Why Shops Should Give Back to Get Back
By: Jenny Swindle, Client Engagement Manager
I have a confession – I’ve been influenced by my Generation Z kids. They often tell me to “vote with my dollar” and purchase from stores that give back on a local, national, or global scale.
The idea that people enjoy working with charitable organizations isn’t unique to the youngest members of our society, and it’s most definitely growing in importance. I’ve worked at and with shops my entire career, and I believe that community involvement isn’t just a box to tick for social goodwill – it’s imperative to success. Shops that get involved in their communities often have stronger connections, happier staff, and even the potential for more word-of-mouth business.
Shops looking for more ways to get involved in their communities on a local, regional, or even national level might consider the following opportunities:
Partner with Local Schools to Find New Talent
The trouble with finding and retaining talent has been top-of-mind for just about everyone in the industry. Perhaps the biggest hurdle has been finding ways to attract younger generations to the trade.
I know of quite a few shops that work with their local high schools or vocational schools to teach and mentor students who show an interest in collision repair. As a bonus, those shops also have a built-in pipeline of talent who know the shop, know the shop’s procedures and are ready to jump in after graduation.
Not sure if the schools in your area have a trade program? There are plenty of national organizations to consider, including the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and SkillsUSA.
Get Involved with Local Policymakers for Affordable Exposure
When I got my first job as a receptionist at a local repair shop, I noticed how the owner would always attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, homecoming parades, or holiday charity events. At first, I thought he may just enjoy socializing and staying busy, but I soon realized this was a strategic move to give our shop more visibility in the community.
Straight advertising for your shop can be expensive. Consider instead becoming more involved in local community leadership. You may be able to influence policies that affect your business, and you can also benefit from added name recognition for your shop. Look into joining your local Chamber of Commerce, or, if you’re strapped for time, at least attend some of their public meetings.
Broaden Your Customer Base by Doing Good
My kids push me to think about my purchasing decisions and the organizations with which I choose to do business. Mintel’s 2023 Consumer Trends Report predicts that buying habits will continue to shift among consumers looking to spend more locally and intentionally with groups that align with their values.
There’s an Indiana-based, veteran-owned shop that exemplifies this trend. The shop owner set up his own program to help returning servicemembers find purpose in civilian life by teaching them about vehicle repair and giving them hands-on work that makes a difference. Not only is he training more technicians in his area – he’s supporting a group he relates with as they process a difficult transition. Furthermore, his program sends a clear message to veterans and the larger Jeffersonville community that his shop supports a worthy cause and deserves their business.
Whether it’s sponsoring a local little league team, promoting an existing charity, or creating your own ways to lend support, consumers want to see you give back.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’d like to make a personal shout-out to an NABC group I’m involved with called Recycled Rides, a non-profit organization that refurbishes and repairs vehicles for people and organizations in need. All areas of the industry can get involved from repair shops to paint experts to parts suppliers. However you choose to support your community, your customers, and your bottom line, will be glad you did.