Is your mechanic an Authority?

I am impressed with people when they offer appologies – probably because I have a hard time doing it myself.  I had a client do just this today – it’s a long story but basically he misjudged our abilities and was kind enough to admit it.  That’s touching, for sure, but something else he said kept me thinking:  “I’ve seen a lot of guys with ASE patches on their shirts that shouldn’t be fixing cars.”  (Or something close to that).

Reading between the lines I would say he was skeptical of our claim to be Audi-experts and seeing our ASE credentials didn’t, by themselves, convince him otherwise.  What did convince him, thankfully, was a detailed description of our diagnostic process and, of course, the end result of us solving the problem.

Honestly, too, this guy’s technical understanding of engines and modern engine-management systems was pretty good – way above what the average consumer knows.  I think, in a way, he felt slightly in competition with us and has had bad experiences with others lording their credentials over him as a way to dismiss his questions or alternate theories.  We’re good with vehicle enthusiasts as clients and, because of our commitment to integrity, we don’t fall into these types of conflicts.

Doing some quick web research I offer the following statistics on ASE certifications:

The ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) board is the standard of certification for technicians in the US.  ASE credentials require certifiable work experience (2 year mininum) and passing a written test.  ASE certifications are good for 5 years before they expire. 

Total number of full-time automotive Technicians in the US:  750,000
Percent that hold current ASE certifications:  33%
Percent that hold current ASE Master-Level certifications:  13%
Percent of Integrity First Automotive technicians holding ASE-Master Level certifications:  100%

In software engineering we had a great expression:  “Be an authority, not an authority figure”.

This is brilliant advice for automotive technicians and it gets to the heart of this issue with my client today.  His experience, I speculate, is of automotive professionals that were more “authority figures” than real authorities.  Moreover, because he worked pretty hard at being a real authority he found this offensive.

I believe it is dangerous for anyone to rest on their laurels – certified or not – and anyone that does this deserves to be told so. 

My first ASE certification was in brakes.  I remember getting my test results in the mail, and attached to the report-card was a short paragraph that, roughly said:  “regardless of how you did you should be proud as only a small percentage of automotive techs even attempt to get certified and, of these, only a percentage pass…”.  (ASE tests have a 1/3 failure rate).

I think this gets to the heart of the matter:  a willingness to stand up and be tested demonstrates something – and the ASE is wise to capitalize on this and encourage automotive professionals to really be authorities in their profession.

We see vehicle problems every day of all types including easy and hard.  Although ‘hard’ aren’t always our favorite we promote a love of learning in our business and have tried to build an environment that supports this.  Anyone can fall into the trap of ego that halts learning, we’re not immune, but experiences like this one today serve as great reminders to stay open minded.

At my first job back when I was a teenager my boss used to say, “when you’re green you’re growing but when you’re ripe you rot”.

If you can admit that you’re ‘green’ and continue to learn, you can avoid rotting too.