Be Nice…

Written by mitch. Posted in Aftermarket, Blog, Distribution, Manufacturing, Repair Community

My wife was at a Staff Meeting tonight, which basically means I was on my own. Now, for some people that might mean dinner out and a chance to do whatever they want. For me it meant two slices of left over mushroom quesadilla, U-Verse, and a chance to watch Road House… yet again!

MV5BMTU1MTE2Mjk2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTUzNjYzNA@@._V1._SY317_If Lesley was home and walked into the family room and Road House was on… again: the conversation would go something like this, “How many times are you going to watch that movie? Don’t you have it memorized by now!” and, I’d probably respond with something clever, like: “As many times as it’s on… And, almost, but not quite yet!”

To tell you the truth, I have memorized most, if not all of it. But, there are great lessons to be learned from Sam Elliott’s character and still more to be learned from Patrick Swayze. One of those things is something I learned a long time ago and that’s, “Be nice…”

It comes during a scene at the very beginning of the movie where Swayze’s character, Dalton, is sharing what turns out to be both his operational strategy for the bar he’s supposed to reclaim and resurrect and his own personal philosophy: “Be nice… Be nice no matter what happens: no matter what anyone does, no matter what anyone says. Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.”

It’s an operational strategy and philosophy I’ve tried to adopt, but honestly, my execution is generally something less than perfect. In fact, it’s something I have trouble with just about every day…

Why? Because, it’s hard to be nice when you’re dealing with someone who by nature appears to be anything but nice. It’s hard to be nice to someone who appears to be ‘working you’ every time they show up: nice when in your presence and bordering on malicious when you aren’t there and they’re skulking around in the shadows.

There isn’t enough time or ink to tell the whole story here, but I’d be willing to bet if you’ve been in this business for more than an hour-and-a-half you know this guy or at least, his type. In fact, if you’ve been in this business for more than an hour-and-a-half you’ve probably already had him in your office.

Be nice… “

While he can be absolutely charming when or if he chooses: you can just as quickly and easily find yourself confronted with someone how is condescending, demanding, annoying, confounding, insulting and contradictory – and, as my wife would say, “Those are his GOOD points!”

Be nice…”

My attitude may have been poisoned by the email he sent a few weeks ago implying one of our technicians actually sabotaged his vehicle, creating a problem just because he didn’t like working on his vehicle. Or, it could have been his unwillingness to believe me when I tried to tell him that couldn’t be further from the truth: that our technician actually had no problem working on his car.

What I should have told him, but didn’t – what I couldn’t tell him – was that the problem our technician had was working with the owner, not with the vehicle!

Be nice…”

I’ve tried. But, it’s hard – almost impossible – to be nice to someone who isn’t nice to you. It’s hard to be nice to someone who has insulted you. Or, worse yet, insulted people you respect: people who have earned that respect over a lifetime of service. And, yet, I keep trying.

I keep trying even when the veneer of that effort is worn so thin it’s almost become transparent.

Be nice…”

I’m giving it one last shot… going over the vehicle one last time and at least attempting to knock every last concern off this guy’s list. I’m going to kill him with kindness… Or, maybe, I’ll just kill him? Who knows…

Whatever I do, I’ll be doing it for me and not for him and that’s kind of a shame because he’ll probably read it the wrong way and think it’s all about him and everything is OK.

I’ll be nice because that’s who I am: that’s who we are… It’s how we are with just about everyone who comes here.

It’s the way we do things: the way I was raised, the only way we know.

But, it will be the last time we’ll be nice. Because I think we’ve reached the point it’s finally time not to be so nice!”

Out Of The Box…

Written by mitch. Posted in Aftermarket, Blog, Consumer, Distribution, Manufacturing, Repair Community

My father would talk about a lot of things when I was ‘little’ and rode with him to work. The drive from the South Shore of Long Island to Bensonhurst was formidable enough at five-thirty or six o’clock in the morning, but it was downright brutal heading home regardless of the day or time.

It didn’t matter which route you chose either: whether you found yourself sitting in traffic on the Belt Parkway or “parked” on the Long Island Expressway – the ride was one part long: two parts boring. Either way, the radio would eventually be switched off and the first or second long silence would be broken by an equally long period of conversation.

One of my Father’s favorite topics was ‘packaging.’Gift boxes

I know, it sounded strange to me too at first. But, that didn’t stop him. We would talk about how the packaging was too often a distraction: how an incredibly beautiful package, complete with gift-wrapping and a big bow, might be empty or contain junk, while a plain brown cardboard box might conceal a hidden treasure inside.

boxIt was a concept we discussed often; often enough for him to be certain I understood… often enough for me to realize he was talking about more than just gift wrapping: often enough to realize he was really talking about people and human nature.

Looking back, I believe he was trying to teach me that what’s inside the package is what’s important and that anything else is either decoration or a distraction.

We’ve got a problem with ‘packaging’ in our industry and I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done about it. An argument can be made that we shouldn’t have to do anything about it, but I’m not sure how realistic that kind of an answer really is.

You see we have always been a safe haven for outliers and eccentrics, outlaws and non-conformists: the lunatic fringe abandoned by conventional education because we failed to accommodate ourselves to their perception of ‘normal.’

Consequently, it isn’t all that difficult to find a pierced and/or sleeved ASE certified Master Tech (Or, two…) successfully working their way through the industry. It isn’t that hard to find brilliant technicians whose social skills are less than ‘elegant’ or whose ability to interact with members of the ‘greater society’ is as rough as their ‘packaging’ might imply.

Being successful: being effective, despite our appearance, despite the fact we didn’t necessarily do well in class or on an academic track, despite the fact we choose to set ourselves apart from the more polite elements of our culture is a badge some wear proudly; too proudly at times, perhaps.

The problem is obvious. Because, we depend upon the patronage of ‘the more polite elements’ of our society for our livelihood, it behooves all of us to demonstrate our professionalism in every way we can and that includes appearance, communication skills, demeanor and technical ability. That doesn’t mean we have to hide who we are. But, it does mean we have to overcome the public perception many of us are still held captive by: especially, when there are those of us who still revel in the impact their appearance or demeanor may have on those who would be shocked by it!

Unfortunately, the sad truth is not everyone understands packaging the way my father did. Not everyone sees the difference between content and decoration as clearly, either. And, that means elevating the industry is a shared responsibility: a journey we must all take together.ASE

I think it starts with an understanding of what it means to be a professional: what the perception is, what the expectations are. Then, we need to deliver on the promises implied by the title. We need to understand that no one will ever know who we are, how good we are at what we do or the contribution we make to the culture we serve unless or until we have the opportunity to demonstrate any of the above.

That’s right, no one will care about the content – the quality of the product – unless the package it comes in is considered attractive or desirable enough to open.

In a way, I guess that means we all have to think out of the box in order to have anyone even consider what’s inside that box… No matter how exceptional that hidden treasure might be.