What I took home from HDAW – and you can too

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Updated Feb 22, 2023

Two technicians working togetherSpending time regularly to talk with your associates can build rapport and increase their commitment to your operation.

So, it’s been two weeks. What was your takeaway from HDAW 2023?

Now that you’re back in your office — or at the counter, or out in the field, or wherever you are right now — what are you doing differently today that you weren’t doing before you went to Grapevine?

I’m not soliciting audience participation. You don’t need to comment or email me your answers. (Though we always welcome that feedback!). But everyone should have an answer here.

If you’re going to invest your time and money into a four-day business conference, you absolutely need to take something out of it to make your business stronger.

I had two main takeaways — both of which I believe are valuable regardless of where you fall in the aftermarket and dealer channels.

Industry cohesion

This theme presented early during MEMA and MacKay & Company’s Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue and persisted throughout the week.

I keep going back to Ann Wilson’s excellent analysis of Washington dysfunction. Wilson’s assessment that Congress is too polarized to pass any substantial legislation isn’t news, but her optimism around a Right to Repair solution was refreshing. Wilson believes direct, focused legislation with broad support from voters and industry are the types of bills this Congress could be persuaded to act upon.

We’re not going to see any resolution on big-picture challenges we’ve faced for ages. Now is the time to sweat the small stuff. That’s where we can all make a difference.

TPS will have an article next week detailing the bipartisan Repair Act MEMA hopes to bring to Congress this month. Wilson describes the bill as trucking’s best chance to solve its Right to Repair issue once and for all. To create a fair, reasonable and actionable solution that will enable commercial truck owners the freedom to have their equipment serviced anywhere and by any capable technician. This would be a huge win for all of us.

[RELATED: This might be the year for Right to Repair]

Let’s get behind it. When the legislation drops, make it clear you support it. Tell your members of Congress. Tell your contemporaries and competitors to do the same.

I think there’s value here for dealers, too. We both know you can’t manage all the available service in your market. Right to Repair legislation doesn’t take away your work (warranty work is never going anywhere), it simply streamlines the service experience for the customers who were already going elsewhere. Truck makers and EMA have participated in development of the Repair Act. They are willing to take this step to solve this issue.

There’s a compensation aspect here as well that we can’t overlook. The aftermarket and its customers are willing to pay to have access to the repair information necessary to complete jobs in a timely manner. If a compromised solution is out there and has a real chance to succeed, we all should support it.

Workforce engagement

I know. You’re busy. Your team is busy. You don’t have time corporate retreats. Your human resources team doesn’t have the bandwidth to build career path development tracks for every role in your company. You can’t even fill every role you have.

But doesn’t that make the workforce you have more valuable than ever?

I’m not saying you must dedicate time every day to strengthening your corporate culture. But I’m also not not saying that.

One thing this year’s SOLD! sessions about technician recruiting and expanding the diversity of our tech talent pool made clear is there are a lot of people out there in other jobs who would absolutely love our industry, if only we could attract them and convince them to give trucking a try.

Your workplace environment can do that.

The more your company knows about your employees you more you can understand their wants, needs, desires and motivations. Make sure your managers are meeting with your team members regularly. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long sit-down, maybe it’s just a weekly 15-minute chat. Have them ask how your people are feeling in their roles; if there’s anything your business could provide that would make them more productive, successful or happy.

Listen to what they have to say. Act on it.

A big part of running a successful aftermarket or dealer operation is having the business acuity to manage finances, inventory, sales, as well as make decisions on the tools that will give your people their best chance to succeed.

If your front-line employees think there’s something that would make them do their jobs better — and make you more money — why wouldn’t you at least consider it? There’s also the cultural aspect where employees who feel they are heard work harder and have a lower turnover rate.

Everyone knows the value of customer referrals, but employment referrals are a thing, too. The more you can do to make your people feel engaged and important, the more likely they are to expose our industry to friends and family whom they believe could thrive here.

We all know we need more talent. Let’s use the talent we have to recruit more.

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