Running a Shop

The Importance of Supporting Each Other in Business

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Many of you know, I am one of the founding partners of Throttle Muscle, as well as an operator of Jiffy Lube centers on the Central Coast of California. While the fact that I am a quick lube operator has sometimes served as a deterrent for some operators, my experience as an operator is what makes Throttle Muscle products relevant and gives validity to what we are trying to accomplish in the market place.

This concept of being an owner of a “complementary” business is not a new concept. If you think about some of the largest firms in the world, they often own businesses that complement their own. I am not writing this article today to encourage you to start another business or to look at acquiring a complementary business, but rather to share some experiences on networking, working together to support one another and what it means to be a part of an industry group.

One of the greatest parts of being a partner in Throttle Muscle is the fact that I get to see the “other side” of the business. I get to see what it is like to be a vendor, to call on potential customers and to build relationships with operators. My first couple years on that side of the aisle really gave me a new respect for the vendors that call on our businesses year after year. The effort these vendors put in regardless of what I purchase from them truly impresses me. I, for one, am not a salesperson and am definitely not one who is going to be persistent on calling a potential customer over and over again.

I may have shared this story before, but prior to becoming a “vendor,” I was walking through a tradeshow in Las Vegas in typical operator fashion. My nametag was turned backwards; I was working hard to avoid eye contact with vendors; and I was generally on a mission to get through the tradeshow as quickly as possible so I could meet up with friends and do some gambling. There were maybe one or two vendors I actually wanted to talk with. As I am marching down the aisle, Ellie Pentland jumps out in front of me, grabs my nametag and turns it around. I had no idea who this crazy lady was — but she looked harmless enough, so I didn’t push on, I allowed her to do her introduction. As it turned out, Ellie (as many of you probably know) had been calling me for months trying to get me to look into her line of chemicals.

Little did I know, at that moment I would turn into one of Ellie’s customers. I would buy a ton of product from her and, later, would become a close family friend to her. I consider Ellie to be one of my dearest friends to this day. That was probably 18 years ago! Some of you are probably scratching your heads right now thinking: Wait, doesn’t Ellie work for a competitor? Indeed, she does.

Some may find it crazy that I am friends with a competitor. I find it normal. One of my other good business friends is Frank Kane — yes, another competitor. If you are ever walking through a tradeshow we are all attending, you will probably find me sitting in Ellie’s booth or Frank’s booth trying to coerce their customers to join the Throttle Muscle customer list. Just kidding — most of the time, we are just talking business, friends, family and enjoying each other’s company.

When I think of how we competitors help each other, support each other and even complement each other, I think of how important it is for operators to not only support each other, but to support vendors as well. I know it probably sounds a bit self-serving to say this, but us operators are very fortunate to have such supportive vendors out there willing to call on us over and over again in hopes of helping us improve our businesses. It is especially fortunate that vendors all assemble for industry tradeshows to showcase their products and services in a manner that is convenient for us operators. Unfortunately for me, I really didn’t have an appreciation for this until I joined the other side.

As an operator, when I look at vendors I most enjoy working with, it is those who actually take the time and energy to get to know my business and me. But, how do they have that opportunity if I don’t give it to them? I like to do business with those who have fun and are a bit quirky, but take their businesses seriously. Most of the time, that ends up being other small businesses or those that are run by families or a group of friends. As an operator, it is important for me to support those vendors and return their commitment of time, energy and investment in our business with purchases of my own.

Take for example: Cherry. Cherry is a company I have greatly enjoyed working with as an operator, but what truly got me to respect them was watching them from the vendor side. That team is 100 percent committed to the success of their business and how it can help make operators more successful. They fit the entire bill for me: they are quirky, they are fun and they are a family-run company. What makes it even more impressive is they are successful. The last tradeshow we attended with them, we had a lot of time to chat because of the low operator turnout on the tradeshow floor. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how operators missed out by not walking the show and learning how an energetic young start-up can help drive a successful segment of business.

I’d be willing to bet that some of you are having an “ah-ha” moment right now. I hope that some of what I like as an operator has come through in the advertising we do for Throttle Muscle. I am sure you see that we like to have fun and we are quirky — sometimes you might even find us a bit tacky. But it is all in good fun. I am the first person that would take an opportunity to make fun of myself, if that opportunity arose, and would be the first person to stand in front of a competitor and get called out for a “tacky” ad. But honestly, we are all in this together. We are all in this to win. We are all in this to make sure the automotive service industry thrives. Let’s work together to make this happen!

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