What's Working - July - 2020

The Calm Side of Chaos

Each year around January, we begin to arrange the speaker lineup and seminar topics for the upcoming Powertrain Expo. Sure, we have a general idea before the end of the previous year, but when January comes, it’s time to get serious.

For Lance Wiggins and the Tech team, it’s a matter of following the trends – which units are rising in popularity, and which ones are plaguing the industry with the most complaints and failures? In any event, it seems that there’s usually an abundance of tech issues to cover, and there are many times when it’s hard to keep up.

It’s not the same for the management programs. There aren’t always trends to follow or a great need that pops up. The last big “upset” we’ve seen as an industry was the sudden increase in reman units, and that takes us back to the late 90s and early 2000s. Nevertheless, we all managed to get through those times and benefit in the process.

Most years, we choose speakers and topics for management training based on results from various studies and surveys. We’ve examined the habits and preferences of both consumers and shop owners. For instance, we’ve looked at demographics and psychographics to try to determine why some customers prefer using the dealer for their repair needs. We’ve also considered the challenge of dealing with the tech shortage and looked at finding better ways to attract “new blood” into our industry, including reaching into the school systems. Over the years, we’ve covered the gambit.

This year, rather than having the speakers present topics with a common theme, we thought we’d cover a range of diverse ideas. The speaker lineup and their respective seminar programs were falling into place. With the year starting off in a reasonably typical fashion, and with our strong economy, it looked like we’d nailed it. But who could have anticipated the looming crisis?

News of the world-wide spread of COVID-19 began to take center stage toward the end of February, and by the end of March, we all knew the situation was catastrophic. The pandemic turned the country upside down. We all have personal stories, some of which are tragic. However, in terms of how the crisis affected businesses, I think many of the stories are similar. Depending on regional location, for many shops, it was a scramble just to figure out how to keep the doors open. Sadly, some didn’t make it.

So now we get to the crux of the story. Businesses began to figure it out. We were all forced to change many of our business practices. If I had to summarize the goal, it was to help customers feel safe doing business with us within the new reality. That’s easier said than done because everyone has a unique perspective as to what the pandemic means to them. But while we struggle with getting our heads around our own understanding, some of us have even more difficulty recognizing what it means to others – our customers, our employees, and our communities.

We must make adjustments that address their concerns and change our businesses accordingly. That’s the challenge. With all the diversity of worries and fears, how do we choose what’s essential to a broad spectrum of people?

That brings me back to our plans for this year’s EXPO. As it turns out, our choice to offer a diverse speaker lineup was serendipitous. You could go as far as to use the word “miraculous!” We couldn’t have conceived a better plan to address diverse challenges than with a slate of speakers and topics built on a platform of diversity! When you look at the seminar lineup, I think you’ll agree.

Bear in mind that each presenter will have new additional information to share as we get closer to the show. They’ll most certainly shape and reshape their messages to fit the prevailing situation throughout the months ahead. Because of the dynamic nature of things, we won’t know everything that will be presented until the show, but we do know it will be timely and appropriate to meet each of your needs.

Let’s take a look at our lineup. Two of our presenters are shop owners. Dave Riccio from Tri-City Transmission & Auto Repair in Tempe, Arizona, was a panel member for one of our What’s Working presentations. He has some incredible ideas. In fact, Dave is responsible for the concept, “Find something to do for free for every customer.” I’ll leave that for him to explain. His presentation, “Organized Chaos,” is bound to offer insight into dealing with the present state of our industry. Maryann Croce, along with her husband, Tony, own Croce’s Transmission Specialists in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Maryann is a deep thinker. In addition to her role in the transmission shop, she serves on the ATRA Board of Directors and owns a consulting firm, helping business owners of all types. She’s presenting, “Rise Up and Survive to Thrive.”

Both Dave and Maryann will have unique insights for changes in marketing and shop management through the crisis we’re experiencing together. With so much change taking place, I’m certain that the attendees will have a lot to add to these programs as well.

Randy Moore, former President and CEO of Mister Transmission, a Canadian franchise based out of Toronto, will present “Change is the New Norm.” I’m sure he didn’t expect this much change when he accepted the topic and time slot for his presentation, but he’ll be ready, and you’ll want to be there.

Along the same lines is Dr. Coyte Cooper. Coyte is back, by popular demand, for his second appearance at our show. Dr. Cooper will cover “Secrets to Thrive in Uncertain Times.” How appropriate for the current times that seem to change daily!

We promised more of Maylan, and we’re delivering. This year Maylan Newton is presenting two classes, “Confident Selling” and “Relationship Selling.” It’s a whopping six hours of high-energy learning from the master of sales. I’m sure he’s already adding material to suit the needs of these changing times. As the master of spontaneity, Maylan will probably be updating his presentation as he presents it. You can’t get any timelier than that!

So, you’re changing the way you do business to fit with the changing times. You better let your customers know about it. Your website is usually the first place people go to research and choose a shop. Carl Borsani will show you the best ways to get your message out and make you and your business look professional and contemporary with his program, “How to Increase Customer Calls Based on Your Website.”

Our long-time friend and all-around good guy, Thom Tschetter, always brings something exciting and thought-provoking to the table. His program, “The Zone – The Secret to Achieving Super-Productivity,” will explain what it means to be in the zone, what it feels like, and how to get there to accomplish more in your personal and business life. While the idea of being in the zone is commonly used to describe extraordinary athletic performance, Thom will explain how getting you and your team in the zone can propel your shop to extraordinary performance as well. If you’ve never experienced being in the zone, Thom says, “Attendees will actually have an in-the-zone experience during this workshop.”

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has been a year of challenge, chaos, and change. How well we emerge from chaos will be determined by the quality of the decisions we make, while we’re in the midst of it.

Successful business owners adapt to change. At this year’s EXPO, you’re sure to discover new ways of doing business as we embrace the calm side of chaos. We’re planning for a great time in Nashville. I look forward to seeing you there.