The ‘Up’ Side of Down – UnderhoodService

The ‘Up’ Side of Down

I hope things don't get much worse, although I know they could. And, I guess there are signs things are getting just a little better, however slight or imperceptible the improvement may be.

Some people can’t wait to tell you how the best part of what we’ve all been going through over the past several months is the fact that things aren’t likely to get much worse. God knows, I hope they’re right.

I hope things don’t get much worse, although I know they could. And, I guess there are signs things are getting just a little better, however slight or imperceptible the improvement may be. Signs things may be stabilizing a bit, if not  beginning to straighten out altogether!

However, these are the same folks who generally frame just about everything they have to say in terms of the market, industrial averages, or just plain dollars and cents. The market is up two points or down 20; new car sales are at a 30-year low; interest rates are…; foreclosures hit;  unemployment is…

They rarely talk in terms normal people, people like you and me, would understand. And, by “understand” I don’t mean appreciate, recognize or comprehend.

It would be safe to say that living where we live, doing what we do and dealing with normal people as intimately as we do, we “get it” on a much more visceral level than the experts and analysts do. In fact, we probably understand the majority of these things far better and in a much more personal way than they ever will — and, the majority of us have managed to accomplish that without an advanced degree in finance.

But, I’m not talking about understanding things the way they do.I’m not talking about optimism, either foolish or justified. As many of you know, I’m a relative newcomer to this “optimism” business. So, I’m not sure I’d even recognize it if it suddenly came crashing around the corner.

I’m talking about reality. The kind of harsh, challenging, difficult reality that has brought many of us together in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined less than a year ago. I’m talking about the kind of reality that has us looking both inward as well as outward; the kind of reality that has us watching out for one another; reaching out. I’m talking about a special kind of reality within our own industry that actually has us talking to each other!

You see, while not entirely an optimist, at least, not yet, I do believe there is an “upside” to the down we are experiencing: an upside that could actually reverberate across the service industry if we let it…an upside that just might grow if we nurture it.

What kind of upside? The kind that has people connecting with one another, the kind that has them supporting and depending upon one another.

I’m closer to the people I work with every day than I have ever been before, so I’m more likely to share what is going on in the business, more likely to be involved in their lives, more aware of their problems. I think they have a better understanding of what is going on in the office and behind the service counter and — unlike the generations of shop owners who have gone before me, both within our family and outside it — I am willing to share much of that information more freely and openly than has been the custom in years past.

When you’ve been together as long as we have, that isn’t all that difficult, really. But, you have to admit, it isn’t all that common either! When you’ve been together as long as we have, there are more “we’s” and “us’s” than there are “I’s” and “me’s.” Or, at least, you hope there are.

When you’ve been together as long as we have, there is more problem solving and encouragement than there is blame and shame. And, after all these years, that’s probably as it should be.

Nevertheless, I’m working to ensure we continue in this direction even after the economy recovers — and I believe it will. Because I know it is the only path that will lead us to the kind of lasting
success for which we’ve all been yearning and searching.

We are closer to our clients than we have ever been before. With the whole world crashing in on you and crumbling around you, it’s hard not to be. Being close to our clients is an integral part of who we are and what we are all about; it is a part of our company’s DNA. By chance or by choice, we are involved in their lives.

It’s hard not to be. They tell us things when they come in, they talk to us. And, we listen.
We know who has been laid off and who is expecting to be laid off. We know who is ill and who is recovering. We know which kids have come home to live with their parents until they can get on their feet again, and we know which parents have been forced to come and live with their kids.

We know who is getting married and, all too often, we know who will no longer be together. We know who is struggling and who is not. In many ways, we’ve always known.

They are all very much a critical part of our corporate lives,  perhaps more so now than ever before.
Why? How? Because with the economy so much more volatile and things so much more challenging — more challenging than they have ever been before — that’s just about the way things have to be. These challenges are being stacked upon us one on top of another until the weight is almost unbearable.

And, yet, there isn’t a day that goes by without an opportunity to witness the beauty and incredible strength of the human spirit as people reach out to one another. There isn’t a day that goes by where someone you know, maybe even someone you know in this industry, someone who does what you and I do, triumphs against overwhelming, if not impossible, odds and manages to touch their dreams.

We witness the “upside of down” when shop owners work with their suppliers to move beyond survival to achieve some greater measure of success, no matter how small, when we talk to one another, building trust…increasing understanding.

We witness the upside of down when we look into each other’s world and choose to recognize those things we have in common, rather than those which have always managed to separate us and keep us apart.
We witness the upside of down when the manufacturers we depend on so often for so much begin to recognize and respond to our wants, needs and expectations with programs that are relevant, programs that resonate with value and content.

We witness the upside of down when shop owners stop looking at the guy across the street or down the block as the enemy, when we begin to see each other as the potential asset we might be, should be, must become, and no longer perceive each other as the adversaries and antagonists we have always seen lurking in the shadows.

You can clearly see the upside of down when employers and their employees, shop owners and our technicians recognize and react to the challenges we all must confront in this troubled economy and during these troubled times, cooperating and collaborating with a single-mindedness of purpose that says: We are in this together! We are one! And, our success or failure will be measured as one!

We are the upside of down when we have helped ensure our client’s freedom; when we have helped them remain mobile…when we get them home, to work, school or to the market and then back again safely and economically.

We are the upside of down when we remain financially viable, economically strong. We are the upside of down when there are cars in the bays and work for our technicians.

We are the upside of down when we able to make payroll, pay our taxes and our suppliers on time.

We are the upside of down when we all realize that we aren’t just a part of the solution…

We are the solution!

We will finally be the upside of down when each of us realizes that in this economy or any other, if we continue to wait for someone else to do it for us, someone else to come along and “fix” it all, someone else to take control, we will be waiting tomorrow and the day after and the day after that…and we will find ourselves waiting

Our associations can’t do it without us. God knows they’ve been trying! But, it will take more than 15% of us to affiliate if we’re ever going to make the right kinds of things happen, if they’re ever to happen at all.

The industry can’t do it without you. You are the industry…or, at least its largest segment!

Your customers and clients can’t do it alone and without you. Nor, can you do it alone without them.

The government can’t do it without you. You are the government. We are the government…or, at least we could be if we ever recognized the power we have, should we ever act as one or speak with one voice.

It’s up to each of us to become the upside of down. It’s our responsibility. It may even be our destiny. And, it’s during times like these that folks like you and me, normal folks, ordinary folks get to do extraordinary things.
It would probably be safe to say that each of us had a hand in creating the conditions we now confront, either by doing nothing or by doing the wrong thing.

Consequently, it would be safe to say that it is up to each of us to become the upside of down. It is up to each of us to “fix” what’s broken.

And, it would be equally safe to say there is no better place to start than right here and right now in our industry: the automotive service industry. After all, fixing stuff is what we do and you’ve got to admit, we do it pretty well! 

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