This issue marks the 100th article I’ve written under the column heading “From the CEO.”
100 From the CEOs… Wow! That’s a lot of articles. Who’d have ever thought that I’d have had that much to say?
Don’t get me wrong: Back when I took this job, I was all fired up with the things I wanted to tell everyone. I had a bunch of messages to share with the industry, and, by golly, I was going to share them!
And yet, somehow I managed to burn through all those messages by the end of the first year. Hey, it seemed like there were a lot of them at the time!
So where did the other 90-or-so articles come from? They came from my experiences… with the industry, the Association, my friends and family… anyone and anything I might run into during a normal day.
In many cases, they came right from you: ATRA’s Members.
Your calls, your conversations, and yes, even your complaints are where I get my best ideas for those articles. They cover the issues that are important to you, which makes it my job to listen to you, and consider how we can address it. Sometimes the best way is with an article.
Of course, that’s often just the tip of the iceberg. A few years ago, many ATRA Members expressed their dissatisfaction with the direction the industry was going. We listened and explored the situation, and discovered to our surprise that one shop could be barely scraping by while another, right around the corner, could have work backed up for weeks.
That led to the creation of our very successful What’s Working program… and it was the source of a lot of From the CEO articles!
Of course, it probably goes without saying that no one ever calls with a complete subject just waiting to have it transcribed and placed in the magazine. Usually what I get is a thought or a point… sometimes just an offhanded comment that catches my attention.
Maybe it doesn’t turn into anything right away. But it bounces around between my ears where it begins to fester. Finally I’ll focus on it in earnest, making a few notes and talking with a few trusted advisors to get a feel for the best way to address it.
It may be days… weeks… even months before I get around to turning that random comment into an article that I’m ready to share with the GEARS readership.
Here’s one you may remember: One day, several years ago, I asked my wife, Jen, to take my car to a local repair shop. I like to use them because they have good, qualified technicians, they’re honest, and their pricing is reasonable.
She agreed, but she wasn’t thrilled about it: Seems their waiting room was always filthy. When she had to bring a car there, she’d usually drop it off and then wait outside, sitting on the curb to avoid touching their grubby furniture.
When GEARS Managing Editor Rodger Bland noticed I wasn’t driving my car, he asked about it. I told him where it was, and I mentioned Jen’s comment about the shop. He said something to the effect that they should know better, with so many women making repair decisions these days.
That got me wondering just how many of those decisions really were being made by women. A few calls to shop owners across the country indicated that the numbers were between 65% and 75%, depending on where you look. That’s a lot of customers, making it a base that shops should be catering to.
Several conversations and a few pages of notes later, and I found myself predicting that the most successful shops of tomorrow will be the ones with the cleanest restrooms. It was a memorable article, and one that spoke to a lot of shop owners. And it’s even been referenced in this month’s shop profile on Victoria Transmissions.
100 articles… 100 different points made. Some you probably forgot before you turned the page, while others have stayed with you… and may have changed your business model forever.
It’s something I’m very proud of. And that’s a pride I’m only too happy to share with each and every ATRA Member I’ve ever spoken with. There’s a saying that two heads are better than one. But I have 100 articles that prove that, when you put 2000 heads together, the results can be truly amazing.
Kinda has me looking forward to the next hundred!