Apr 04, 2023

4 Things Preventing Repair Shop Owners From Building a Community

4 Things Preventing Repair Shop Owners From Building a Community

As the great Bon Jovi once said, “No shop is an island.”

Well, okay. He didn’t say that exactly. Also, it wasn’t his quote to start with; it’s actually the poet John Donne.

(Editor’s Note: Suz, I swear you’ve started an article like this before.)

Chill, dude, I’m just reaching my segue.

Alas, despite the best efforts of Jon and John, many shops are islands. For a variety of reasons, many diesel repair shop owners wind up somewhat isolated from each other. Instead of building a community to help and support their fellows, they end up hunkered down in the back office, or wrenching in the bay, or just keeping to themselves.

Why is this? Why isn’t there a larger community of diesel shop owners? Why aren’t these guys all hanging out on the weekends, helping each other out with tough issues or at least buying each other beers?

Naturally, we decided to investigate.

We found there are four reasons why shop owners may keep to themselves. Well…there’s more than that, but there are four big ones. Strap in, everyone—let’s see what’s up with this industry.


Patrick McKittrick, CEO of Fullbay, thinks there’s an element of wariness behind the reluctance. “Do I really want to help someone compete with me?” he asks, giving voice to a question many shop owners have probably contemplated.

Beyond that, there may be some ingrained notion that asking for help or advice—especially from the competition—makes shop owners a) question their own competence, or b) worry that their competition will question their own competence. No one wants to look bad in front of the person that might end up, y’know, swiping their work.

Peter Cooper, Director of Operations at Absolute Repair in Iowa, acknowledges there are often personality issues at play. “You’ve got these rough, tough types who think they know best,” he says.

They aren’t going to ask for help. They aren’t going to reach out to their fellow shop owners. “They probably are great mechanics,” he adds. “But just because you’re a good mechanic doesn’t mean you’re a good business owner.”

Which leads us to our third point.

Most business owners, no matter what field they’re in, wind up getting sucked into building and maintaining the business. Repair shop owners in particular are susceptible to this, because they’re often in the middle of things (wrenching) and trying to expand their shop’s reach through sales or marketing. They might think, “Gosh, it’d be swell to see how others are doing it,” but they’re so darn busy it just doesn’t occur to them.

Patrick agrees: “Someone running a shop is so busy that if they’re not intentionally making time to network and build a group,” he says. “It doesn’t just happen on its own.”

A long time ago, there was an association for everything. People would get together, form groups, and boom—instant community. And don’t get us wrong, there are still plenty out there. But we’re not seeing a whole lot of community around repair shop owners in general…and these days, there seems to be some hesitance around forming a group, despite it being easier than ever to, y’know, go on Facebook and put something together.

Facebook—and social media as a whole—may have something to do with that hesitance. Why? The bigger a group gets, the more management it needs. A repair shop owner might be thrilled to hang out virtually with his peers, but he’s not going to want to moderate every post that comes through to make sure no one’s being a jerk.

In other words, it’s a lot of stuff.


But what if a shop owner does want to start building a community, or at least put together a group of people they can vent to? They may not know where to start. Do you take on the responsibility of making sure people play nicely? Do you organize all the meetings? Do you find people on Facebook or LinkedIn, or wander brazenly into the repair shop across town with a cup of coffee and a zerk?

Most of us are aware that expanding beyond your direct network can be…well…intimidating.

“How do you find the people you want to talk to?” Patrick wonders.

That question—okay, and some others—has been a source of inspiration for the Fullbay crew. As technology marches on and vehicles become more complex to perform repairs on, sharing knowledge is going to be what separates the shops that thrive from those that barely survive. We’ve tried to get the ball rolling already on our own by providing tons of free information (via the blog, downloads, webinars, and our fabled State of Heavy-Duty Repair). But all that cool stuff still wasn’t getting people into the same room.

(Well, okay, some people were in the same room during webinars. But like Billy Idol, we wanted more, more, more repair shop owners in one place.)

Enter Diesel Connect.

We wanted to build a space where shop owners could come together, share their knowledge, and just have some fun. Add speakers and some great food and really, it’s just an awesome two days. Sure, you’re paying for food and lodging (if you get a hotel) but we’ve kept costs low because we want everyone to be able to attend. Diesel Connect’s entire purpose is to help repair shop owners (and others in the industry) build out the communities they so richly deserve.

There’s still a few tickets available, so if you’re interested in joining the party, snag yours today!

Suz Baldwin