If you were to glean one positive that has come out of the events of the past year, what would it be? It’s a tough question, but one that Dave Massey, a founding member of the Automotive Support Group (ASG), has spent time considering. PMM sits down with Dave to discuss how the Facebook group he helped create fits into his answer.
PMM: Thanks for agreeing to take time out of your day for this. Perhaps, the best place to start is how the Automotive Support Group first came about?
Dave Massey (DM): No problem at all. The group was born as a direct result of the pandemic. When the first lockdown was announced last year, everyone was worried. I certainly panicked; in fact, we all did.
So, six of us – Steve Scott, Tom Denton, Andy Savva, James Dillon, Andy Crook and myself – rang each other and decided that we needed to do something about it. We kicked it all off on one Zoom meeting. It was all quite instinctive, really. It was an instinctive reaction to try to help other technicians like us weather the storm.
And, if I’m being completely honest with you, setting up the Automotive Support Group also came as a welcome distraction. It kept all of us so busy that we didn’t spend too much time worrying about our own situations. Everything was so up in the air at that point that we found safety in creating this online community.
PMM: When the six of you started the group, what was the intention? Did you have a goal?
DM: For us, the two key areas we wanted to focus on were firstly, mental health, and secondly, financial advice. At the time, the government had been setting up all these funding schemes to protect small businesses and it was a little daunting, so we wanted to make sure everyone knew what was available to them. We also saw that mental health was going to be (and still is) a huge concern within our industry, so we wanted to provide a safe haven for technicians as best we could.
Another thing we had to consider was advertising, and this is something I really would like to stress: it has always been our intention for the group to be entirely non-commercial. This was crucial to the founding members’ vision for what we wanted to accomplish. It would be a completely independent, profit-free, support group, without commercial bias or influence.
As I say, we wanted the group to act as a safe haven and source of support. Which also means that we don’t tolerate any form of bullying or rude behaviour. It’s nipped in the bud straight away. That’s not to say that the member would get booted off immediately. Instead, we would try to educate them and change their approach.
With this ethos in place, we try to let the members police themselves as much as possible. The quality of the group should really be accredited to those involved.
This being said, we’ve had a phenomenal group of admins to oversee everything. Hayley Pells, for example, who I believe writes for PMM, has contributed a huge amount of time and effort to the running of the group. It’s not an easy job and takes some serious dedication. Honestly, anyone who has given that little bit of themselves to the ASG deserves recognition.
PMM: Do you think there has always been a need for the ASG?
DM: In my opinion, I believe this group has galvanised the entire industry. I really do. The good nature and charity has always been there, but because of the difficulties as a result of lockdown, it’s brought everyone a lot closer together.
Our industry has a history of working in tough conditions and has always been quite susceptible to suffering. It’s not easy working in a garage environment. So, I think the need was there, it’s just never been as focussed as it has been during the pandemic.
I would also say that the size of the group speaks for how much it was needed. When we first launched it, the group grew quicker than we ever thought possible. We hit 3,000 members within two weeks, which is exceptional growth and far more than we had anticipated. Today, we are around 6,400, which is a huge number of people looking for support.
PMM: So, what would you say is the next step? What does the future hold for the group?
DM: Well, many of the admin members are automotive trainers of some description, and we felt that we could provide valuable insight to others. We have created a pool of resources that they can dip into when they have the time. Our hope is that this will help guide those that need it.
More broadly, it was always the intention to disband the group once its purpose had been served. At one point, the admin team discussed shutting down the group after Christmas. But, thankfully, we realised that the need for the group may be even greater as the talk of second waves and variants started to circulate.
Now, we have decided to be as flexible as possible with this. We are letting the group members lead our decision. If the members need us, then we will be there to support them.
PMM: Finally, what would you like the group’s legacy to be?
DM: I would love to think that the legacy of the group will be for its members to get out there, learn, and work hard. What we really want is to set them up for success by instilling a healthy attitude towards progressing their business, career, and life in general.