Many of us in this industry sort of wandered in to it. I know I did. For me, it began with an obsession with cars and trucks as a kid. I followed my path into the industry as a high school kid and started working in an old-fashioned service station. From that, I was a partner in two service stations in my early 20s and went to the supplier side with a manufacturer as a factory guy after college.
I have literally never been out of the industry in my career. Even as a factory guy I was always under the hood and was fascinated with any new developments that occurred in vehicles, both cars and trucks. I read everything I could get my hands on and had fun talking with mechanics and shop people on the latest information. Many of you have done the same and followed a similar path.
If I could have a do-over it would be on managing my service station businesses for success. I was driven to solve problems, fix things and keep my customers happy. I probably could have made more money and grown my business larger had I spent more time on the ownership end of things. Many times I have said, “I wish I could go back and do that over knowing what I know today.”
Lack of Focus
About eight months ago I was approached by an industry colleague, Mike Betts, CEO of Betts Truck Parts and other Betts companies, who had an idea that made great sense to me. He had been discussing the challenges facing heavy truck shop and service facility operators with two friends active in their service related trade associations: Gordon Botts of Botts Welding and ACOFAS (American Council Of Frame and Alignment Specialists) and Bill Wade of Wade Partners and SSA (Service Specialists Association).
The two owned and operated companies in our industry where truck and trailer repair operations were a large percentage of their business. They are very active in planning Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) - North America’s largest gathering of the independent heavy duty aftermarket.
Botts and Wade shared a common problem. As shop operators, they were so busy in their day-to-day activities that they spent little time looking at how they ran and managed their businesses. They felt the industry needed to change that thinking and provide a forum to address the business of truck service management.
Through a series of discussions and meetings with their peers on the HDAW education committee a solution was arrived at: establish a program with new information, specifically targeting the shop operator and management. The program was called SOLD, which stands for Service Opportunities and Learning Day.
It was decided that SOLD would be incorporated into HDAW ‘13. The day-long program is set Monday, January 21, 2013, prior to the official opening of show and held at the same venue, The Mirage, in Las Vegas.
HDAW’s regular program elements are important functions for all business owners in the parts and service industry. The new, optional SOLD program was designed specifically for owners and managers of shop operations, and has four highly targeted sessions.
- A session conducted by Stu MacKay of MacKay and Company, an industry leading market research firm, that will look out a few years on the actual numbers that drive the service.
- Service Readiness: Preparing for the Shop of the Future, headed by Tony Molla of ASE (National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence). It will include presentations from Tom Kotenko of Nexiq/Snap-on on new trends in diagnostic tools; David Mine of ATMC (Automotive Training Managers Council) on the important strategy of training plans for technicians; and consultant Darry Stuart of DWS Fleet Management Services on his real-world experience in keeping truck customers on the road.
- An overview on the new methods of suspension inspections and diagnostics by Jerry Reynolds of Hendrickson’s suspension field training group. Rick Martin, training manager for Meritor, will discuss leading techniques, required equipment and shop strategies for steer, drive and trailer axles.
- Driving Profit in to Your Service Business by Bill Wade who will discuss HDAW’s recently completed survey of shop owners that looked at what the typical operator does in managing his business and what potential profitable services should be considered. He will make the case for developing a set of key performance indicators - an essential element for profitable operations - and will discuss a range of new services to consider for shop operations.
There is a small fee to participate in SOLD. The program has already shown participation by almost 40 percent of those already registered for HDAW ‘13. Visit the HDAW website for more details www.hdaw.org.
Tim Kraus is president and chief operating officer (COO) of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA). Prior to joining HDMA, he served in various executive positions with heavy duty industry parts manufacturers. The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association exclusively serves as the industry voice of the commercial vehicle product manufacturers. It is a market segment affiliate of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). www.hdma.org.