economic questions and see where this year ranks in recent memory, as well as see what everyone expects for 2018.

Ideally, that survey should confirm the information we discuss in inter-views, and create a clear assessment of the industry. If you’d prefer to only respond to the survey that’s understandable.

But if you’re willing to do more, if you’re willing to share your thoughts on this industry and its future, you know where to find me.

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