A different and dangerous kind of status quo

Jan. 1, 2020
You can find this kind of status quo sitting on a shelf or hanging on the wall of almost every shop in the country.

Last month I wrote about a powerful and positive kind of status quo, the kind that allows shop owners like me the opportunity to focus on the areas of our respective businesses that aren’t strictly related to the parts and accessories you provide. Now it’s time to explore a different kind of status quo: one that is directly related to what you do and how well you do it. It is equally as powerful but rarely as positive. It leads to a comfortable yet dangerous kind of complacency that too often allows us to ignore the wants, needs and expectations of our clients and customers. It falsely suggests that because things seem to be okay, they will remain that way.

It is the mechanical kind of status quo that allows us to go through the motions without thought or consideration, the kind that turns a groove into a rut, something positive into something negative and, perhaps, even dangerous.

You can find this kind of status quo sitting on a shelf or hanging on the wall of almost every shop in the country. It takes the form of belts and hoses that aren’t moving, items in inventory that are dead or dying and sales representatives who do nothing more than show up every week to replenish rather than re-evaluate.

I have experienced this kind of status quo up close and personal, falling victim to countless special deals and packages of “A” moving inventory over the years. I’ve watched the sales professionals who sold those deals show up week after week, month after month, seemingly unable to notice the numbers that never moved.

What fascinates me is that it is rarely the person responsible for creating the missing or broken piece of the inventory puzzle who finally finds or fixes it! Instead, it is almost always someone else, someone patient, someone hungry: someone hanging out at the shop just waiting for the level of frustration to boil over the top. In other words, it is someone patiently waiting for a competitor to fail.

It happened here just the other day as I finished filling existing inventory with stock orders from two different suppliers who were both happy to replenish what was on the wall rather than redefine what should be there. As my frustration grew, I mumbled the same question thousands of shop owners ask every day: “Why can’t anybody make sure I have enough of what I need instead of leaving me with too much of what I don’t?” A voice from the corner of the office quietly replied, “I can.”

It was a salesman patiently waiting for the opportunity to serve. I’m going to give him that opportunity even though I’ve heard it all before. I’m going to give it to him because he asked for it; because he saw the opportunity and acted upon it; because the status quo of leaving things pretty much the way they were was good enough for everyone else, but not good enough for him. I’m going to give it to him because he saw that this particular kind of status quo — this existing state of affairs — was intolerable because it results in lost productivity and profits for everyone in the supply chain.

So what kind of “an existing state of affairs” are you willing to tolerate?

Mitch Schneider is co-owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair, Inc., Simi Valley, Calif., and is an ASE Master Technician.

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