As technology raises the bar for the aftermarket, professionalism must evolve in how we speak about each other

March 7, 2013
Badmouthing is rare in the most respected professions; that should include us.

Advanced automotive technology is giving aftermarket professionals an opportunity to achieve a higher public image. Computer diagnostics, telematics, start/stop functionality and other advances are making true professionals out of technicians and shop owners. The space between the professional and the DIYer is greater than ever.

But aftermarket specialists have to act like professionals. There has long been a tendency towards informality in the aftermarket, for better and for worse. For better, the camaraderie among shop owners and technicians has boosted morale and pride in what we do. But for worse, it has fostered a tendency among some individuals to badmouth one another at will.

The aftermarket trade has to assume a stronger sense of professional behavior.

Keep in mind that when you denigrate a competitor, you diminish your profession and yourself.

Recently, an automotive aftermarket “professional” went out of his way to tell a member of our staff at a trade show that a colleague had fabricated an award to display to customers. I suspected the accusation was false, and upon investigation, I was right.

What the individual making this allegation failed to understand was that he was diminishing his profession and himself.

Badmouthing occurs in all industries. But it is rarer in the more specialized professions, which is what our field is aspiring towards. Doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants are less inclined to badmouth fellow practitioners than persons in less specialized fields. This is because more highly specialized professionals recognize the dedication and discipline required to work in their field.

Several years ago, a shop owner shared a story with me that demonstrates this point. The shop owner, who I will call Tom, told me he was disappointed that many of his colleagues were quick to spread negative comments about each other. Tom suspected that this was less prevalent in more respected professions, so he decided to test his theory.

One day, he called his doctor and told him he had decided to switch to another doctor. His doctor told him he was sad to lose him as a client, but he knew he would be well served by the doctor Tom was replacing him with.

Tom confessed to his doctor that he really wasn’t switching to another professional; he simply wanted to see how a doctor would react to losing business to another doctor. Tom loved his profession, and wondered why people in his own field could not act the same way.

So which of the two characters described above do you identify with?

There is no reason that the automotive aftermarket can’t aspire to the highest standards of professional behavior.

If someone in the industry is not behaving professionally, don’t exacerbate the problem by acting that way yourself. Sometimes it’s best to keep things about other people to yourself.

The automotive aftermarket is becoming more technologically advanced. Shop owners and technicians should take pride in their new expertise and act like true professionals.

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