But First You’ll Have To…

“I’ll send you all the imports, but first you’ll have to join IGO…………….and you’ll need to attend the monthly meetings”. That’s what I was told by my business neighbor, Clarence Martin, who was manager at Dixie Sales which was one block up the street from our shop. I was new to being a shop owner and really appreciated his offer.

Clarence was also my next-door neighbor so he knew I had tons of import automotive service experience. His company only serviced domestic vehicles and they did a great job. They didn’t care to delve into “imports”. This wasn’t all that unusual in the early eighties. My neighbor knew I’d worked at Burton Motors where I had instantly become the import expert for very similar reasons. I rode and raced several Suzuki motorcycles at the time. Most days I also rode my Honda CB750 to work. Bill Gibson, the co-owner of Burton Motors figured if I could wrench on my Japanese bikes then I could handle all the Japanese imports that were beginning to show up at his business in the mid-seventies. Most owners of these Japanese vehicles first had domestic cars which they’d been bringing to Burton Motors for years. What better place to have your import serviced they apparently thought. Clarence Martin had also watched as I worked in most every position at a local Nissan/Datsun dealer for seven plus years after leaving Burton Motors.

So after very little time had passed, Clarence apparently called the IGO offices. The next day it seemed, Louis Huff and Monty Holder came by to sign me up. I was on my way. Now I needed to fulfill my obligation about these meetings I had committed to attend. In the beginning it was just me fulfilling my commitment……..nothing more. However, along the way I quickly grew to appreciate many of the other members. There was Jack Moore who owned a local tow company,  Kirk’s Sineath Motors. Almost instantly his company began handling all my tow ins. John Lewis was usually at the meetings. He operated Automotive Shop Equipment. No need to guess where I started buying much of my equipment….right? Clyde Cummings, Curtis Allred, Bill Jones, and countless others who had much more experience than I, were most always present. At these meeting we’d share ideas and sort out who got what where and who had the best to offer. Quickly, I learned what vendors to connect with. These veterans didn’t consider me competition. They were really interested in my success. I came to learn of the training opportunities IGO had and I quickly began to participate.  I came to learn more about which certifications really mattered and which ones these experienced people had determined were of little benefit. I got all their years of having gone through these things in a short period of time. They really saved me tons of heartache and it kept/keeps going and going.

At most meetings we’d have a guest speaker. From DMV representatives to Fire Marshalls we learned what was needed to keep our businesses successful. It was really cool how I would later encounter these “officials” in various situations. They would mention having seen me at one of the meetings. It definitely made me feel as though I had gained some influence and credibility from my IGO meeting association when interacting with these types of folks. I learned firsthand how networking could benefit me and my business.

It was always very beneficial for me to overhear the numerous exchanges of ideas among members. I got a shortcut style education at nearly every meeting having taken in the discussions that happened during these monthly meetings. I quickly learned best practices which were constantly being updated and improved. It was at these meeting where I learned so many innovative ideas. There would always be plenty of joking and friendship interactions. For me the most valuable result of these meetings were the relationships that were built and still exist.

Many of the names I mention were/are Founding Members of IGONC. Many have retired, yet there have been a growing number of younger owners coming to our local meetings over the past few years. So my assumption is that no matter how many Zoom meetings and Facebook discussions you may have, the local unit meetings still have a relevant place. I think many of us are willing to admit that technology is great yet we’re still human and need the in person interaction on occasion to keep us moving in the right direction. If you haven’t attended such events I believe you’ll find it worth your time. Let’s get our local unit meetings cranked up for the opportunities coming. The current pandemic may have temporarily altered some of the events, but they’ll be back and you will benefit. Give it a try.


By John Hill