Are you looking for an easy way to tune-up your life and your business? Mitch Schneider, an old pro in the automotive industry, says to look no further than the next automotive industry event.
Mitch has been in the auto industry since 1966, and he has picked up a few things along the way. He has even written a book, “Misfire: What to Do When Things Aren’t Running on All Cylinders,” which maps out his hard-fought lessons. His book is divided into four sections, taking the reader on a journey from ignorance (the first section), all the way to confidence. That same journey can also happen outside the pages of his book, by doing one of Mitch’s favorite activities; attending Industry Week, SEMA, AAPEX, and all the shows in between.
“When you go to a show, and you meet other shop owners, some of whom have started their journey earlier than you have, you meet people that know what you don’t know,” Mitch told Tom Dorsey, host of The Digital Shop Talk Radio in episode 40. “And by developing relationships, and sitting down and having coffee, it’s amazing how generous most of the people that you’ll meet at a show like SEMA or APEX, or during Industry Week are with their knowledge and how willing they are to share it.”
While booking your spot at the next auto show is the most critical step, there are a few other things Mitch recommends to guarantee you get as much as you can out of your time.
1. Bring your curiosity
Mitch told Tom the most important thing you can bring to any auto show you attend, is curiosity. There is lots of information and tools out there that can be used to help your business in countless ways, and interest can open those doors.
“I think that once we learn to master the fear of seeming foolish and asking for help, the help is out there,” Mitch said. “There are countless shop owners that would be thrilled to death to have somebody to help not make the same mistakes that they made.”
He also noted, most people who attend the automotive shows like SEMA, AAIW, APEX, etc. have already gotten over that fear allowing them to focus more on the essential things.
“They’re there to learn, they’re there to grow, they’re there to make contacts, to make connections, to network,” he said. “And one thing that I’ve recognized is that most shop owners understand that if you’re there, you’ve already made the decision to learn, and grow, and improve yourself.”
When Mitch goes to an industry event, he is looking to make connections with other experts.
“I want to find smart people that are willing to share what they’ve learned and what they know, who have no problem sharing their successes and their failures with other people,” he said.
Frequently he finds those people in classes, seminars, breakouts, and workshops.
An easy way to find answers to your questions and find people to help improve your business is by asking questions.
“My experience has been, and I’m sure you’ve seen this yourself, is that once that first person tentatively raises their hand and says, ‘You know, I’m having a problem with this.’ Then everybody just starts to say, ‘Well, I had that problem, and this is what I did.’ Somebody else will say, ‘Yeah, I had a similar problem, that didn’t work for me, but I tried this.’ I think that’s where the real knowledge takes place,” Mitch said.
Exchanging contact information during those times is also crucial. That way, when you are outside of the chaos of the show, you can continue the knowledge transfer and ask more questions.
Mitch has worked in the automotive industry for more than fifty years, and one of the most significant changes he’s seen is communication.
“The one thing that gives me great hope for the future of the industry is the ability to communicate that we have now that we never had before,” he said. “Something happens in the industry at one end of the country, and everybody on the other end of the country knows about it in a second. I think that’s what’s really incredible about everything that’s going on.”
The Digital Shop® Talk Facebook Group is a place where shop owners and staff collaborate on methods and techniques to increase productivity in the shop and ways to improve the product itself.
Forums such as The Digital Shop Talk Facebook Forum allow people the opportunity to post a question and have answers come pouring in almost immediately.
Mitch hears it all the time, whether it is at industry events, or when running a seminar, people always tell him, “but my shop is different.”
That just isn’t true.
Ultimately, there are three things you have to do when running any auto repair shop.
“You know the secret of running a shop is fix the car, right?” he said. “Get paid. Protect the shop. Those things are three critical things that all shop owners should be aware of all the time.”
He encourages repair shop owners to take advantage of the knowledge at these events and avoid the mistakes others have made.
“Walking on the water is easy once you know where the rocks are,” he said. “I mean, it’s not a big problem, you don’t get wet anymore, but you get wet an awful lot while you figure out where those rocks are.”
No matter the event you go to, you will come in contact with people who have walked the path before you. Some may only be one step ahead, but you can always learn something from their experience.
“I can assure you that they’re willing to share it, almost all of them are,” he said. “You have to be willing to accept it. It’s a really priceless gift.”
Attendees at The Digital Shop® Conference 2020 watch the opening session.
“I think that every shop owner that’s had the benefit of some other shop owner sharing their knowledge, experience, and ability with them has a responsibility to take what they’ve learned and then share it with someone else,” Mitch told Tom.
Without that piece of the puzzle, the cycle of sharing in the industry would stop.
“One of the most critical things that we have to be aware of is that a lot of shop owners need to be exposed to these ideas, to be exposed to the concept and the notion that there’s help out there,” Mitch said.
Exposure is the first step, then comes interest, awareness, desire, and finally, action.
“The people that you’re going to meet at a show like that have achieved the highest level of consciousness, the highest level of awareness because they’re self-actualizing,” he said. “They recognize what’s at a place like that, and they’ve made the effort, energy, cost, to be there, so they’ve already bought in. It’s the rest of the industry that we’ve got to drag along kicking and screaming.”