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Let’s say that you’ve had a persistent cough for two weeks, but haven’t had time to go to the doctor. You finally break down, and go to urgent care one night because you’re not getting any better. After waiting four hours, you finally get seen by a guy in his early twenties with acne still on his forehead. After going through some cursory checkups, he tells you that you have syphilis. He hands you a prescription slip with someone else's name on it, and wishes you well. Given that you haven’t been to Bangkok lately, and that you’ve never cheated on your spouse in the thirteen years of your marriage, you decide that maybe you ought to get a second opinion.
If you’ve read some of our recent blog posts, you probably know that Joe Webb and I have gone off a bit on those who are new to consulting. Trust me when I say it’s not meant to personally attack anyone. Unlike the medical world, there is no certification, title, or otherwise, to indicate one’s level of expertise. In fact, there is no state licensing to make sure that you are sound to practice. There is no governing body who administers examinations, or confers expertise. Instead, we have resumes and word of mouth. That’s it folks.
Many of us in the dealer, consulting, and vendor world have spent a tremendous amount of time educating ourselves. Besides the obvious attendance at retail auto conferences, we sit in on webinars, read books, and some of us even take classes. While some were educated at the school of hard knocks, others learned (and survived) in active combat, and still others have excelled in postsecondary education. Because all we have to rely on is resumes and word of mouth, there is no way to distinguish those of us who have dedicated ourselves to mastering our craft, and those who haven’t. More specifically, there is no way to distinguish between those who are in it for a quick buck, and those who are in it because they care about the condition of retail auto.
Because there is no way to formally differentiate between the practicing experts and the self-proclaimed experts, the dealer loses. The dealer loses on beta-quality technology sold by a good salesperson. The dealer loses on vendor-driven training administered by people who have never sold a car before. Most of all dealers lose money on (one nefarious consultant after another) consultant who have nothing to offer other than their level of expertise. If the dealer loses, then everyone loses.
This is probably the same reason why so many vocations have adopted formal licensing. Think about all the professions that require passing an examination to practice. Everyone from physicians and attorneys to hairdressers and tattoo artists have to pass at least one administered exam. Why? Because someone who did not care about their practice (or reputation) swindled someone out of money, gave someone septicemia, burnt someone’s scalp, or gave some unsuspecting schmuck syphilis. Organizations were born to make sure you didn’t eat rancid meat, get electrocuted by your lamp, or use snake oil as a cure. Most commonly these organizations, laws, or entities evolve to make sure the consumer is protected.
As I commonly posit, why should we be any different? Why aren’t we working harder to create a governing body to allow those who want to become certified as experts take an examination to do so? I know individuals have tried to do so in the past, however this is bigger than one person. It’s time that we put our egos aside, and work together towards something for the greater good. I know there are many true professionals out there who would like to demonstrate their knowledge. I know many more who would seek the protection of an umbrella organization. We need to give them the opportunity to do so.
I’m not beginning to say that I have all the answers. What I can say is that if this organization is going to exist, it can’t be a club (the last thing we need is another Good ‘Ole Boy Network). It can’t be an offshoot of an existing organization, rooted in the traditional ways (old habits die hard). It can’t be formally sponsored (it’s already too hard to cut through the vendor noise). It can’t be easy to join (take a look at the requirements from the Project Management Institute or the CFA Institute). It can’t be governed by a few, because nobody has all of the answers.
The next time someone approaches you about how to improve your business, think of all the licensed and certified professionals you deal with on a regular basis. Think about the police officers you know, the teachers in your kids’ classrooms, the EMT that gave you CPR training, and the electrician who wired your garage. Think of all of the training they went through, and the continuing education they’ll have to go through. Then ask yourself: Don’t I deserve the same?