As MWACA very much knows, community is key. Especially in an industry often looked at with a negative perception.
“Those outside of the auto repair industry don’t understand what our trials and tribulations are,” Scott Pelava, owner of Lonsdale Auto Works in Lonsdale, Minn., and creator of the Facebook group Auto Shop Owners Group (ASOG) says. “Nobody understands but our peers.”
Mentorship and connection to other owners continues to be a force building up the success of individual owners and the entire industry. MWACA Magazine sat down with Pelava to discuss what owners should look for in an industry mentor, and how to best find one.
THE POWER OF A MENTOR
What to look for in an industry mentor and the best ways to find your own
What does the term “mentor” mean to you?
A mentor is kind of a coach, kind of a teacher, and kind of a cheerleader. Mentorship is also very similar to being a parent.
I very much think I have parented like a mentor. I hold my children accountable for their actions, but I also let them fail–not horribly, but I’ll let them fail. I do this so they learn from their failures and appreciate their victories. But I’m not just going to stand there and watch them go down without providing guidance. When things are great, I’ll cheer them on and tell them what a great job they did and ask what they learned from the success. When things don’t go so well, I’ll ask them why they thought that happened.
We don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s why if you have someone that can take you under their wing and give you information you are looking for, or maybe not necessarily looking for, it can change your whole outlook.
What do you think are important qualities in a mentor?
Humility. Oftentimes arrogance breeds arrogance. I find that if a teacher is arrogant, the student will become arrogant, maybe not to their mentor but to other people. They may begin to think that they know something everybody else doesn’t know.
Mentors should also have the willingness to say, “I might not be right, this is my opinion, and my opinion isn’t always correct.”
Empathy is also an important quality for mentors to have. They should understand the feeling of defeat. It’s easy to tell someone to just keep going when met with defeat. But unless they’ve been there, they don’t know how hard it is to come out of that.
Where can people look for a mentor?
Well, ASOG and other Facebook groups can be huge for that. Industry events like VISION Hi-Tech Training and Expo (MWACA’s yearly trade show) and the ASTE (Automotive Service & Technology Expo) show in North Carolina are good places to meet others. Events that are a little cozier and a little more personal are good, because there’s a lot fewer people there.
I think local networking is important too. It can be difficult though, because if you’re trying to get into a networking group like a BNI, they may only let one person from each industry in and that could be challenging. But you could look into your Chamber of Commerce, or MWACA, or a national automotive association.
Do you have any advice on how to approach a possible future mentor?
My first piece of advice for when you’re at events, is that you maybe don’t have to approach anybody, just listen in. I have learned so much by listening into other people’s conversations, I won’t even interact with them. I’ll hear something that piques my interest and I might listen to him or her for like 10 minutes or so.
Listening into other conversations can identify who these people with good information are, and what relationships you can cultivate from that.
Another way can be posting on social media, as well as reading other people’s posts. Even if you think it might not pertain to you at all.
We don’t get a ribbon at the end of the day that says, “I did this all on my own”. It’s great to be recognized for things, but we don’t know everything.