Why aren’t you involved?

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Updated Sep 27, 2018

Before we jump into the column this month, I need to start with this disclaimer: I know. I know you’re busy. I know you’re working 60 hours a week. I know your business is understaffed and your people are overextended. I know the stress that comes with thinking about that every day.

But I also know you aren’t alone in your distress. There are hundreds of business owners in the aftermarket deal-ing with the same issues you’re facing. None of them have all the answers; they all don’t know the best path forward for their businesses or the industry. But several have experienced one important realization: they’ve admitted they can’t solve every problem on their own.

Have you?

The independent aftermarket is a surprisingly open and candid industry. Business owners share experiences liberally, and foolproof best practices spread within the distributor community like wildfire.

That’s not the case in other markets. Truck dealers aren’t that forthcoming about their businesses (dealers under the same OEM umbrella are fairly open with each other but there’s little information flowing between brands). National carriers don’t tell the world their secrets for hiring drivers, and you never see the truck makers telling one another how they plan to build their next truck. And the auto market? Fuhgeddaboudit.

The knowledge sharing that happens in this corner of the transportation industry is rare and should be cherished. If you’re not taking advantage of that, it’s time to shake it up. You need to get involved.

Think about the two or three biggest issues facing your operation. Got a couple problems in mind? Okay, great. Was one of them hiring people? If it was, I can think of four industry associations that are working to help recruit talent into the independent aftermarket right now.

What about technical training? Do you need to teach your counter people and technicians about new components? Yeah, there are a half-dozen organizations working on solving that problem, too.

Maybe your white whale isn’t even industry specific: you can’t find the perfect insurance plan; you need a better cybersecurity strategy; your harpooner is feverish and is demanding you build him a coffin (though I think that last one is unique to whaling).

It doesn’t matter what the problem is, there are groups in this market who exist to help you solve it.

This month’s cover story highlights the number of associations active in the aftermarket and how each group was created to address a specific problem facing the businesses in our channel. Some groups were formed to aid distributors; others are unique to remanufacturing or rebuilders. We have multiple groups in the service channel, yet each one has a different focus and caters to a different type of repair operation.

If you have five minutes to read this article and 10 to read the feature that follows it, then I ask you to also dedicate 15 minutes later this week to researching the associations available to your business. In the same way we spend money to make money, sometimes we have to commit time to our problems to find our best solutions.

Those involved in these associations say that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

“While time itself is an incredibly valuable resource, investing some time in personal and personnel growth has proven worthwhile for decades,” says Minimizer’s Steve Hansen, founder and past president of GenNext.

“Sometimes you’re not always going to find the answers you’re looking for alone,” adds Scott Tetz, executive director of the International Truck Parts Association (ITPA). “Sometimes we need to help each other.”

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