I work for a company that developed software called RepairDesk which helps machine-mending owners manage their businesses. I was in charge of content development for their website, social media and other channels.
Even though I was writing for repair shop pros, I had never spoken to one for the first 18 months on the job — and that had to change.
The industry has grown at an exponential rate over the past few years: Current statistics show that maintenance companies were worth $34.54 billion in 2019, and even with the ensuing pandemic, still going strong.
Many people have dedicated their lives to this trade and I needed to understand what in the world was going on with them.
I was treating this like any other advertising job, where you don’t really touch base with the people you make material for and just churn out stuff you think they need.
As anyone will tell you, that’s the wrong way to go about business.
We started doing case studies on our shop owners: where they came from, how they built their businesses, etc.
The task of creating content was delegated to a team member who wasn’t as experienced. As a result, the whole endeavor morphed into us merely pushing our product. We weren’t really documenting the challenges that owners faced as much as we were advertising how great our service was. It’s an easy trap to fall into and the death knell for credibility.
We’ve all come across sales pitches in our lives: That influencer asking for Instagram follows, those Redditors that ask for upvotes, YouTubers telling you to smash those “Like” and “Subscribe” buttons – it’s all to get you on board with something that they want and people are kind of fed up about it.
If you really want to connect with your audience, you have to forget that you’re selling something and start thinking about how you can help them without them spending a dime on you.
Solving the disconnect
I started reaching out to our customers. I didn’t have anything special in mind – no written questions, no points to build a conversation – I just wanted to know was who they were and what they did.
COVID-19 had made Zoom calls common and I used repair shop owners’ growing familiarity with video conferencing to get familiar with them.
A plan comes together
After talking to about a dozen of these people, I was touched by their stories and wanted to do good by them.
I started The State of Repairs, our company podcast exclusively built around repair shops. The aim was to provide insight into how people can make their business better while also letting business owners share their thoughts and experiences online to a wider audience.
The fruits of labor
One of the best things to come out of the podcast is that I was able to learn so much more about running a business, in general, and how to keep an eye on things, overall.
Before every call, I would be apprehensive of gabbing with someone I didn’t know for an hour. But once we started chatting, I was always wonder-struck by what they had to say. Their wisdom during our discussions was proof of years of hard work, dedication and sheer will. Hard times don’t last; hard people do.
I was confident in my work, in my subject matter and my role at the company because I sat down with owners who wanted something more and were willing to put in the hours to get it.
The smallest skill you pick up can still yield something great
I never knew editing audio would do me good professionally someday. I took the time to pick up a skill that I thought wouldn’t be necessary for my career and now I’m rolling with it. It’s now the main task at my job. Learning how to put together videos changed my life.
There are so many amazing things you can do as a person, and if you want to grow, there’s no other way than getting your feet wet.
Talking to someone about their struggles helps you both
By listening to my guests, I was able to pull from their experiences and have a greater appreciation for the work that they do. Their struggles helped give me knowledge about situations I hadn’t gone through yet. If I was ever in a situation similar to theirs, I would know what to do.
I’m happy how just talking to people and starting a podcast has helped me be a little bit better on a long, long road ahead.
Related: 10 reasons to open a business even if it scares you