One father's request

Jan. 1, 2020
With the holidays fast approaching, this month’s column isn’t about fixing cars. It's about life.

With the holidays fast approaching, this month’s column isn’t about fixing cars. It’s not about insurers refusing to pay for something. It’s not about parts that don’t fit, or 55-hour workweeks or a troublesome employee. It’s not about any of the doom and gloom we so often hear or talk about in this industry.

It’s about life.

I was in Concord Auto Body in Concord, N.C., earlier this year, and a letter on the counter caught my eye. Being nosey, I read it, and then asked the shop owner, Brian Ross, to tell me about it. Here’s what he had to say.

“It was on a Monday morning, less than six months after I acquired the shop back in 1998,” Brian said. “We’d delivered a car the previous Friday, and before I even got the door unlocked that Monday morning, the car’s owner was outside just pitching a fit because his door gap was off by an eighth of an inch.

“After I got him satisfied, I walked into my office, and I was feeling kind of discouraged because of the talking to I’d just received, being new in the business, new as an owner. Right then, my receptionist said another customer who had dropped off his car that morning had left a note on my desk. Reading this other customer’s note about his car swung me from one extreme to the other.”

Here’s what the note said:

“To whom it may concern: There is a scratch on the gas cover. When you repair the car, please do not paint this. You see, my 8-year-old son did this with his bike a year-and-a-half ago. I was so mad at him. This past July, he died suddenly. Now each time I see this scratch, I am reminded of the things that should matter in life, and not the little annoyances that don’t mean anything.”

“I walked outside after reading that and took the gas door lid off that man’s car, wrapped it up and put it in my desk drawer,” Brian told me. “We repaired the car, and when he came to pick it up, he noticed the gas door wasn’t on it. I walked out and put it back on, and he told me, ‘You’ll never know how much I appreciate that.’

“We actually repaired another one of that man’s cars earlier this year, and he told me he still has that 1992 Saturn with the scratch still in the gas door,” Brian told me. “I think that sometimes in this business we get so tied up with numbers and deadlines that we forget that we have no idea what another person is going through. I hope this will help someone remember along the way that life and relationships with one another are more important than material things.”

Whenever I’m feeling discouraged or I’m talking with another shop owner who is, I think about Brian’s story and his customer and his young son. You read something like that and it just puts things in perspective. It really touched my heart.

If you’re not having fun, maybe it’s time to think about doing something else. Life is just too short. And at the end of the day, despite all the challenges and difficulties we face day in and day out, this is still a good industry with a lot of good people in it, doing a lot of good things for people.

I’m thankful for them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

About the Author

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson, a former shop owner, operates, a training and consulting firm. He's also a facilitator for DuPont Performance Services' Business Council 20-groups.

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