Shop Life Columnists

Here’s to the Year

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I speak with many operators and industry folks in the month between each of these columns. That includes our Editorial Advisory Board, whose names you will find on this magazine’s masthead, as well as all of the experts you read about in each issue.

When speaking with the latter group, sometimes the best information comes on the peripheries of the official interview. Those are the times when we’re just talking about the operation, how they got into the business, and, more directly, how the past year has been.

It has been a wild one! A year ago, the United States was really in the doldrums of pandemic-related closures, remote work (for office types), and an uncertainty about the future that had many operators wondering what came next.

The early months of 2021 offered a bit of reprieve with the vaccine rollout, which made customers a bit more comfortable to return to their chosen automotive service centers. Quick lube shops, which have stayed open throughout the pandemic and saw rollercoaster-like car counts, told me they were looking ahead to a strong year.

Looking back now, it has been a strong year. It’s not due to unmitigated good times—severe supply chain disruptions saw to that. It’s due to shop operators doing what they have been doing for two years now. Stay open, support their teams, and make it through the hard times. And you know what? Car counts have held steady for most operators I speak with.

 I’m thinking about that road you’ve travelled in 2021 as we release this December issue. I’m also thinking about the road ahead, and how shops are coming out stronger than before. I invite you to think about that long-term perspective while reading this group of stories, which focus on the core skills needed to succeed.

Let’s get back to the basics. You’ll find a story about developing a telephone script and process that should wow customers while being consistent. You’ll also find articles about building stronger shop cultures. First, how operators and managers can better recognize employee achievements. Then, look to this month’s Pit Stop to be briefed on the finer points of how leaders can deal with employee grievances.

Finally, this edition of the Case Study features a well-respected operator who goes through his strategy for getting his techs to become experts in the field, providing helpful information to customers to build trust and sales performance.

The feature story this month is all about that enduring trend in quick maintenance: the rise of synthetic oil. This article takes a longer-term look at the historic rise of synthetics and how industry forces have led us to a majority-synthetic oil change environment.

On the surface, this issue of NOLN looks a lot like other issues. Hopefully we’re consistent in our commitment to bringing strategies and ideas that are new to some operators and tried-and-true to others. The end result of that mix is a healthy look at what others in our business are doing.

What does change is the world around us, which is why I brought up the heck of a year we’ve been through. This is, if anything, a space to congratulate you for the hard work that you’ve put into your businesses during challenging times.

Heading into 2022, NOLN will make some small changes, but we aren’t going anywhere. And with a quick maintenance industry looking as strong as ever, we know that we’re in good company.

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