A Chat with The Marx Group President and CEO, Tom Marx.
When Tom Marx looks at the heavy-duty aftermarket today he sees a lot of good things.
He sees an industry where family businesses and corporations do business as equals. He sees groups of long-time industry professionals who operate as peers, not rivals. He sees a culture of collaboration and partnership. An industry that not only takes care of its own, but is equally welcoming to its new members and reverent toward its former ones.
Truly great traits.
If only the next generation of potential employees were privy to the same thing.
“[The heavy-duty aftermarket] doesn’t have a public identity today. High school kids don’t know about the opportunities here,” says Marx, President and CEO of The Marx Group and Marx Group Advisors. “The number of people we need [entering] this industry is scary, and I don’t know how we’re going to find them all.”
A veteran of the heavy-duty and automotive aftermarkets alike, Marx says his colleagues in the light vehicle world were faced with the same challenge nearly a decade ago. And on a much larger scale.
The industry’s average age was rapidly charging toward retirement, and the industry wasn’t filling or creating new positions fast enough to fill in the gaps.
He says the automotive aftermarket responded by taking action. The automotive aftermarket is typically less collaborative than the heavy-duty world, but Marx says when backed into a corner the industry responded as a group. Trade organizations and committees were formed, an industry marketing plan was created and, eventually, an attractive youth-centric identity, which promoted the technological and computer-focused aspects of the industry.
Marx says the heavy-duty industry is equally tech-centric, but is yet to discover a way to promote that trait on a national scale like the auto industry has done.
“I just don’t find that strength of leadership in this industry that I see in the automotive industry,” he says. “I don’t see anyone here working to create that public identity.”
And he says it’s definitely possible.
The collaborative, friendly nature of the heavy-duty aftermarket offers excellent potential for the industry should it commit to building a marketable face.
Marx says GenNext is a step in the right direction — younger professionals are more likely to understand the career expectations of teens and twentysomethings — but that GenNext and the industry as a whole need to do more than just discuss the employee shortage.
The heavy-duty aftermarket has to develop a comprehensive message to promote, and then communicate it to as many kids as possible.
“It’s difficult for a parent today to encourage a child to go into this industry because they don’t see the appeal,” Marx says. This isn’t a dirty, greasy industry but they don’t realize that, he says.
And once young people get in the door, Marx says the industry’s culture should do the rest.
“I think people stay in jobs because of relationships,” he says. “And this industry has such a strong kinship of relationships. It’s amazing how tight everyone is [with each other].”