Your World is Changing Because You are Staying the Same

Nov. 1, 2019

To succeed, operators need to adapt. Columnist Lenny Saucier takes a look at how the industry has evolved alongside its people.

Let me paint a picture for you. It’s 2002, Mr. Longfellow Deeds steps in front of his late uncles’ shareholders after losing the company on a bet. He sets out to convince the board that Preston Blake’s business needs to be kept in the family.

He appeals to the board members’ memories of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Despite the hopes and dreams of their youth, they had all eventually ended up in the same room, rooting for money. It was this realization that changed their minds and voted for Mr. Deeds but were outvoted by one majority shareholder.

I personally wanted to be the garbage man on the back of the truck riding down the streets. High stature rarely ran through my family tree, so this led us to follow our dreams of what made us happy. Like many of you, the dream was far from where we are now. As we grew up, we settled into new goals, thought patterns and we seemed to chase things we never thought we would have.

Our industry was born to counteract the norms of the dealership and the mechanic shop that refused us a quick service at a reasonable price. The quick lube was born to change the world and a new process was born that was built around the premise that others desire the same thing.

Our founding fathers were pioneers in the automotive business just as McDonald’s was to the drive-in. They looked out at an empty lot and a vision of a two-or-three-bay shop appeared as they heard a whisper: “If you build it, they will come.”

Just as the industry set out to be different with quick services, a few different versions sprouted from this concept to include services like light mechanical, car washes, tons of ancillary services, and some just stuck to running the numbers on high volumes of vehicles (basically ignoring the high ticket). Our customer base now has many options outside the dealership, and they are all called quick lubes. The multitude of options inside the quick lube gives the customer the ability to choose a quick lube to their specific needs.

Over the past few years, we have seen a trend of acquisitions where financially stable quick lubes have been buying up mom and pop stores and small chains. The big contenders have been set out to pay a premium to grow their footprint and their net value while climbing the charts in the NOLN rankings. This has left the customer with very little options in many areas. Some groups have almost walked away from the “quick lube” stage into light mechanical. Where we were all once out to deliver a quick and easy product to our customers, we are now sitting in a room full of people rooting for money. As much as they try to continue the dream, personalization and buy in can be quickly replaced by uninformed decisions and profit-by-carving.
This means for you, the still faithful to our founding fathers’ visions, you have a unique opportunity to become the trendsetter by not changing from your plan. Keeping your plan is not simply enough, remember that all quick lubes can be dumped into the same bucket by the consumer. Your mission is to decide how you differentiate from your competitors and exploit it. In the spirit of “Category of One” by Joe Calloway, don’t place yourself in a position where you are chasing the leader. Once you have decided to chase someone, you now only see butt cheeks and elbows—not the best view. Understand and commit to what makes you different.

Train it. Train like your wallet depends on it. It is not enough for you to know that you are the best because of your bay times, extra touches, or the free drink. You must preach and teach this to your employees as this should be in almost every speech and communication that you have. Teach this to your customer as this should be the shining moment in your service and be a part of every bit of your advertising. You, the ones that stayed behind by not changing are the hometown oil change. As great as many of these big companies are, they are not you. They are not in your category.

Take a look at your journey in this fantastic industry. Know where you are and where you are not. Perhaps there is an old mission statement or business plan that will motivate you . Decide that you can really make a difference in your team then read my next few articles. Or think your people skills are top notch and watch your people go to the competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet after all. Until then, be great!