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Counterman Magizine...
The Power Of Sharing and Exchanging Ideas For A Better Tomorrow...

By Ron Dahlhaus

A very long time ago (1978), when I was but an 18 year old who quit..yes, quit college (one of my early mistakes in life) to go into the world of auto parts, I thought it best to venture into the front door of what would be my primary competitor and introduce myself and thought of the possibility of having a friendly relationship with the exchanging of parts, ideas and knowledge. What a bad thought that was, as I was all but thrown out of the front door! I had no real customers, no real inventory and really no idea of the business that I was about to spend what has become the next 40 something years doing! However, what I did think that day was how I was never going to ask to be a friendly competitor again..and that I really wanted nothing more than to put that guy out of business and be very successful! Over the next 27 years, our company grew to four locations, certainly endured the downs and ups of business, but never did we ever venture out of our comfort zone to consult with "other " local auto parts stores or local businesses to share information or ideas.

During those 27 years I had sat on our Jobber counsel, as we were a National Program Group Independent Store for awhile,  but those meetings were very few and far between, and in the end it was more of a selling meeting on a new product line than an idea exchange. As the years went by and we realized that "our" best times were behind us, and we ended up selling out (the business still exists today) and I went on to work for that very same initial competitor (now with a new principle) whom I wanted so very badly to put out of business! Very funny how life turns out.

As the new role of now working for someone (as I never did before in my life) sank in, the sharing and exchanging of ideas began almost from the first dinner meeting! Quickly, we (the owner and our other part of our management team) collaborated on most items as our group of a few grew to many within a few years! During this time I was exposed to our program group association and the quarterly meetings that went on at a destination location all over the country! At first I was thinking that I was not ever going to be able to contribute or add value as our program group's membership boasts the who's who in auto parts from all over the country, and my initial misgivings were that these meetings are for owners to find a better way to buy better. While buying better is always the primary reason, something far more significant comes out of these types of meetings.

Once the "Vendor Shows" finish and the "Face to Face" meetings end, there are always the Membership Receptions, the non sanctioned Dinner Meetings, and the break out sessions usually left for the last day to bring everyone together to share ideas. The more Program Meetings that I attend, the more desire that I have for the next one to begin. When one becomes involved with a group of automotive colleagues, it becomes very obvious that most business owners share the very same problems that you have and maybe the problems that you have solved with experience, the next guy needs help with or wants your suggestion to help manage his business!

Most recently we attended our groups annual Vendor Trade Show and it had time for a break out session or two for those that wished to share ideas and problems. Never before had I gotten so much out of these meetings for helping us in running our business than this time. Maybe...the ideas and knowledge was there for the past five years or so, but this time, maybe, as I have gotten older and now understand the process, things really hit home. Now, we have been exchanging ideas, creating "new information dashboards", experimenting with new delivery dispatch ideas, and running our business with a bit more authority, due to the ideas shared in a one hour session, with our group of part store owners and managers!

So just maybe the next time your state or county has a Jobbers Association meeting, a Repair Association meeting or even a Chamber of Commerce Meeting in your town, take the time out to attend. Take the time to hear the problems that your competitor or local business owner has and maybe together, you can make your business more successful! Take the time to listen to those staff members that wish to help. The valued employee who may look at things from the outside in, rather than the inside out, as so many independent owners do, and may offer a different view on things. The more options that you explore to solve a problem, the more solutions will arise to make your business more profitable.

Making any type of business successful today is always a struggle. With the explosion of parts proliferation, the cost of acquiring those parts (inventory), the ability to offer credit terms, collection of those receivables, the ability to service your customer in a timely fashion with first a qualified counterperson and then second a fast free delivery..all are areas of increased concerns. Maybe your neighboring businessman, employee, or friend has an idea that saves you time or makes you money. You'll never know until you hear it. You'll never know until you open your mind to ask and hear the suggestion. You'll never know until you want to know! Get involved..make your business better and more profitable!

~ Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events ,small minds discuss people.

Hyman Rickover

Contact me at (973) 462-6010 or for further information.

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