What's the easiest way to boost the morale and self-worth of the beleaguered American male worker? Easy: Become an automotive repair technician! For all the criticism and grief auto repair people endure, they ought to feel pretty good about themselves right now. This is especially true for the male workers who are the backbone of this industry. Here's why.
As I have discussed in recent columns, the future has never looked brighter for techs. Demand for reliable, qualified techs is high everywhere I go.
What's more, the complexity and sophistication of modern vehicles indicates good, reliable techs will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Practically speaking, the industry needs every capable person it can recruit.
Let me emphasize again two points I've made in previous columns. First, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to automate vehicle repair to the point where it costs us jobs.
Second, auto repair and service jobs can't be shipped to cheap labor overseas and/or in Third World nations.
This also is one industry that reaffirms workers' importance and value day in, day out. You see, every day we're reminded that if we don't do our jobs and do them well, this incredible transportation system slows down.
Without us, these sophisticated machines don't run. If these machines don't run, many consumers can't get to work or run their businesses.
I think any impartial observer (if such a person exists!) would agree that this makes us invaluable to the smooth operation of the modern business world!
Furthermore, auto service is a place where an individual's self-worth is reaffirmed on every work order, on every successful repair job. For example, the worker sees that the vehicle won't start or won't run smoothly. But after he or she has plied a masterful combination of science and art, the vehicle starts instantly or runs smooth as silk.
Oh, the joy of a successful repair! The tech sees the immediate impact of his or her abilities: a happy customer and a happy employer. If that isn't instant gratification and reaffirmation, I don't know what is!
It's extremely easy to allow the daily trouble and worries we can't escape to distort our view of the world. Whether I was turning wrenches or working the service desk, I remember all too well how easy it is to forget how important one's work really is.
Disrespected and displaced
Right about now, you may be asking yourself, "Why the warm, fuzzy lecture on reaffirmation, Dan?"
First of all, my tolerance for unfair criticism of our industry gets weaker every year. But above and beyond that, I'm fed up with the recent trend of hand wringing over the "male dilemma."
Sometimes, it's Susan Faludi's book, Stiffed, an analysis of how the modern industrial world came to disrespect, displace and replace the person we plain folks know as "the common working man." Other times, it's analyses of films such as Fight Club in which alienated males try to regain self-worth via violent, guttural means. The mass media seem to beat these themes to death.
While the writers and critics bleat, we in the automotive service business can proudly (smugly, if you wish) hold our heads up. Whereas America's transition to a service economy may have decimated some men, we've always been service people.
We're used to the make-or-break immediacy of a service business. Namely, provide good service and you thrive. Offer lousy service and you starve. Frankly, we thrive on the challenge and excitement this immediacy offers us.
We—as well as our brethren who maintain locomotives, ships and airplanes—have countless things to be proud of and thankful for. Without us, these phenomenal global transportation systems would grind to a halt. Critics, apologists and historians can't take that honor away from us.
Treat it as an honor and ingrain the concept in everyone at your dealership.