By Andy Bizub, owner, Midwest Performance Cars, Chicago
I come at the automotive industry with an outsider’s viewpoint, but with a business background. You see, at the age of 49, after 25 years of brokering and trading soybeans, corn, wheat, and stock options in the financial services industry, I decided to retire from my first career and start a second one by acquiring a European repair shop. That was a little more than five years ago, and today I own two locations, employ 15 people, and have learned as much in the last five years as I did in my first 25.
Trading taught me risk management as well as self-control, and my years as an independent broker were where I learned how to provide great customer service to a variety of clients. My trading career also taught me how to read people, an advanced lesson of sorts from my teen years as a golf caddy, where I learned how to engage and manage many different types of personalities. To this day, I can usually defuse a tense situation with a customer … a skill that comes in handy in the automotive industry, although hopefully not too often!
These two industries, the automotive and the financial, are clearly very different, and one of the biggest differences is in networking. In the financial world, networking is information-based and tends to be very transactional. By that I mean, in order to get good, actionable information, you usually must have some of your own info to exchange with the other party. In the automotive world however, I have found that the networking opportunities are greater as well as being more helpful. I have met many individuals during my short time in this business who have been extremely generous with their time and advice. The willingness to “pay it forward” in the automotive world is one of the features that make it so enjoyable to me. From online special-interest groups to consultants, and from industry sales representatives to fellow shop owners, I have received plenty of solid advice and counsel, many times from people who I will likely never be able to repay.
From my first year, I have made it a point to step out of my shop’s operations in order to meet people, as well as to see my business enterprise from the outside, the way my clients see and experience it. It is crucially important to not be so close to the workings of your business that you lose sight of the whole enterprise.
Halfway through my second year of shop ownership, I made my first trip out to the AAPEX and the SEMA shows in Las Vegas. What started as a curiosity has become an annual necessity, as I continually find new products and fresh ideas, and I reconnect face to face with people who I have met and who have been of assistance to me and my business. For 2019, my “20 Group” of fellow shop owners decided to hold our biannual meeting in the two days before the start of the Vegas event. Not surprisingly, this looks to be a near 100% attendance meeting, however, for many of my group, it will be their first time attending AAPEX even though they all have been in business longer than I have.
If I could offer one piece of advice to my fellow business owners, it is this: Try getting out from under the hood, behind the counter or desk, and look at both your own business as well as the automotive industry from a fresh perspective. You may be surprised at the insights you gain, and the energy you bring back with you to your operation. It is amazing how my annual pilgrimage out to AAPEX serves to recharge my batteries and stoke my excitement for being in this great industry. With the advent of electric vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems, the future looks increasingly exciting, busy, and challenging for those in our business. There is no time like the present to step up your networking game and industry participation. If you see me in Vegas this year, or any future year, please say hello … I welcome the conversation!
To register for AAPEX, visit aapexshow.com/attendee/.
I spent the first 25 years of my career in financial trading, ten years as a broker and 15 years as a trader, working with commodities, agricultural futures, and equity options. In 2014, I seized an opportunity to follow my passion for all things automotive and left the trading world for entrepreneurship. Today, I own and operate Midwest Performance Cars, LLC in the West Loop, and MPC Northbrook in the suburbs.