Zoom In, Zoom Out

by Linden Wicklund, AASP-MN Executive Director

Each year, we work hard to put together the most timely and relevant content for the annual conference. This year is no different. Over the past 12 months, we (the Board of Directors and staff) have noticed some recurring themes in the needs of independent automotive businesses, so the conference is directly geared towards meeting those.

This year’s theme is: The Shop of Tomorrow. As in, your shop, tomorrow. What does tomorrow look like for you? What about Tomorrow? Can you step out of the shop for a day to gain critical information to propel you forward? Are you stuck in “the everyday”? Do you want to grow, expand or do something different but “the everyday” keeps getting in the way? Or maybe you have things just as you like, so you don’t want that disrupted.

Here is what you should know: 

1.  You are not alone! All shops are grappling with the balance of today and tomorrow.

2.  If you need to close the shop for a day and give everyone a vacation day to be able to attend the annual AASP-MN Leadership Conference, do that, because you should be able to step away and gain some perspective that pushes the work you do further. You run an independent business that affords you the flexibility and freedom to be your own boss, but it also makes you responsible for a team of people and your customers (to some extent). They deserve a leader who is willing to invest a day or two a year in some serious learning and reflection, particularly when it is available right here in MN. 

These are the things that have stood out to me most in the past year:

The number one fear shops have is the workforce – shops can’t find skilled technicians. When you askfollow-up questions, shops fall into two groups: The ones who have a waiting list of people who want to work for them, and the ones who  haven’t been posting openings but are worried. Yes, that is an oversimplification, but it is hard to find shops who are truly struggling to find technicians and willing to talk about the struggle. So how big is the problem? Hard to tell.

It is hard to find the target if yourcompass is broken. I have beenamazed by how many shops are embracing enormous growth, and at the same time, how many are content staying the course as they are. The shops that flounder, or are overly critical of others for not growing, are often the ones that haven’t sorted out where they want to be in the future, or even in the everyday. 

The option to leave the shop for a day needs to be created by design – it isn’t a luxury or a matter of good business, it is in the operational design. It doesn’t matter if it is about covering for employees out with illnesses, being generally short staffed, the owner balancing too much for one person, trust in the team or whatever the reason. The owner, managers, and key decision makers can’t lead if they keep getting sucked into the crisis of today. 

Sometimes, we need to step back to truly evaluate where we are at and what areas of the business we need to “zoom in” on to finetune. The businesses of today need to be engineered to withstand a level of turbulence that is graded on its unpredictability, instead of its severity. 

So take a day, or two, to learn from nationally-recognized experts who have come to you, right here in Minnesota. Enjoy the comradery provided by fellow members. And get some perspective that empowers you as a leader in this amazing industry. 

Want more? Check out the February 2024 issue of AASP-MN News!