Now and then, you come across a book or a story that forces you to measure how you are doing in a certain area. Not long ago, a friend recommended “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, a powerful allegory for both life and business. The author uses cheese to represent the goal as we travel through the maze of life. Its message prompts readers to contemplate, “Am I adapting?”

This year marks my 30th Anniversary of working full-time in the automotive refinish business, namely custom painting. At the age of 47, I still have a long road ahead, yet it also signifies that I embarked on this journey early and have witnessed substantial change. One constant truth about business (and life) is that adversity is ever-present – it’s either here now, just behind us, or looming on the horizon. Ultimately, what matters is not the adversity itself but how we react to it.

In the early years of my career, conversion van painting was our bread and butter, or should I say “cheese.” For two decades, this industry underpinned my parents’ flourishing business as they crafted sought-after paint schemes that enticed van and SUV buyers yearning for a distinctive appearance. They tirelessly refined their production techniques to enhance efficiency without compromising quality. As graphic content became more complex, they developed and taught streamlined processes to others, enabling them to produce identical results. Their efforts bore good fruit as the business expanded and markets opened. This is the environment I grew up in as I learned how to paint within this dichotomy of custom painting and small business enterprise. Eventually, the conversion van industry began to falter due to numerous debatable reasons – yet what truly matters is how talented people within this craft adapted to the shifting circumstances.

"Adapting does not mean you must sacrifice your values. In our family-owned venture, we were adamant about being a top-tier "custom paint shop" first and foremost."

Fortunately, we could see it coming, and driven by our unwavering passion for custom paint applications, we found new opportunities to keep it all going. Over the years, we have had to reinvent ourselves by scouting out the market for ways to apply our skills, develop new ones, and enhance our craft. It’s tempting to grow complacent and assume that your “cheese” will always be found in its familiar spot, particularly when it has been so consistent throughout the years. However, life is unpredictable and ever-changing, so we should stay vigilant, keenly observe what’s happening on our journey toward the cheese and estimate how much remains. As they say, adapt or perish.

Adapting does not mean you must sacrifice your values. In our family-owned venture, we were adamant about being a top-tier “custom paint shop” first and foremost. Our goal was to rise above the rest by offering a skill set that superseded what is typically expected of auto body painters. It would have been easy to abandon this ideal and shift into the collision repair industry. As we took new pathways, knocked on new doors, and met new people, opportunities presented themselves, which sustained our business and values.

Today, CPV mainly services the motorcycle painting industry. Our long-standing involvement in this niche has spurred innovative techniques and products that further expand our market reach. Our presence extends globally within this sector, instilling variety in its own right. Though we’ve been criticized for lacking diversity, such assessments need to consider the full scope of our operations.

“Who Moved My Cheese” is a short, easy read. I recommend it as an insightful business book and a good test for anyone – not just business owners – wishing to gauge their adaptability to change and adversity. In the end, change remains the sole constant in life, and how we respond will ultimately shape our destiny.

Authored By: Steve Wright

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