Everyone remembers playing in a sandbox as a kid. We were all young, innocent, and found ways to entertain ourselves within the four corners of the box. Entertainment for hours, right! Other kids playing happily with each other, using their respective space in the box as they interact, learn, create and enjoy. We’ve all either seen this phenomenon or experienced it ourselves. It’s the foundation for what ultimately leads to limited growth and expansion in our adult lives.
Technology, the internet, and globalization of our economy has presented each of us with the largest sandbox the earth has ever seen. Why then, does the majority continue to feel bound to the limited sandbox they are currently in? The good news is it’s not your fault. It’s just a product of society. However, it is your fault if you look at the corners of your sandbox as impenetrable force fields you can’t break out of at any moment. The edges of your sandbox are suggestions to make life easy and predictable. At any moment, you can choose to BREAK OUT!
Be warned, life outside of your current sandbox is different. In this context, different is a very complicated word. It means the circle of friends you keep will change. The places you frequent will change. What you do for work will change. Your thinking will change. The way you see problems and solutions will change. Everything will change. This is the complicated part. Everything will change not because the world changed, but you started looking at everything differently. Every situation, interaction, opportunity, and failure is now analyzed. Everything is different. I’ve mentioned this before and it still holds true. It’s like the iconic scene in The Matrix movie when the protagonist, Neo, begins seeing the matrix in code. His eyes are opened and he becomes more powerful over his surroundings than ever in his life. Yeah… It’s like that.
The applications for this thinking are endless. In my case, I chose to apply it to an industry I am passionate about and is riddled with old school processes, slow, inefficient execution, and lots of waiting around. Enter the performance automotive industry! For those of you who have had the unfortunate pleasure of interacting with this industry in it’s archaic “sandbox,” let me describe some things you might be familiar with. Lack of communication. Lack of use of technology. Lack of engaging and strategic marketing and advertising campaigns. Largely high school educated or trade school educated workforce. Missed deadlines. Wasted time. Web presence stuck in the early 90’s. Shop management software that looks like it’s based in a Windows 98 environment. Everyone in the industry somehow feels like this is “the way things are.” Even new shops that pop up around me use the same methods, the same old school thinking, and perpetuate the cycle.
I hear this a lot: “Well I’ve been doing this for 20 years.” Okay, well I bet you have a smartphone. I bet you have a flat screen TV. I bet you have a laptop computer. People with this mindset have subconsciously upgraded along the way because there’s simply a “better mousetrap” for efficiency, communication, and getting things done. But why stop there?! This is where breaking out can leave them in the dust as your competition struggles to catch up. Apply the latest the world has to offer to your business and see it take off!
We have been able to do things in this business that our industry has never seen before. Sleek HTML5/CSS3/JS websites the greatest web designers the world have seen. Adopting the latest in Live Video and streaming technology across all social media platforms to showcase our products and services. Interaction with current customers and creation of new ones. Vendors from across the country who have been in this business for decades are reaching out to us to get on board with the movement. We reset the bar for expectations every customer should have of their
performance automotive shops. I apply the most successful operations management processes, inventory management, accounting, finance and Human Resources standards that make multi-billion dollar, publicly traded companies successful. If it’s good enough for those companies, it’s good enough for me. I surround myself with a highly skilled, highly educated team to implement everything in a seamless, efficient environment that customers enjoy and my team loves. Why compromise?
You’re probably thinking: “There’s got to be a catch.” You’re right. This amount of change doesn’t go over easily or quietly in an industry that has been in it’s sandbox for so long. The most common thing I hear is “You’re doing it wrong” or “That’s not how to do it.” My response is “I’m not trying to do it right.” Right is what the industry has told you is right since cars were invented. I want to do it wrong. Wrong is innovative. Wrong develops a base of fans who loves rule-breakers. Wrong creates enemies who are upset they didn’t think of it before. If wrong puts me on top of this market and I get to watch from the top as every other competitor frantically changes their old school business model to compete, then I want to be wrong.
In a short period of time, we have surged past competitors we thought we’d be chasing for ten years. We’ve seen vendors and other businesses in the industry radically adopt what we innovated. We are watching those around us criticize what we do as we fly past them on our way to larger change. If we don’t like a current product in the market, we make our own. If there’s no good software solution to manage our business, we develop one. We’ve built and trashed more social and web presence in the last 2 years than most in this industry have done in decades. Why push so hard? Why go through the stress? Because we aren’t happy with the ‘status quo.’ Everything can always be improved.
We’ve certainly gotten our share of pushback from consumers and other businesses in our industry. We don’t care. The traditional tactics employed to undermine competitors in the past won’t work. Why won’t it work? Because we don’t play by the rules. If others in this industry want to beat us, they’ll have to out-innovate us. We haven’t seen innovation in this industry in so long, that won’t be possible. The other issue for those stuck in the sandbox is, they play checkers to defeat competition, enter new markets and develop new business. We play chess. The best chess players in this industry so far have been the ones that have approached us and said ‘I love what you guys are doing in this business, I’ll never be able to achieve this level of innovation, would you like to combine efforts and take over the industry.’ Those who continue to do the same predictable things will never touch us. The typical trash talk, contacting our customers, calling us out, spreading lies and misinformation, talking down about us and everything else this industry has seen for years just simply won’t work.
Winning an internet battle isn’t our goal. Winning customer favor, building a community, sharing knowledge, bringing the goodness and passion back to a stale industry is the war and we’re winning. Those too short-sighted to see the big picture are the ones playing checkers. Every day the momentum builds, word is spreading and the word is good. Most notably, we’ve walked head on in to war, but we brought the one thing no one ever expected. We walked in knowing we were wrong, embraced it from day one, broke out of the sandbox immediately and never looked back. We consult others how to do the same thing all the time. Watching our innovations spread through the industry is awesome to see and I would expect to see more of it. It’s great for the consumer and great for the industry. Breaking out has been one of the scariest and most rewarding things we’ve ever done. See you from the top.