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Changing our industry from a trade to a profession

Friday, April 21, 2017 - 06:00
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Over the past number of years, discussions of professionalism and raising the bar for the aftermarket have been common. The trade days are over; we are now evolving into a true profession.

Consider a completely out-of-the-box idea: A professional accreditation for the independent shop. Such a concept would involve a system run by the industry and approved by state governments across the country. In a simple context it would be organized like the engineers’ society, accountants’ society, medical society or law society, only this membership would be on a voluntary basis.

An accredited shop will have met a certain criteria established by a national association in technical expertise and business expertise and adhere to a standard of performance to the public. The “society” would be responsible for overseeing the standards and administrating the accreditation. All members of the society would pay annual dues to help finance the responsibility. Recognition for such accreditation would be public knowledge not only through the internet but through local articles and events praising such achievement and of course prominent signage within the shop site itself. In a short period of time, the public would come to recognize the difference in an accredited shop compared to a non-accredited shop. Think of it as recognizing the difference between a bookkeeper and a Chartered Public Accountant (CPA).  There is a difference in competency, ability and depth of expertise.

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This would be a substantial undertaking; however, the benefits to the aftermarket would be incredible. The sector would end up moving from a perception of a trade to the reality of a profession.

It makes sense for the industry through its national association, coupled with thorough participation of state shop associations, to gather authoritative representatives from the manufactures, warehouse distributors and jobber divisions and create a forum to discuss such a structure and how it could work. The foundation must be put together first. Committees must be established to do this. In time, the governments across the land must see and understand the structure being formed, followed with exposure to the education network. I believe the various automotive and technical colleges across the country would be ecstatic about getting involved with this concept.

The naysayers will shoot such a concept down stating, “Let free enterprise prevail.” Consider all accountants, lawyers and engineers are in the free enterprise arena; however, they have established professional standards of execution throughout their entire “business.” Why can’t the independent aftermarket sector do the same? The benefits to such a concept are enormous, such as improved image in the schooling system to attract the brightest students into a “profession” knowing they are entering a field that demands standards of professionalism. Public vehicle safety issues delivering reliable technical competency would now be properly addressed. Higher standards in executing to the public and improved public perception and image would all lead to higher personal incomes.

Let’s face it — if it would be easy everyone, would say “why not?” But the fact is this undertaking would be large, but it would set the groundwork for the next generation in the aftermarket to excel and prosper. Does this generation of aftermarket personnel not have a responsibility to leave behind an industry sector in better shape than what they had when they entered it? I believe we have a moral obligation to do just that.

Talk to your state shop association board of directors about forming a committee of volunteers prepared to put in the time and have them approach the national association and say, “Let’s take this out for a spin and see what this concept has to offer. We are prepared to do our part and get involved. Let’s get a two-day forum together and see what we can do.”

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