by Linden Wicklund, AASP-MN Executive Director
About once a week, I am on the road going to events or visiting members in their shops. I seek out firsthand information on what makes businesses thrive in their specific circumstance and what causes them to struggle. I look for themes and collective imbalances that the association can help with.
It doesn’t matter if your shop is negotiating for fair pay from insurance giants or competing with dealerships for business or trying to access information from OEMs, the power dynamics of who has more knowledge impacts daily business. Dealers, OEMs and insurance companies are big businesses with large pools of data to gleam information from. Independent shops simply do not have the same amount of data to leverage. And yet, independent shops still thrive. Particularly those who know their own data and how to apply it.
One of the core principles of all associations is “members are stronger together” and can compete with big business. Often in practice this means reminding businesses, and the people in them, in a myriad of ways: “You are not alone.” So, what about information sharing? Yes, big businesses have big data and lots of power through that. And yes, the laws that inhibit these businesses from becoming monopolies, also inhibit sharing information (such as pricing) that could be construed as conspiring to inhibit competition. What about information that is gathered in mass, synthesized and sold to only those big players who can pay for it? What about fear mongering and all out bluffs? What about when lawful ownership and sale of the data is in question?
As an association, AASP-MN members and staff are here to remind you that you are not alone and can play the game differently; together we can even change the game. The Alliance is built off the strength that comes from individual entrepreneurship, a spirit of doing things differently. So no, we are not a great “melting pot” trying to homogenize into succeeding in the same way or spout “this is the way to do it best.” We are here to help members figure out how they can uniquely “do it best” for their business in their unique market with their unique skills and abilities.
We are here for those moments when the big knowledge giants claim “you are the only one” to make you back down. Or when they claim to know more about your customers than you do. Or even when they attempt to leverage power in ways that undermine the core values of healthy competition. We are here to give you critical industry knowledge, to teach you to gleam knowledge on your own business and to collectively speak up when power dynamics need to be put in check.
I recently lost my mother-in-law, who was also one of my very best friends. She was larger than life in so many ways. She was a hero in her small town of Solon Springs, WI. As I prepared for her funeral, I came across this poem that reminded me of all of you. Your businesses and the passion you pour into them is deeply local. You show up in times of need for your customers. Your work impacts their everyday lives.
LOCAL HEROES: The Feast of All Souls, 2001
by Thomas Lynch
Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or evil overwhelms or
the world as we have come to know it turns
toward the eventual apocalypse
long predicted in all the holy books—
the end-times of old grudge and grievances
that bring us each to our oblivions.
Still, maybe this is not the end at all,
nor even the beginning of the end.
Rather, one more in a long list of sorrows
to be added to the ones thus far endured,
through what we have come to call our history—
another in that bitter litany
that we will, if we survive it, have survived.
God help us who must live through this, alive
to the terror and open wounds: the heart
torn, shaken faith, the violent, vengeful soul,
the nerve exposed, the broken body so
mingled with its breaking that it’s lost forever.
Lord send us, in our peril, local heroes.
Someone to listen, someone to watch, someone
to search and wait and keep the careful count
of the dead and missing, the dead and gone
but not forgotten. Some days all that can be done
is to salvage one sadness from the mass
of sadnesses, to bear one body home,
to lay the dead out among their people,
organize the flowers and casseroles,
write the obits, meet the mourners at the door,
drive the dark procession down through town,
toll the bell, dig the hole, tend the pyre.
It’s what we do. The daylong news is dire—
full of true believers and politicos,
bold talk of holy war and photo-ops.
But here, brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living, caring for the dead.
Here the distant battle is waged in homes.
Like politics, all funerals are local.
Want more? Check out the February 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!