By Joe Marconi
Roughly a month ago, two events happened on the same day that reminded me that there are things that are so precious, you cannot put a price on them. Those events also reminded me that some of the things we stress over, really aren’t as important as we think. And in the end, it all comes down to the importance of life itself.
I got a call that day from Paul, the person who picks up our scrap metal. He asked if he could speak to me in private. Now, being a seasoned business owner, that’s usually not a good sign. But, this had nothing to do with business. I met Paul in my office a few hours later. He appeared very uncomfortable and upset. After exchanging a few words about business and the weather, he told me that his brother died last year. He was one of three other brothers that died within the past five years. He went on to tell me that none of his brothers had any savings or insurance, so it was up to him to take care of all the burial expenses for all the brothers. As Paul spoke, I could see that he was emotionally drained. Then he said to me, “Joe, I really hate to ask you this. I am tapped out. I cannot support all my financial obligations at this time. Would it be possible to lend me the money to purchase the gravestone for my brother? You can make the check out directly to the gravestone company, not to me.”
I have known Paul a long time. He’s one of those hard-working, tough-talking guys that you would never imagine asking for a handout. I didn’t hesitate and wrote out the check and handed it to him. He held back the tears as he shook my hand and told me, “Joe, I will never forget this, and I will pay you back.”
About an hour later, the owner of a local tow company walked into my office manager’s office to pick up a check we owed him for last month’s tows. I wasn’t paying much attention until I overheard my office manager say, “Oh, my God, I am sorry, Dave. I didn’t even know you were sick.” Dave is 42 years old, married with kids, and has brain cancer that is not responding to treatment.
Dave has a great attitude, but understands the reality of his illness. He’s doing his best while on the treatment, but admitted that, some days, he finds it hard to function. He told us how he started his tow company right out of high school and has worked hard his entire life. As he was leaving, I told him to reach out to us if he needs anything. He told me prayer might help. I told him I would do that.
Before the two events that day, I was dealing with a few business problems. And I need to be honest: I was not in the best of moods. After speaking to Paul and Dave, those issues that seemed so daunting before, didn’t seem all that important anymore. I sat back in my chair, looked over at a photo of my grandkids on my desk, and told myself that I need to do a better job at arranging life’s priorities.
As shop owners, we get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of running a business—sometimes at a cost to our families, friends and ourselves. We anguish over bad online reviews, disgruntled employees, slow days and declining car counts. We sometimes find it hard to sleep at night, reflecting over and over again in our minds, the problems of the day. And we repeat this cycle over and over, year after year. Let me tell you, no business issue is ever all that serious that it cannot be overcome. But, when life throws you a curveball, as in the case with Paul and Dave, those problems are not so easily overcome.
There are many reasons why each of us go into business. For many of us, it’s the passion for the work we do. For others, it’s the burning desire to improve the automotive industry. While I cannot say that we are in perfect alignment in every area of business, I do know one thing with certainty: We all need to stop and reflect from time to time on all the things that have nothing to do with business, but everything to do with life itself. Those are the things that no amount of money can ever buy. Those are the things that are priceless.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on June 1st, 2019
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USA Today article (Friday September 27, 2019 by Nathan Borney - USA Today) shows that “the average age of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads reached an all time high of 11.8 years in 2018.”
The article goes on to claim... “By 2023, there will be about 84 million vehicles on the road that are at least 16 years old, reflecting a 240% increase from 35 million in 2002, according to IHS.”
Are you getting your share?
There’s only 90 days left in 2019 and the market is changing. Sorry, it HAS changed. Are you ready? Do you have your plans laid out for marketing your shop in 2020?
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The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. has risen again as consumers continue to hold onto cars and light trucks longer.
Driven by technology and quality gains, the average age of light vehicles on U.S. roads is 11.8 years, based on a snapshot of vehicles in operation Jan. 1, an analysis by IHS Markit found. That's up from a light-vehicle population that was, on average,11.7 years old in 2018.
The number of registered light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record of more than 278 million this year, an increase of more than 5.9 million, or 2.2 percent.
IHS Markit began tracking the age of vehicles in 2002, when the average age was 9.6 years.
"The average age of a vehicle has continued to grow ever since cars started coming out from Henry Ford's production line, if you will," said Mark Seng, director of the global automotive aftermarket practice at IHS Markit. "People are hanging onto them longer because they're lasting longer."
From 2002 to 2007, the average age of light vehicles in the U.S. increased 3.5 percent, he said, but from 2008 to 2013, the average age rose12.2 percent.
"We're kind of back to that same pace that we saw from 2002 to 2007," Seng said. "The average age of light vehicles in the U.S. accelerated so much because we were coming out of the Great Recession back in 2008 to 2009 and new light-vehicle sales fell like 40 percent over a two-year period. Even during the recovery years there were fewer vehicles being sold, so that just accelerated the average age of the fleets in the U.S."
For the first time, the analysis included a review of various regions around the country. The oldest light vehicles are in the West, at 12.4 years, an increase of 1.5 percent from a year earlier. The Northeast had the youngest light vehicles at 10.9 years, which increased 1.1 percent from a year earlier. Weather and road conditions, driving habits and household finances and affluence can have a major impact on the average age of vehicles in a state and region, IHS said.
IHS Markit found that the number of older cars and light trucks is growing fast, with vehicles 16 years and older expected to grow 22 percent to 74 million from 2018 to 2023.
In contrast, there were less than 35 million vehicles 16 years or older on the road in 2002, according to the analysis.
Seng said the growing number of older vehicles on the road provides more repair opportunities for dealers and aftermarket parts providers that focus on automotive service repair beyond warranty coverage.
"There's many more older vehicles on the road than there was in 2002, which means there's going to be all different kinds of repairs -- oil changes, brake jobs and new wiper blades -- that's going to be done to that vehicle cycle," he said. "That's more revenue opportunities for aftermarket repair people."
Years ago my younger brother came to work for me. He didn’t know a thing about cars, but was willing to learn all he could. Teaching new techs is an art that most shop owners have to learn to do, but teaching your little brother can be a chore and can test your patience. I muddled thru it all and taught him what I could. I was sure at some point in time the two of us would butt heads like brothers will do, and he would take his new found skills and move up in the rank and files of the automotive technical world, but in the meantime it was his turn to learn from his older brother.
When he first started I would walk him through each step of how to diagnose a certain system in a car. A lot of times he would have questions, and I’d do my best to answer them. He learned quickly and was really sharp at picking up some of those little details that are harder to teach. You know things like how you held a certain wrench or used a certain tool, to you and me it’s no big deal. But to a novice, it’s a revelation, then you (I) tend to forget to mention those certain traits while you’re teaching. Mainly because you are trying to get to the solution as efficiently as possible, and you neglect to bring it up. Such as: “always test your test light connection before testing what you’re testing, or don’t forget to check for all your tools before you pull the car out of the shop….” Things like that.
One day we had a truck come in with dual fuel tanks on it. The gas gauge wasn’t working and needed some attention. This was a perfect opportunity for Junior to learn a few of my short cuts on these old models. It was an older Ford, in which the tank gauge ran thru the tank switchover button. It was rather easy to pull it out of the dash and connect to the gauge from the back of the switch.
Luckily it was the typical problem I’ve seen a hundred times in the past. The switch connections would melt and the tank wouldn’t switch from the front tank to the rear, and of course the gauge wouldn’t move either.
After locating the correct leads to the gauge and to the tanks I decided to show him how the gauge worked. I hooked up the one of the tanks to the crossover lead that would supply the signal from the tank to the gauge.
“Ya see this, that’s the lead to the fuel gauge in the dash, and this is one of the tank wires. I’ll connect these together and we should get a reading on the dash,” I told him.
He was watching intently, taking in all the wiring diagram information, the location of the wires, and how I was bypassing the switch. He was fascinated with the flow of the current and the way the gauge would respond. I even went as far as moving the gauge from full to empty by opening and closing it to a ground signal. While I had his attention I filled him in on the two types of gauges that were used back then (bimetallic and magnetic) and how low resistance on a bimetal type gauge would read near a full tank, while a magnetic gauge would read close to empty. Change the resistance and the gauge would/should read accordingly.
“So, if we put gas in the tank the gauge should move right? That way we could check the sending units in the tanks too,” he asked me.
“Great idea, grab a gas can and let’s add a few gallons,” I said, excited that he was so interested in the project.
He grabbed a can of gas and poured a few gallons in the tank. I was watching the gas guage carefully, but there was no movement. I knew I was on the right wires, but nothing was happening. Now what? Are there more problems?
“Crawl under there, and check to be sure the wire color is correct,” I yelled from the cab to him.
“Yep, it’s the right wire on the tank.”
“Well, we might have to pull the tank; it’s not changing the gauge readings up here.”
“Before we do that let’s add some more gas, maybe we didn’t add enough,” Junior tells me.
I thought I better go back and help hold the funnel, while he poured the gas in the tank. Unknowing to me, all this time my wife (who was the office manager) was listening in on the whole thing. She likes to keep tabs on me, and make sure I’m not going into one of my usual rants or having a fit because I had to explain something over and over again to little brother. This time she was standing at the corner of the shop just behind the truck with a camera. “CLICK”, I heard the camera shutter go off and she was back there laughing like there was no tomorrow.
“What’s so funny?” I asked her.
“You two idiots have been putting gas in the wrong tank. You’re on the front tank, and you’re putting gas in the rear tank,” my wife answers, laughing hysterically.
About then the camera “clicked” again… this time it was an action shot taken at precisely the exact moment when these two idiots had that dumb struck look on their faces and realized what they just did. The shot had both of us on our knees, one holding a funnel and the other with the half empty gas can, and both of us staring right into the camera lens. Couldn’t have set it up any better if you tried.
The picture clearly showed the side of the truck with both fuel tank doors visible and there was no doubt which tank we were putting in the extra gas. I guess it was one of those things I should have mentioned when we were checking the tank senders… make sure we are both on the same tank.
For years that picture hung over her desk, and anytime I thought I was so smart she would point at the photo. Usually with that typical smirk, usually shaking her finger at me and of course the laugh… she had to laugh, but it wasn’t all that funny until she had me laughing about it too. Ok, Ok, I’m not perfect... and now my little brother knows it too.
These days he’s a top notch tech at a dealership, and I have to call him on occasions for some help on how to solve things once in a while. Oh the photo… uhmmm… what photo?? Somehow it’s missing… haven’t seen the darn thing in years. But I guess I really don’t need to see the photo … the wife has a pretty good memory... she reminds me just how smart I think I am every chance she gets.
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By Jay Huh
I started out cheap, I price things cheap, and I used cheap labor.... until now. Hired an ASE master tech whom I thought was out of my ability to pay.
Last week was his first week and he knocked out 63.5 hours of work!!!!!!! Previous record to that was like 43 hours? Had the highest grossing week in 2 years of business. I didn't give him 63 hours of work.. HE FOUND IT. My car count wasn't different, still the same customers, just a different attitude.
He brought his prodigy so I took 2 of my old guys to my new shop and hired these 2. We open at 8:30 am and expect techs to get there around 8:20, they show up at the shop at 6:45 am.... I had to give them a key lol
Haven't been excited about my business in a while. I pay him flat rate- he was making $28 before but I got him at $25 and promised him $28 in 2 months. I think a big factor was me being able to hire his friend as well. So far so good. Looking back, cheap labor ended up costing me more money with comebacks and inexperience.