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Sales, Marketing, Recruiting and Shop Management Tips for Shop Owners

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

One of the most common questions our Elite coaches are asked is, “How do I find the superstar technicians and service advisors?” Interestingly, what most shop owners will do is wait until they need a tech or advisor before they start their search. Unfortunately, when they use this technique they inevitably end up hiring the best of whoever happens to be available at the time, rather than the best of the best. So if you are looking to hire the stars, my first recommendation is that you always need to be recruiting, and the best way of doing so is by ensuring that the superstar techs and advisors in your community are aware of your business, and that they understand that your shop is a really great place to work. 

As I am sure you will agree, with rare exception the superstars are currently employed, and they are more than likely pleased with their jobs. So what you need to do in order to ultimately hire any of these stars is put first things first. You need to connect with them, because people go to work for people, not for businesses. So the million dollar question is: How do you connect with the stars? Well, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. You need to do what your competitors would never dream of doing, and reach the stars through their family members, their friends and their industry associates. Here is how you can achieve this objective through the use of print media.

Run display ads in your community newspapers with a theme communicating that your shop is the right place for people to have their cars serviced, because you employ truly remarkable people. Then in each one of these ads you should feature a different employee. Now before you jump to a conclusion that this won’t work for you, I ask that you keep an open mind.

If your ad carries a nice close up or portrait shot of one of your employees, along with their name, their position and a few kind words about who they are, then I will make you a number of promises. First of all, far more people will look at your ad, because people are always attracted to images of people. Secondly, the curiosity of your readers will inevitably kick in, and they will start to wonder if the person in the photo is someone they know, especially if your shop is in a smaller community. Now that you have your readers’ attention, as well as their curiosity, there’s a good probability that they will start to feel more comfortable with your brand, because as I mentioned earlier, people do business with people, not with businesses. Additionally, imagine how powerful the influence will be over the readers who actually recognize your employee as a family member, friend or acquaintance.   

Now here’s where the benefits of this approach become even more obvious. Not only will putting your employees in print be a really nice way to let them know just how proud of them you are, but just think about the message you are sending and the buzz that’s going to be created in your community. You are communicating that you have truly talented people working for you, and that you are the type of shop that will run an ad just to give your employees the acknowledgement they deserve.  The uniqueness of this message will have the tool truck drivers, the part suppliers, and the loved ones of the superstar advisors and techs talking about your ad, and you guessed it; they’re going to be talking about your shop as well.

So if you want to hire the superstars, I am going to hope you never forget a couple of cardinal rules. Number one, you always need to be recruiting. Otherwise, you’re doomed to hire the best of whoever happens to be available at the time. Secondly, if you want to reach the stars, then I am going to hope you never forget that the easiest way to do it is through their family, friends and acquaintances. If you agree with me, then I have every reason to believe you will also agree that running print ads showcasing your employees will not only help you build your brand, but it will show the superstar techs and advisors in your community that you truly care about the people who work with you, and will get them thinking about your shop.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper of Elite

If there is one thing our industry has done since the very beginning, it’s put technicians into the role of service advisors. The rationale is that they have a good understanding of automobiles, which will enable them to be competent advisors. Unfortunately, that’s the furthest from the truth. Although an in-depth understanding of automobiles can be an asset, there are a number of other things you should consider before offering a service advisor position to one of your techs.

First and foremost, you need to consider why they want the position, or why you are offering it to them. If they suggested they would like to become an advisor because it has become difficult to work on cars at their age, then they may very well be the wrong person, because they are looking to become an advisor out of necessity rather than interest. The same is true if you are looking to move a tech into an advisor position when that tech has shown little interest in becoming an advisor in the past. Two of the most common mistakes we see at Elite are shop owners making this hiring decision out of necessity rather than interest, or out of desperation rather than inspiration. In either case, there is a high probability of failure.

Another major mistake we see made by shop owners is they put far too much value on the technician’s technical skills, and far too little value on the tech’s natural people talents, and their passion for the position. Unfortunately, these owners don’t understand just how important the people skills component is to an advisor’s success. So here is what I am going to encourage you to consider before you offer one of your technicians a service advisor position.

First of all, when it comes to selling auto repairs and services, bear in mind that natural talent trumps technical skills every time. Talent can’t be taught, but skills can, so if your tech doesn’t naturally smile, doesn’t have a positive attitude, or is not quick-witted and articulate, then they may do a fair job for you, but they will never be the advisor that keeps you ahead of your competitors. You will find there are a number of companies that offer online behavioral assessment testing to evaluate the sales potential of candidates, and I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of this type of testing. You will more than likely be surprised with what you discover.

Secondly, you will need to evaluate how well he or she will be accepted in the advisor role by your other employees. If the candidate has a good relationship with your other employees, and if you feel your employees will be willing to take directions and orders from the candidate, then they may very well be a good fit for an advisor position.

The third thing you will need to do is avoid overselling the position to the candidate. In addition to knowing the benefits of the position, they’ll need to know all of the negatives as well. In essence, you want to make sure that there are no surprises. We also encourage all of our clients to get the significant other of the candidate involved in the decision making process. As we say at Elite, “When you hire Larry, you get Mary”, so you will need to ensure that their spouse is also on board with the new position.

Lastly, I hope you do two other important things if you decide to have one of your technicians take on the role of service advisor. First of all, take them for a test drive by having them help you on the counter, and pay close attention to their people skills, how well they are able to manage their emotions, and how they deal with difficult situations. Secondly, if and when you put that tech on the service counter, remember, training trumps productivity. What that tech will need more than anything is professional sales training, encouragement from you, and the opportunity to become… a superstar.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

 

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

From the time your advisors first pick up the phone, all the way through your service recommendations, there is one thing that is happening over and over again: The sales process. Putting first things first, every new customer needs to be sold on your shop. They then need to be sold that they made the right decision in calling your shop, have confidence that whatever problems they may have will be solved, believe that your advisor is someone that has their best interest at heart, be sold on your vehicle inspection process, and be convinced that their vehicle is worth the investment. If your advisors do their jobs well, hopefully that caller will make an appointment. Yet as we all know, when that customer finally walks into your shop, you and your advisors still have a long way to go. Your customers will need to feel comfortable with what they see and hear, and if they do, they’ll then be open to your advisors’ service recommendations. If your advisors do a really good job in presenting the service recommendations, and if they build value in the services, then there is a good chance that the customer will authorize the recommended services. Make a mistake anywhere throughout this entire process, and you’ll lose the sale, guaranteed. So consider this.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a superstar salesperson that helped your first-time customers feel comfortable with you, your facility, and your employees before they even picked up the phone?  Well, if this sounds too good to be true, consider the fact that when one of your customers refers a friend to you, you can rest assured that this friend has been told quite a bit about you and your company. I am sure you will agree that those referred customers are the best customers, and the reason is simple: They have been sold on you.

 When I was still operating auto repair shops I was always intrigued by how my competitors never realized how important those songbirds were. It seems as though they didn’t consider how most customers will trust us with their vehicles and their credit cards, but when they reach the point of trusting us with their friends, they are not only in a league of their own, but they are doing our job for us by selling their fiends on us. This is why my shops had a policy (that we use to this day at Elite), where we asked every first-time customer, “By the way, may I ask who referred you to us?” If they were referred, within 24 hours of vehicle delivery we would be on the phone with the songbird that referred them. On those calls we would take the time to tell them about the customer, and how we solved their problem. We would then thank them for their trust in us, and mention that their trust is something that we would never take for granted.

 I used this simple policy to grow some really great shops, and although I knew that making the calls would typically cause our customers to continue referring their friends to us, my motive came from a different origin. I made the calls because I felt in my heart that if someone is kind enough to entrust us with their friends, and then take the time to sell those people on the fact that our shop is the right choice, then at a minimum, I owed them a call…. to say thank you.  I also discovered that with rare exception, they weren’t looking for a referral commission or a complimentary oil service. They were looking for the peace of mind that their priceless friends would be in good hands. Make these calls and you will quickly see why I call them the “million dollar calls.” Not only will they drive up your sales, but they will strengthen your relationships with your customers, and serve as a valuable reminder of how lucky you are to be running such a great shop.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

There is an expression that has been around our industry for decades that says if you run a good, ethical business, the one thing you should never do is “steal” employees. If you agree with that philosophy, this is one article you may want to read.

First of all, in order for any of us to steal employees, by definition those employees would need to belong to someone else. Slavery was abolished in America in 1865. None of us “own” other people, and I am sure if you asked any of the employees who are presently in our industry, they too would agree they are not the property of anyone. So putting first things first, we need to accept that the statement itself is flawed when someone says we are trying to steal their employees.

Now let’s look at the argument that it’s not right to solicit employees from another business. The majority of successful companies do this! The world is filled with head hunters, and without question; they’re not looking for people who are unemployed. They are looking for the superstars who are presently employed. So if most people accept that recruiting employees from other businesses is an acceptable practice, you have to wonder why shop owners look at the practice with such disdain. It’s because they are so afraid that someone will recruit their employees that they start living by the code that it’s wrong to solicit employees. It’s their own misdirected way of trying to shelter their employees from hearing about better opportunities.

If you were a superstar technician, and if you were solicited by another shop owner who could provide you with a better opportunity, I sense you would consider the offer a compliment, and not a violation of ethics. I would also sense your family would be happy to hear of the opportunity as well. So when you stand back and look at the bigger picture, as a tech you would be happy that another shop owner is offering you the opportunity, your family would be pleased to hear about it, and the shop owner who reached out to you would be excited to speak with you. The only one who would deem it inappropriate would be your existing employer, who just happens to be the one who runs the risk of losing the most. If you step into the shoes of the employer living in a world of ethics and who cares about each employee as a person, wouldn’t you want that technician to take a job that provided a better opportunity for him and his family?

However, I feel there are a few situations where it would be inappropriate to solicit someone from another shop. If the employee works at a shop that is owned by a good friend, then of course you need to respect the friendship, and assume that your friend is taking proper care of their employees. The other exception is when you know in your heart you would be unable to provide the employee with a better opportunity than what they presently have.

On a personal note, I have never been afraid of someone “stealing” the people who work with me. I have learned over the years that the first thing that leaves your business is the employee’s heart, and once their heart is lost, then their mind will begin to wander, and other opportunities will become attractive. When they find the right opportunity, the toolbox will inevitably follow behind. This is why I always work very hard to keep their hearts, and why I consider it nothing more than a compliment when other business owners attempt to recruit my superstars. It’s much like a marriage, in that there isn’t a person on the planet who can take your spouse from you if you do the things you should be doing. On the other hand, if you don’t, then don’t blame the person who you feel took your spouse away, because in reality, you gave them away. So rather than being outraged when someone tries to steal your employees, I ask that you understand the ethics of recruiting, and that you do what you need to do to properly care for the hearts and minds of your employees.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

When your techs come to you to tell you they’re stumped, and you give them a recommendation, you’ll lose regardless of the outcome. If you solve the problem, you’ve sent a message to the tech that you’re more knowledgeable than they are, which is not going to build their confidence. But then it gets worse; you’ve also taught them to come to you when they're up against a wall. This is a lose-lose situation, in that if your recommendation doesn’t solve the problem, the tech will come back to you looking for your next recommendation, because you’ve now assumed ownership of the problem. 

As a business owner, you need to invest your time working on the business, not working on cars or solving problems for your techs. The answer is a lot easier than you may think. The first thing you need to do is create a system for solving technical problems in your shop. Once you have the system outlined, you’ll need to meet with all your techs and tell them something like this: 

“Guys, I realize you all know we each have a job here at Elite Auto Service. Mine is to set the goals of the company, hire remarkable people like you, and to provide you with a lot of opportunities. Your job is to accurately diagnose the vehicles, and then get our customers back on the road just as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I’ve been spending way too much time helping you do your job, which means that I don’t have the time needed to do my job to the best of my ability.”

“So what I’ve done is put together a system that you guys can use to solve technical problems without my help. Here’s how it’s going to work: If you get stumped with any diagnosis or repair, the first thing you’ll need to do is ask one another for any ideas. If no one in the shop has a quick answer, I want you to go to the second step, which is checking our Mitchell Repair service. If you can’t find the answer there, I want you to go to the third step, which is to call our technical support line. Now, if for whatever reason, you still can’t come up with the answer, it’s time to go to step number four, which is to post online.  If you still can’t find the answer, then it’s time for step five: Partner up with another one of our techs and commit to resolving the issue together, because you know as well as I do, there’s a good chance the answer is right under your nose, and sometimes all we need is a second set of eyes. At this point you’ll need to hit the reset button, and start at the very beginning by re-confirming the customer’s complaint, and then going through this entire problem solving system one more time.”  

“Now if for whatever reason you still can’t solve the problem, then you’re more than welcome to come see me to ask if I can help. But if you do, bear in mind that I’m going to ask you what you have done to solve the problem so far, and I’m going to have an expectation that you’re going to tell me you’ve followed each and every one of these steps.”

“So here’s what I’m going to do next: I’m going to put each of these steps down on a piece of paper, and pass out copies to each of you. Then we’re going to have another meeting so I can learn what you think we need to add, subtract or change on our list. As soon as it’s finalized, I’m going to give each of you a copy, and I’ll have an expectation that you’ll use it. If you do, I am confident you’ll be able to solve problems a lot more quickly, you’ll flag more hours, and I’ll be able to do what I need to do: Invest my time in finding ways to provide you with all of the opportunities you’ll need.”  

In closing, I know there is no one single problem solving system that will work for every shop, but hopefully this information will give you the start you need to solve the age-old problem of your techs relying on you, when all they need is a simple system they can follow.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

1. Invest in your most valuable asset: The people who work with you.

You will need to embrace the fact that every one of your employees undergoes constant training, regardless of whether or not you provide it. Every time a technician diagnoses a vehicle or performs a repair, there is some form of learning taking place. The same is true with your advisors, as they are constantly learning through their exchanges with your customers. Ironically, while many shop owners believe they are saving money by not providing professional training, there is an extraordinary cost to this type of “on the job” training. Your techs learn through their costly misdiagnoses, low productivity and failed repairs. Your advisors learn through costly lost first-time callers, lost sales, and lost customers. By not providing professional training you will inevitably lose employee morale, sales, customers and profits, so rather than having your employees learn in the most costly way, you need to invest in training for all of your employees.

At Elite we understand that every shop owner will have a different take on who should be paying for the training, but as a general rule, we feel it is the responsibility of the shop owner to do so. We also realize that some shop owners are fearful that if they pay for the training they may lose the employee and the money will be wasted, but the answer to that concern is simple –

“The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.”

2. Ensure everyone is properly trained.

Mandated training is not a new concept. In the U.S. medical doctors and attorneys are required to take continuing education courses for one simple reason; to enable them to take better care of their patients and their clients. We should take the same approach. Only you know how much training your employees will need each year, and it certainly needs to be based on their job, their skill level and their experience. Yet as a starting point I would strongly recommend that you require all of your technicians to complete at least 48 hours of professional “company approved” training each year, and your advisors should complete at least 12 hours each year. The successful completion of the required training each year should be a condition in place for ongoing employment.

3. Provide training that will help your employees with a number of skill sets.

Rather than limiting each employee’s training to their specific job, you should consider offering optional courses that will help them in other aspects of their life and career. Some examples would be financial management courses, and personal development courses such as those offered by Dale Carnegie Training. By helping them develop as people, you will be creating better employees.

4. Practice what you preach.

As a shop owner, each year you need to participate in ongoing training as well. Your training should include business and employee management courses, marketing courses, and leadership courses. I would also recommended participating in personal development courses, which will set a good example for all of your employees.

In closing, having a good ongoing training program in place, practicing what you preach as a shop owner, and living by the principle of never putting money ahead of people will help you take your shop to the top.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

If you are in business long enough the time will come when you’ll need to let someone go, so my goal with this article is to help you through the process.

The most common reason shop owners are reluctant to fire someone is they feel the employee is either irreplaceable, or it will take a long time to find the right replacement. First of all, everyone is replaceable, and as I have often said to clients, the graveyards are filled with irreplaceable people. With regards to the concern that it will take a long time to find a replacement, as a shop owner you can dramatically reduce this time by keeping your pipeline full. You do this by always being in “recruiting mode”, and by building relationships with the industry superstars. Secondly, if you have a low performer, or someone that is unwilling or unable to work well in your shop’s environment, in many cases you are better off without them even if your productivity and profits drop. Their behavior can take a dramatic toll on the morale of your other employees, and when you consider that cost, in many cases you’ll be better served by letting the employee go.

The second reason many shop owners are reluctant to let an employee go is they feel partly responsible for the employee’s failure to produce or conform. In essence, they feel at fault for not providing the employee with the right opportunity, the right training, or the right support. Regardless, as a business owner you need to learn from any mistakes you have made in managing people, and move forward. Otherwise you are prolonging the inevitable and setting your business up for an even greater failure.

The third reason shop owners hesitate to terminate is they find themselves feeling sorry for the employee. This is often the case when they have an employee that has been with them for a long time, and as the employee has grown older, their productivity has dwindled. Shop owners will tell themselves that the employee has been loyal over the years, and if released, the employee they will have nowhere to go and no means of support. In cases like this there are two things you need to consider: First, you should never feel responsible for any employee’s failure to plan for their own future, and secondly, you need to evaluate the true cost of keeping them on board. Over the years I have seen many shop owners that would be far better served by paying such an employee to stay home, and filling the position with a productive employee. I am not suggesting that you pay them to stay home, but that you consider ways of phasing these employees out of your company.

Lastly, here’s the real secret: If you hire the right people, if you provide them with clarity in expectations, if you provide them with minimum levels of acceptable performance with deadlines, and if you give them the necessary training and opportunities, then you have done your job. Although letting them go will never be easy, it will be a lot less painful, and you can in most cases still remain good friends.  I have done this, and I know you can too.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

There is no easy answer to this question, but here at Elite we can give you some points that you need to consider. We realize that you are paying rent, insurance, etc. on a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year basis, so many will argue that you should be open on Saturdays since you’re already incurring many of the fixed expenses. Some will also argue that if you are closed on Saturdays, then stranded customers, or those who can’t make it in during the week, will wind up at your competitors’ shops. Obviously there is truth to that argument as well. But before you make a decision to open up your shop on Saturdays, or to continue to remain open on Saturdays, here are five considerations that should not be overlooked…

#1. Run the numbers and pay close attention to the details. By being open on Saturdays you’ll more than likely incur the added cost of overtime, which will escalate your operating expense, as well as the expenses that are based on payroll, such as insurance. The bottom line is that you’ll need to come to a conclusion as to exactly how much you’ll need to generate in Saturday sales (closed RO’s) to make it a worthwhile endeavor for your business. Also, in running these numbers to determine whether being open on Saturdays will be profitable for your shop, you need to make sure that when you forecast your necessary Saturday sales you’re not counting work that you would have otherwise performed during the week.

#2. The consideration that is most commonly overlooked (but that can cost you a fortune) is the cost of employee morale. If you plan on having your techs and service advisors put in the extra day, there will be a hefty price that you will ultimately have to pay.  You may very well experience lower productivity Monday through Friday, a decrease in the quality of customer service, or an increase in employee turnover, just to name a few. We realize that some of you may be telling yourselves that you have some young, motivated guys and gals who would love to be open on Saturdays so they can earn a higher income, but you’ll more than likely find that the excitement wanes over a short period of time.  Opening your doors on Saturdays may be great for short-term performance, but odds are, it will not be the best choice when it comes to long-term business building.

#3. Whatever you do, don’t ask your customers if they would like to see you open on Saturdays!  Far too many shop owners place value on these opinions when the overwhelming majority of them will naturally say “yes” since it’s to their benefit, and there is absolutely no downside for them.

#4. Take Saturdays for a “test drive”. If you feel being open on Saturdays is something you just can’t pass up, then before you tell the world, you should have a skeleton staff work on Saturdays for 90 days and then measure the results.  During this test drive, make certain that your entire staff understands that the Monday through Friday goals will still need to be reached, and that Saturday is  not to be used as an optional “bring it in for service” day for your existing customers who contact your shop during the week. Otherwise, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. To accurately measure the profitability of being open on Saturdays, they should be reserved for incoming Saturday calls and walk-ins.

#5. Lastly, consider this: If your intent is to drop as much money onto the bottom line as quickly as possible, then opening on Saturdays may very well be a good decision for you. And if that is the case, you may want to consider being open on Sundays and holidays, too, because the same financial logic prevails. On the other hand, if your interest is in building a profitable, successful business that will grow in value over the long-term, and in creating a great environment for your employees to call their home away from home, then closing on Saturdays, and losing some potential sales along the way, will more than likely be the right choice for you.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

 
Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Regardless of whether you have one or twenty employees, your productivity and profits will both go up if all your employees work together as a team. If you feel that’s not the case in your shop, or if you would like to ensure that you are covering all the bases, I hope that this checklist can help. 

    Hire the right people 
At Elite we look for people that have the right attitude, the right aptitude and the right ethics. I am sure you will agree that in order to cultivate a team spirit, everyone on your team will need to have these three traits. Not only should you have discussions with your key employees about your hiring intentions, but you need to have them involved in the interviewing and decision-making process as well. They will be working with the new hire every day, so if nothing else, you owe them the opportunity to give their input.

    Educate every new hire on the things that are most important
During their orientation, you need to educate them on the goals of your company, your Mission Statement, and the culture of your company.  Ideally you’ll not only have a Mission Statement, but you will have the new hire memorize it as well (Not familiar with Mission Statements? See ours on the Elite site). 

    View your entire organization as a family rather than a company 
Simply put, you should recognize the birthdays of all of your employees, their family happenings, etc. The more you can instill a feeling of family in your employees, the stronger your shop’s team spirit will be.

    Have regularly scheduled team meetings 
In addition to reviewing your policies, procedures, etc., at your meetings, you need to review your mission and culture as well. This constant reminder will help foster the common cause teamwork you are looking for.
  
    Provide ongoing education 
In addition to job-related education, you need to provide your employees with ongoing education that fosters your culture and team spirit. At Elite, every new-hire is required to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, and as a team we read (and review) books like John Maxwell’s Ethics 101 and Attitude 101.

    Perform regularly scheduled employee reviews 
These reviews not only provide you with the opportunity to praise each employee for their team efforts, but you can ask them for their suggestions on how to further improve the team spirit within your company. If you’ve hired the right people, you can rest assured they will provide you with the answers you are looking for.

    Create team incentives 
Although every employee needs to be compensated for their own productivity, you need to have team incentives in place. In addition to incentives for overall shop productivity, you should consider incentives for 5-star reviews that reflect their team efforts.

    Do away with hierarchies  
I feel that in today’s world we no longer need hierarchies, which is why no one works “for” me at Elite; everyone works “with” me as a team. This does not mean everyone isn’t accountable, because they are. It just means that I view everyone in our family at Elite as being incredibly important to our mission. I have found over the years that when people know that you care about them, and when they realize just how much you value their role and contributions, they will then move mountains for you.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

If you what to sell more service, drive up employee morale and productivity, and see higher profits, then this is one article you may want to read. I realize that I just made a pretty substantial claim, but I sense that by the time you finish this article, you will agree... 

Rudi Rudloff, who is now an Elite Coach, approached me a number of years ago when he was one of our coaching clients here in San Diego. He said that since his shop was only open Monday through Friday, his plan was to have all of his employees come in on a Saturday so that they could spend the entire day together. His objective was to not only learn from his employees, but to allow them all to learn from one another as well. He ran one of the top shops in America and I always admired the way that he thought, but I told him that I felt this was a particularly great idea. He then asked if I had any additional thoughts, and I suggested we invite a few of his customers as well. He liked my recommendation, so here’s what happened…

His five techs showed up, along with his two advisors, his lot attendant and his secretary. Shortly after that, the five customers that he invited showed up. The shop was immaculate in every way, he hosted a breakfast, and arranged all of the chairs in a nice big circle. 

Rudi and I started the session by asking the customers questions about their expectations. Not only were all of his employees taking a lot of notes, but for all of his employees to be able to hear the customer expectations directly from their customers made the entire meeting a huge win in itself. After spending about an hour and a half with the customers, Rudi thanked them for attending and walked them to the door. 

We then spent the entire day analyzing every single part of the business, from the time a potential customer makes that first call, all the way through the customer follow-up calls. What I found to be the best part about the entire meeting was that every single employee was exposed to every single part of the customer and vehicle process, and what they all learned, was priceless.

The technicians were able to better understand what advisors have to go through each and every day, and the recommendations they provided regarding how to make the advisor’s job that much easier were all well received.  Additionally, breaking down and analyzing what the technicians go through with each and every vehicle enabled the advisors to provide the techs with their recommendations, while at the same time this process gave the advisors a much deeper appreciation for what a technician goes through every day. 

The day ended mid-afternoon, and the results from the meeting were no surprise. Over the course of the ensuing weeks their car counts went up substantially, they sold more service, and there was an increase in employee morale, productivity and profits. As a matter of fact, Rudi held his annual shop meetings each and every year until he finally sold his business. 

Giving each and every employee the opportunity to see and understand the big picture worked for Rudi, and I am confident it will work for you as well.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Over the years I have had the pleasure of watching hundreds of shop owners go to the top, and truly become industry leaders. I have also seen thousands of shop owners that struggle from day to day until they finally either try to find someone that is willing to take over their business at any price, or they simply close their doors and walk away. There are many reasons why shops fail, including lack of business skills and the unwillingness to reach out for help before it’s too late, but there is one silent killer that I have seen take even the best shops down. It preys on every small business owner, and if not caught early enough, inevitably puts them out of business. The good news is; if you are aware of it, you can not only side-step it, but you can turn a good business into a really great business at the same time.

Some shop owners started their careers as technicians, and others are simply entrepreneurs, but interestingly enough, all shop owners have a number of things in common when they first open their shops. They are excited about what they will be building, and they are filled with passion and energy. They secure a location and equipment, they hire a tech or two, and they get the word out in their communities that they are now open for business. These are the guys and gals that work six to seven days a week, and they happily put in the long hours, because they are making their dreams come true and building a business they can be proud of.

But then Father Time steps in, and these entrepreneurial shop owners find that they are no longer building their businesses. Instead, they are dealing with customers, ordering parts, working on cars and putting out fires. Unbeknownst to them, they have transitioned from being an entrepreneur to being a manager, and find themselves managing repair orders, managing checkbooks and managing people. Not only are these tasks uninspiring, but they are the furthest things from the role of an entrepreneur. This is when the excitement and challenge of building a business transforms into a job, and burnout sets in. If this sounds like a place where you reside, or if you feel it’s a place you are headed toward, then I have some good news for you: Not only is there hope, but the bright future you envisioned when you opened your shop can still be yours.

The first thing you will need to do is take a good, hard look at where you are with your business, and then set some long-term business goals that will get you excited again. I have counseled hundreds, if not thousands, of shop owners on this process, and after seeing the results first-hand I can tell you with confidence that taking this step will not only have a dramatic impact on your business, but it will have a life-changing impact on you as a person. When you set those long-term goals that are 3 to 10 years out, you will find that you are invigorated again, and you will reignite that entrepreneur inside of you.

In closing, all successful businesses are aware of this silent killer, so they never stop growing. I can promise you that ensuring you always have a vision and clearly defined goals will keep that spark of passion alive in you, it will give you a sense of purpose, it will inspire your employees, and it will keep you well ahead of your competitors.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

The top shop owners in America have a number of things in common. They were the first to embrace the incredible value in utilizing exchange rebuilt components, rather than trying to repair all the components themselves. They were also the first to provide their customers with extended warranties on their repairs, and they geared up for selling maintenance service while all of their competitors were still living in the world of repair. You may call them forward thinkers, but one thing for certain is that they embrace the future long before it arrives.

Today cars are better-built, they are requiring less repair and maintenance, and the dealerships are continuing their attempt to conquer the service business. So the question is: What opportunities will be available for you in the coming years? Well, the services you do offer will certainly be your personal choices, but considering the current state of our industry, and all the indicators of our future, I see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for shop owners.

In the coming years there will be an absolute explosion that will take place in the vehicle infotainment industry. I am referring to the mixture of onboard data such as onboard diagnostics, guidance systems and vehicle control features, and the entertainment/communication features such as Wi-Fi, voice texting and audio/video systems. Just step inside of any new car showroom, or watch any car company ad, and you will clearly see that the car companies are competing in the field of infotainment far more than for anything that is mechanical in nature. What I find interesting is that the world of infotainment is one space that is virtually void of competition among independent shops at this time, and it is wide open to shop owners who are willing to embrace the future.

There is no doubt in my mind why shop owners have not yet shown any interest in this explosive opportunity. Simply put, they feel they don’t need to offer infotainment services today, and they are fearful of the unknown, which in this case is the complexity of the technology. For those of you who may share these feelings, I would like to remind you that there was a time when shop owners were deathly afraid of automatic transmissions, there was a time when they were afraid of fully electronic ignition systems, and there was even a time when they were afraid of things as simple as disc brakes.  As we all well know, the shop owners who took on those early challenges were able to build remarkable businesses.

So here are my recommendations. Start the process by exploring how you can better help your current customers by installing and servicing infotainment components. The manufacturers are currently filling the streets with technology-laden vehicles, and beyond the opportunity to install additional equipment in today’s vehicles, the components in all of those new vehicles will inevitably do one thing: They will fail. The question is, who will be performing those repairs, and if not you, why not you?

In closing, I would like to leave you with this thought:  When speaking of investment strategy, at one time the famed billionaire Warren Buffet said, “First come the innovators… then come the imitators… and then come the idiots.” If you embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if you take the steps to be the innovator in your community, then there is no question in my mind: The world will be yours, and your competitors will become imitators at best. 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

Most shop owners have learned a lot from their mentors, including the importance of listening to their customers, fixing cars right the first time, and never putting money ahead of people. Unfortunately, in far too many cases their mentors pass on some information that actually shouldn’t be followed. The most common example, which we see on a daily basis at Elite, is misinformation on how a shop owner should properly advertise. I am not suggesting that their mentors didn’t have good intentions when they passed their advertising guidance along, but it is safe to say that in most cases their advertising knowledge was obtained through their own trial and error, rather than marketing research.

At Elite we know there are a lot of people outside of our industry that we can learn from, so reach out to the top universities in America in order to discover what they have learn from world-class companies like Starbucks and Apple when it comes to marketing. While the insights from these experts are usually reserved for our coaching clients, I wanted to pass along one discovery that I feel every shop owner needs to be aware of, as it may very well change the way you market your shop.

In the most general sense, in the world of marketing there are two forms of advertising: Brand awareness, and CTA (Call to Action). Examples of brand awareness advertising include key chains, glove box folders, outdoor signs and sponsoring community events, while CTA campaigns like direct mailings, online coupons, etc. encourage immediate action (offering a special price or service package, for example). As I am sure you are aware, the overwhelming majority of shop owners invest almost all of their advertising budgets into CTA campaigns for one simple reason: they will predictably see immediate results in the form of phone calls and new customers. However, most shop owners are unaware that study after study done by leading universities has consistently drawn the same conclusion – You will get a better return on your investment with brand awareness than with CTA ads.

The mistake we see most shop owners make is they will start a brand awareness campaign (such as signs at sporting events in their community), but then they’ll pull those signs in a few months because they feel that few, if any, customers have come into the shop because of the signs. What they overlook is how many people saw those signs, and the impact it will have on those potential customers when they are in need of service. While you will not see the results as quickly with brand awareness advertising as you will with CTA campaigns, you will not only see a better ROI in the long run, but the added benefit of brand awareness campaigns is that they put the focus of your potential customer on your brand… rather than on a price.

At Elite we encourage all of our clients to embrace brand awareness campaigns, and to wean themselves off of their dependency on costly CTA campaigns. Is there a place for CTA campaigns in the auto repair business? You bet! But please don’t make the mistake that so many shop owners make, and rely solely on CTA ads.

So do this: Identify your ideal customer, put together a well-designed brand awareness strategy that will reach your targeted customer, and stick with it. If you do, you will be thrilled with the results.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

If you want to build a successful auto repair business, you will need to strongly consider the length of the warranties you offer. 

First of all, you need to know your failure rate. The top shops in America have extremely low failure rates in both parts and labor. I’ve also discovered that the overwhelming majority of those failures occur within the first 90 days of service, so regardless of whether your warranties are for 90 days or for years on end, you’re going to absorb all but a few of those failures within the first 90 days. 

The second thing you need to consider is your level of exposure to risk. If you are using high quality parts, and if you have competent technicians, you’ll find your exposure to be surprisingly low. Consider this: If a repair makes it beyond the first 90 days, there is a high probability that the parts are sound, and that they were installed correctly. Outside of wear and maintenance items like brakes, tires, wiper blades and filters, I am sure you will agree that those replaced parts should last for a number of years.  If a part makes it past 90 days and subsequently fails within the first year, even if your standard warranty is for only 90 days, you’ll more than likely cover the repair in order to satisfy the customer. This is the primary reason why most shop owners provide a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty on the majority of their repairs. 

The more important question for you as a businessperson is, what do you do when a part fails after the first year? Well, I can tell you that the best shops in America have a number of things in common, one of which is that they realize it’s a lot easier and more affordable to keep a customer than it is to replace a customer. So let’s examine the differences in the warranties offered by the average shop owners, and the warranties offered by the true industry leaders. 

The average shop owner will typically warranty their repairs for one year or 12,000 miles, and if a part fails after that first year, they will tell their customers that they will do the repair at a discounted rate. Now here’s the problem with that approach. With every customer panel we have done at Elite, when asked how long they expect a repair to last, the customers all inevitably say, “forever.” When questioned further, they then tell us that they expect the repair to last at least as long as the original, which is typically four or more years. So if your repair fails after a year, and you offer to do it again at a discounted rate, you may very well have made a few dollars on that second go-around, but you’ll more than likely lose the customer. 

At Elite we feel that in today’s competitive environment your base warranty should be 2 years, 24,000 miles. First of all, if you have the right part suppliers, and the right technicians, then the added risks are not only minimal, but after a couple of years a good percentage of those vehicles will be sold.  Secondly, if you plan on keeping your customers as your customers, you will need to not only meet their expectations, but more importantly, you will need to exceed their expectations.

By offering a warranty of 2 years, 24,000 miles your team is going to have a lot more confidence in your services, and more pride in what they do. You’ll also find that a 2 year, 24,000 mile warranty will give you a competitive edge when marketing your services, it will be a great sales tool for your service advisors, and it will help take you out of the price-comparison game with your competitors. Now I realize that you may not be able to warranty some repairs for 2 years or 24,000 miles due to extreme weather conditions, the driving conditions in your community, commercial application, etc., but you can make sure you have the right parts and people, and you can talk to your part suppliers about your expectations. If you do, I am confident you will then do what the top shops in America have already done, and offer warranties that not only show your confidence in your repairs, but that allow you to be the hero with those rare failures that occur after the first year when you tell the customer… it’s no charge. Best of all, providing 2 year, 24,000 mile warranties shows your customers, and your entire community, that you truly do care… about people.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

When you start to see a pattern in behavioral issues; such as a tech, manager or service advisor coming in late, here are the things you need to consider: 1) If you don't nip it in the bud it will get worse. 2) Employees need to be responsible for their own behavior. 3) Your employees need to know why you have specific policies in place. So the next time an employee starts to develop a pattern of bad behavior, such as coming in late, call them into a private environment and ask them why they were late. When they have given you their explanation, say something like this...

“Mike, you've been late four times now this month, and let me tell you what my concerns are. First of all, if you're not here at 7:30am, the first thought that goes through my mind is that you or someone in your family might be sick or injured.  My second thought is that your car may have broken down, or you may have been in an accident, and I start to wonder if I should send Larry or Frank out to look for you. To complicate things even further, when you're not here on time, and I'm standing at the service counter, I don't know what to tell customers who ask me when their car's going to be ready. Additionally, I just can't find it in myself to expect everyone else here at Elite Auto Service to be here on time when you're not. Now I know old habits are hard to break, so the next time you're late, I'll ask you why, but it really isn't going to matter because that one's going to be on me. The second time you're late, again I'll ask you why, and that one's going to be on me as well. But if you're late a third time, for whatever reason, it's going to be a difficult day for me, because I'm going to have to give you your final paycheck.”

“Mike, I think the world of you, and I would love to be able to work with you for the rest of my life. You're a star, and I don't want to see our relationship end, so please don't put me in a position where I have to let you go. Do we have an understanding?"

Now here's why this approach is so effective. First of all, many employees will think, “Gee, what's a few minutes?" They'll tell themselves they often work through breaks, stay late, etc., so you can see how easy it is for them to think you're not only nitpicking, but you're being quite unfair. That's why it's critically important that you let them know it's not the couple of minutes that you're concerned about, but that you’re worried about their well-being, your customers and your other employees.

I have also discovered over the years that the keepers will typically apologize, and the behavioral issue goes away. The people who won't be with you very long will typically either ask you “What period of time are you talking about?" for the three strikes, (which tells us they already imagine they'll be late), or they'll make a point to show up each day just minutes before the time they're supposed to be at work.
This Elite Three Strikes system takes away all of the excuses and makes the employee responsible for his or her own behavior. Just remember, when you make a promise, you have to keep it, so be ready to hand that employee their final paycheck if the behavior continues.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

Over the years I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of shop owners who are suffering from burnout. They either tell me they have it, or it clearly shows in their behavior. Ironically, dealing with burnout is no different than fixing cars, in that in order to accurately solve the problem, we have to first identify the cause.

So, let’s start by taking a good look at the cause of burnout.  The reason most shop owners have burnout is because they spend most of their day doing a job that’s not necessarily aligned with who they are.  Look at it like this: technicians and service advisors spend most of their day working in what I call “the moment”. They spend the majority of their time dealing with customers and vehicles that came in that very same day. To put it another way, they’re solving current problems.

On the other hand, managers spend most of their time reviewing the past. They look at past productivity, past trends, past results, etc. By the way, this is all good, because we need sharp people who have a good understanding of past performance, and we need people who can quickly and professionally solve the problems that are at hand.

Yet the job of business owners is to spend most of their time in the future; not in the past, and not in the moment at hand. Unlike managers, techs and service advisors; business owners are responsible for setting the company goals, developing the plans, hiring the stars, etc. Interestingly, when most shop owners first start their journeys in the world of business, they actually do spend the majority of their time where they need to: thinking about the future. They’re busy securing their locations, getting their signage, putting their marketing plans in place, etc. Yet when their businesses become relatively established, and they’ve reached their initial growth goals, they then find themselves spending most of their time managing their businesses rather than building their businesses. To put it another way, they start off as entrepreneurs, and end up doing something they never imagined they would be doing: working as managers, and spending most of their time reviewing the past rather than building their businesses.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, then here’s the guaranteed cure for you: simply put, you need to reevaluate the goals of your company. If you look to the future and set some worthy long-term and mid-term growth goals for your company, not only will those goals get you excited, but they will give you a better sense of purpose. Add to that, your day-to-day decisions will be that much easier to make, and your new-found goals will put that spark back in you that will be seen by all of your employees.

Clearly one of the roles of every business owner is to lead by example, and what better example can you set than by having clearly defined goals that will benefit you, your employees, your customers and your community.  I’ve shared these conclusions and this recommendation with thousands of people over the years, and I can tell you without hesitation that the people who have taken this advice to heart have seen their burnout literally disappear overnight, and in many cases, their businesses have grown well beyond their wildest dreams.

In closing, I’d like to say this: if you are suffering from burnout, and if for whatever reason you decide to pass on this recommendation, then it may be time for you to pick up the phone and call your local business broker. Otherwise, as time goes on you’re going to struggle in business. True entrepreneurs like you all have one thing in common: they have what it takes to build really great companies, but as strictly managers for any length of time, well, with all due respect, they usually struggle at best. On that, you have my promise.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper of Elite

As business owners, our best teachers will always be our employees and our customers. They understand many components of our businesses, and in most cases, they really do care about our success.  Learning from our employees is relatively simple. All that we need to do is pay attention to their passing comments, and engage them during our employee meetings and reviews. What I would like to do with this article is provide you with a step-by-step guide that will help you do what every successful business owner does; learn from your customers.

1. First and foremost, you need to set customer satisfaction goals, as well as minimum levels of acceptable performance. For example, your goal would be 100%, and the minimum level of acceptable performance would be set at 96%.

2. Let your employees know how you will measure results. It’s your call, but I would encourage you to categorize any type of customer dissatisfaction as a failure, regardless of the cause.  For example, if the customer says they felt the price of the repair was too high, it would be a failure because the advisor did not do an adequate job of building value in the service. Now I understand that there will be some occurrences (such as a part failure) where the employees would feel they should not be held accountable for the customer being dissatisfied. It’s those rare occurrences that cause us to set a minimum level of acceptable performance. In essence, by setting a minimum level of acceptable performance at 96%, those rare occurrences are taken into consideration.

3. Implement a company wide reward program that is based on customer satisfaction scores, and make sure all of your employees are able to participate. This will help incentivize the team effort you need.

4. Conclude who will be making your customer follow-up calls. Although there is tremendous relationship-building value in having your advisors follow up with their customers, the downside is that your customers may not be candid with them. Add to that, your advisors will have a conflict of interest if you are providing them with an economic incentive. I have found that the best person for making the calls is someone with the right personality, and who believes in you, your company and your people. When I was still operating shops I found that the perfect candidates were the customers who loved us, and who were looking to earn a few extra dollars a week.

5. Conclude how you will compensate the person you hire, and where the calls will be made. Ideally you will pay your representative a flat hourly rate, ensuring that they will invest adequate time on each call. I also believe, when possible, the calls should be made from your shop. Not only will this allow your customers to see your phone number displayed on their caller ID, which adds to your professionalism, but if the customer has a question or concern, they can be transferred to your staff immediately.

6. Conclude who you will call and when. At Elite we believe that all first-time customers, and all repair and/or warranty customers, should be called within 72 hours. Out of respect for their time, we do not endorse calling repeat customers who had simple maintenance services performed.  Although these calls should never be perceived as “sales” calls, if a customer declined a major safety repair, we do encourage you to have your representative ask the customer if they have had the repair performed, to ensure their safety and well-being.

7. Ask the right questions. I realize that most shops ask a series of questions about the behavior of their staff, the quality of repair, promised-times, etc. We look at it differently. Our position is that you should say something as simple as, “I just wanted to follow up with you and ask; ‘How did we do?’” Our reasoning for this approach is really pretty simple. Rather than leading the customer with specific questions, it will allow you to learn what is important to your customer. If it is important enough to be at the top of their mind, then without question, it is exactly what you need to hear. This is how we learn, and how we build really great companies at the same time.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

As we all know, the use of illegal drugs has been around for many years. From the early part of the last century, all the way through the mid-seventies, the only illegal drug that was worthy of discussion among shop owners was marijuana. During those times, even cases of marijuana use were few and far between. It was during the early eighties when our nation (and our industry) began to see a number of other drugs emerge, which resulted in many shop owners deciding to implement drug-free workplace programs. I am proud to say that I was one of them, and our objective was quite simple: To protect our employees, and our customers, from the accidents that can be caused by the use of illegal drugs. Interestingly enough, all the top attorneys in America pretty much agreed that drug-free workplace programs would be a gray area, in that we had to protect the employee’s right to privacy, but also had to protect our staff and customers. This meant that we needed to be very careful about how we administered the plan. From that point on questions continued to arise regarding how and when to test, and what we were able to do if someone did test positive.

Now here we are just a few decades later, and not only are there many more types of illegal drugs on the streets, but as you well know, in some states marijuana is legal. Add to that, many users are now abusing prescription drugs with the help of questionable doctors, and the use of illegal drugs is more socially acceptable than ever before. So the question is, what are you going to do in these changing times to effectively safeguard your employees and your customers? And what about your business?  As I am sure you’re aware, an employee’s drug use can lead to injuries and losses that will drive up your insurance rates, it can lead to absenteeism, poor performance, and even theft. If you’re unsure of what to do, then you’re reading the right article.

Let’s start with some basic understandings. First of all, we need to recognize drug use as an illness long before we consider any laws that may be broken, or damage caused to our businesses. By taking this approach, I feel we can not only better understand those that use recreational drugs (both legal and illegal, as well as alcohol), but we can better understand how to deal with those that use drugs.

Secondly, we need to understand that by hiring someone that uses illegal drugs, not only are we running the risks that are associated with employees that use illegal drugs, but we are also knowingly hiring someone with an illness, and that is knowingly breaking the law. This is one of the many reasons you should consider pre-employment testing.

I also realize that laws will vary from state to state, and many states now view drug dependency (including alcohol) as an illness. This means that by employing a drug user, you may not only find yourself involved in a situation where you are unable to terminate the employee, but in some cases you may be responsible (in part) for their rehabilitation.

As a shop owner you need to conclude what type of people you are looking to hire, and the kind of culture you are looking to create in your shop. I sense you would agree that abstinence from non-prescription drugs is not only a testimony to someone’s self-discipline, but it is a reflection of their values as well.

Lastly, I would recommend speaking with an employment law attorney regarding the discrimination considerations when it comes to applicants that use legal, recreational drugs such as alcohol, and in some states, marijuana. You should also discuss a pre-employment drug testing program with them, as well as an ongoing drug-free workplace program that you can implement. 

In closing, by implementing a drug-free workplace program in your shop you will not only be better safeguarding your employees and customers, but you will be sending a very powerful message to your community that you are principle-centered, and that you really do care about people.  Drug use may very well become more common than less common, so I would encourage you to do what your competitors aren’t doing, and take the next steps to solidify your shop’s drug-free culture.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.


 

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Elite Worldwide Inc.

BY Bob Cooper

Far too many shop owners don’t measure Customer Satisfaction in their auto repair shops. It’s not that they’re not interested in the results, it’s just that they’re not exactly sure how to do it. Unfortunately, the price they pay for not measuring their customer satisfaction is often staggering. To complicate things even further, the Gallup Association released a report which stated that most of the ways used to measure CSI are beyond bad; they’re actually worthless.

As a business owner, I am sure you will agree that your CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) goal needs to be 100%.  You also need to establish a Minimum Level of Acceptable Performance with your team that is set no lower than 95% (With the understanding that your employees can “begin” to earn CSI rewards on an incremental scale once they pass the threshold of 97%). Now here’s where most shop owners get into trouble: they’re not sure what counts as a point against the CSI score. Now I realize that there are many different ways to measure customer satisfaction, and many of our clients have some relatively well-designed systems in place. But if you’re just looking for a simple, easy-to-use method, here it is…
 
At Elite we recommend that you classify any comeback or customer complaint as a “failure”, and you should count that failure against the car counts for the measured period. For example, if you process 100 vehicles, you should not incur over five complaints, including any comebacks due to mechanical problems that were not properly solved during the initial visit, misdiagnosed, or simply overlooked.  If the vehicle was repaired six months ago, and it fails today, it still needs to be considered as a failure for the current period, even though your existing employees may not have had any control at the time the service was originally provided to the customer. The rationale is two-fold. One, the failure will be offset by any poor work done today that may not fail for months to come. The second reason we need to consider it a failure is because your income statement is blind to what, where and when. All that we do know is that the comeback is a failure “today”. Part failures also need to be counted against the CSI score. Not only is your financial statement blind to part failures, but your overall CSI score should take a reasonable percentage of part failures into consideration.

So warranty claims, mechanical failures that include part failures, customer neglect (i.e. we failed to educate them on their responsibility), etc., are easy to classify as failures with this type of CSI scoring. It becomes more subjective when you are placing your customer follow-up calls. I would highly recommend that you ask every customer, “How did we do?” If their response is positive, and they have nothing to say in the form of criticism, then it’s reasonably safe for us to say that the customer is a happy customer. Otherwise, it’s a failure.

So, what we need to strive for are fewer comebacks, zero complaints (customer returns with dirty carpet, upset that vehicle wasn’t done on time, felt your prices were too high, etc.), and follow-up calls that end with your customers saying they were pleased. Although you may have to massage the percentages and the criteria a bit, this method is a great starting point for you and your company, and is fair to both you and your employees.

You should also ensure that all of your employees know that if there are any comebacks, or complaints that are knowingly not reported, then there will be a substantial penalty toward any reward they may be entitled to. If any employee is guilty of not reporting a complaint or comeback a second time, they go on report. A third failure to report should be considered grounds for immediate dismissal. You need to make sure all your people understand that openness and honesty in reporting are critical to improvement. Also let them know that their income, along with the success of your company, will always be predicated on continual improvement.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts.  Far too many companies complicate their methods of monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction. They typically follow up with their customers, and they ask a series of predetermined questions. Rather than asking customers questions that are based on our interests, we should let the customers share their thoughts in any way they would like, and they should be able to address any part of their customer experience.

Many shops feel that anything less than 100% is completely unacceptable, and I have to politely disagree. Here’s why. First of all, the system I just outlined allows for a 4% failure that takes part failures into consideration. Until we have perfect parts and perfect people, we will always see at least some failures. In addition, we know that no matter how hard we try, there will always be some customers who we just can’t satisfy. No one said it better than Bob Lutz, the past Vice President of GM’s European Division and the past Co-Chairman of Chrysler, who once said, “It is our goal to satisfy 100% of the satisfiable customers.” Please note that he said, “satisfiable.” As your next step, take this plan, put it into place, and you will be on the road to building a more profitable, successful business, while generating happier customers at the same time. On that, you have my promise. 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

If you want to increase your shop's sales and customer satisfaction, these 5 service writer training tips are the most important for you to consider...

#1. In order for people to buy from your service writers, three things need to occur: they need to like your service writers, trust them, and view them as credible experts. Accordingly, the first thing your service writers need to sell to your customers on is themselves. Not your shop, or any repair. The best way to accomplish this goal is by training your service writers to smile, greet the customer with a salutation, provide the customer with their name, then ask a question that invites a response.

#2. Remember, your service writer's tonality is critical to your success. A study performed at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), concluded that when it comes to what influences people during a sale, 55% is what the customer sees, 38% is the tonality of the salesperson, and the words used by the salesperson account for only 7% of the sale. Since your customers calling in can't see your service writers, tonality becomes even more important with callers. Regardless of whether the customer is walking in or calling in, your service writers need to slow down, smile, and speak with genuine interest and compassion.

#3. Your service writers should always take notes, then repeat back the information the customer provides them with. This not only helps your service writers start a relationship with your customer, but it shows the customer that your service writer listening to them, it keeps them engaged, and it causes them to actively listen, rather than formulating more questions. This is one of the best-kept secrets to controlling the conversation with customers.

#4. As soon as comfortably possible, your service writers need to get on a first-name basis with the customer. By doing so, they will be taking the relationship from one between customer and service writer to one between Bob (service writer) and Mike (customer). It can be trickier to obtain the customer's name if they are calling in, but your service writers should still typically be able to get on a first-name basis after the first two exchanges. An easy way to do so is by providing their name first: “By the way, my name is Bob. May I ask who I am speaking with?"

#5. Your service writer training should emphasize that your team needs to let go of the age-old belief that your customers, and especially callers, are only interested in price. The reason most people ask for a price is because they don't know the questions they should be asking (how long the shop has been in business, whether or not you employ certified technicians, if you are approved by AAA, etc.). Accordingly, most customers calling in ask for a price to get the conversation started, and customers in your shop stay focused on price because they don't know where else their focus should be.

Apply these 5 tips to your service writer training, and watch your sales and customer satisfaction soar!

For help creating more confident and consistent advisors that generate higher sales and happier customers, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Program.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

Over the years our industry has seen many changes. For example, beyond the changes in styling and efficiencies, today’s vehicles are better built, they last longer, and they require less frequent servicing than they have in the past. But there is one emerging trend that will have a far greater impact on our industry than all the other changes combined. Consider this…

Electric cars are not new. As a matter of fact, they date back to the mid-nineteenth century. Yet if you step back and look at what has happened with them over the past 10 years or so, if you consider the societal trend toward clean energy, and if you take a really close look at Tesla Motors, you’ll see that the Tesla is not just an automobile; it’s a glimpse into your future.

Tesla Motors was started in 2003, and in 2004 Elon Musk was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. Since then not only have prominent individuals and world-class business leaders, such as the co-founders of Google, invested in Tesla Motors, but the global powerhouses of Mercedes Benz and Toyota have invested as well. I find it intriguing that so many say Teslas are too expensive, and that because of limited driving distance due to battery storage capacity, the vehicles will never become mainstream. However, here’s why that presumption is the furthest from the truth…

With rare exception, every new technology will target the most affluent markets first, because they can afford the new technology, and can provide a fertile testing ground. This is why products like airplanes, computers, mobile phones and advanced medical diagnostic equipment are typically introduced to the wealthy before any other market. Once it’s determined that the product is a good one, it is then scaled to the masses.

By now you are probably wondering what this means to you. Simply put; our industry has now seen the beginning of the end of internal combustion engines. They will inevitably go the way of the horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. As we move forward battery life will inevitably continue to be extended, and society will continue to show a far greater interest in vehicles that are less of a pollutant, are quieter, and are more dependable due to fewer moving parts.

There is no question in my mind that if you were to close your eyes and open them ten to twenty years later, you would see far more electric vehicles than you would ever imagine. So the questions you need to be asking yourself are; What are your plans to participate in this emerging market, and what will your business model look like when the industry is all but devoid of internal combustion engines?

In closing, I am not suggesting that you are in any kind of eminent danger if you don’t move quickly, because that’s not the case. What I am suggesting is this: The future is yours if you have the vision, and if you take the appropriate steps to keep yourself at the leading edge of the service industry. And if you want to see what the future looks like, you don’t have to step into a time machine or find a crystal ball.  All you need to do is find a Tesla showroom, and spend some time there. If you do, you’ll see why beyond being an amazing automobile, Tesla really is an omen… for our entire industry. 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

1.  When first-time customers approach your facility they’ll typically be anxious, so anything you can do to reduce their anxiety will help them be more receptive to your recommendations. On your entry doors, or in a prominent location they’ll easily see, you should have clear indications of your professional affiliations, and any financing options you offer. 

2. Inside the customer waiting area, rather than having cluttered walls and giving your customers sensory overload, you will be far better served by having your Mission Statement prominently displayed. This will give your customers good insight regarding the type of people they will be working with. For decades we here at Elite have argued that people do business with people, not with businesses, so anything you can do to humanize your company will help put your customers at ease.

In addition to posting your Mission Statement, another great way of humanizing your business is by creating a 10x12 plaque for each of your employees, and putting a photo of the employee in the upper left corner. To the right of the photo, you can list their credentials, certifications, awards, etc. Across the bottom, you can include a brief bio of the employee that addresses their personal life (“Jim is a native of San Diego, has a wonderful wife, three children, and two Golden Retrievers. On the weekends Jim loves to go biking, and camping with his family”). You’ll find that not only will these plaques help your employees feel appreciated, but your service advisors can use them as sales tools when they are telling a customer who will be servicing their vehicle.

3. At Elite we have always preferred service kiosks (stations) rather than counters. Not only do counters and desks serve as barriers between your advisors and their customers, but your advisors need to come from behind the counter to greet the customer. Kiosks also allow your advisors to stand next to their customers when looking at the computer screen. Again, putting your customers further at ease.

4. The clocks, newspapers and current event magazines need to go. The clocks will have your customers timing you and your techs, and the newspapers and current event magazines are filled with both negative news and the ads of your competitors. Instead, you should have magazines that address sports, hobbies, home & gardens and entertainment. You should also have point of sale literature that explains the value of vehicle maintenance, other services you offer, etc. Lastly, you need to have magazines and books for your small “future” customers, as well as self-contained toys that can keep those kids occupied when mom and dad are busy with you. Wi-Fi? Cellular phones are quickly replacing the need for Wi-Fi, but if your core customer base has a strong need for it, you should consider making it available.

5. You need to have fresh coffee available all day long, along with bottles of cold water and soda.  When I still had shops we would offer our customers a cold drink, and it would always be on us. It’s your call, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for the relationship that you can and will develop. 

6. In addition to having signs on the outside of your building, you need to have prominent signs in your waiting area that reflect your professional affiliations, state that you accept all major credit cards, and communicate that you provide financing options, if applicable. I have learned over the years that when customers are under stress, they can easily forget that credit card that they have tucked away for emergencies. You’ll be surprised when you see the relief on their faces after seeing the signs. 

7. Your customers do not have an expectation that the furniture in your waiting area will be top of the line, but they do have an expectation that it will be well maintained and clean. Over the years customer panels have told us that if shop owners don’t care enough about their own furniture to keep it clean and presentable, then why would they care about their customers’ automobiles? Lost sales are guaranteed.

8. Lastly, your waiting room needs to have smiling, well-groomed employees that greet your customers as soon as they arrive.  No matter how clean and well-appointed your waiting area is, it’s the people who work with you that will have the greatest impact on your customers’ decisions, guaranteed. 

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

For an industry that was once dominated by males, I am pleased to have watched us evolve to a point where today we have female technicians, service advisors, managers and shop owners that are superstars in every regard. Without question, there are many powerful ladies throughout our industry that are role models for all of us. When I think of all those amazing women and the impact they have had on our industry, I can’t help but also think of a gal that’s not only changing our entire industry at the speed of light, but that has the power to take you and your shop to the top, as well put you out of business. At Elite we have a name for this amazing lady: We call her Mother Google.

As you well know, the people in your community no longer have their auto repair choices limited to a few printed pages in a worn out directory. With just a click of a mouse, Mother Google, who’s on call 24/7, will now provide that potential customer with information on dozens of auto repair facilities. The only limits in place are self-imposed by the consumer: ­­How many pages of results they’re willing to search through, and how far they are willing to travel. So in essence, the consumer’s options are endless.

Mother Google will also help that potential customer decide which shops they should call by scouring each website for relevant information, and then presenting the sites that she feels to be the best choices on the first page of her search results. Even though you could argue her job would then be done, she doesn’t stop there, as she will look at every word on those sites, and she will rank her search results in an order that she feels best serves the consumer. In essence, she’ll tell your potential customer, “This shop is more likely to be able to fulfill your needs than the one I’m showing you below it.” So if you’re not one of Mother Google’s top recommendations for your targeted keywords, you need to talk with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert about how you can move your website up in her rankings.

Please keep in mind that it can be very difficult to evaluate the capabilities of one SEO expert versus the next, so I’d encourage you to ask other business owners you know if they can recommend an SEO expert that has delivered results. In today’s day and age there are many ways you can get your phone to ring, yet as I am sure you will agree, Mother Google will play an incredibly important, if not leading role.

Beyond search results, through Google+ reviews she is now providing a platform that enables people in your community to share their experiences and overall opinions about your shop. The day is rapidly approaching when there will be no secrets due to her diligence and the insights to your customer experience that she makes accessible to the world. So while providing an amazing customer experience has always been critical to a shop’s success, it’s never been more important to ensure you offer a customer experience that’s second to none.

And what about pricing? Not too many years ago it was a task for customers to look for price comparisons, but today she has reinvented that entire process. Not only are there companies like RepairPal that provide community-based price comparisons, but Mother Google will find prices and availability for your customers instantaneously. You can rest assured that when you call a customer with a service recommendation, and they tell you they’ll call you right back, in most cases they’re reaching out to their friend Mother Google for more information they can use to make their decision.

Does Mother Google have weaknesses? Of course. For example, she typically provides more confusion and misdiagnosis than accurate results when it comes to providing diagnostic information. But when you judge her by her strengths, and you consider that she is available to each and every consumer at a moment’s notice, you will then see that she is not only the best friend of today’s consumer, but like many women today she is revolutionizing our entire industry, and she is absolutely critical to the success of your shop in the coming years.

In closing, I hope you consider that people in your community now have far more choices than ever before, pricing transparency is becoming more the rule than the exception, and you have to be at the top of your game if you want Mother Google to recommend you. There’s a good chance those that fail to appreciate her power, that don’t offer an amazing experience for their customers to share and that are unable to get onto page one of her recommendations will ultimately find themselves in front of a bankruptcy judge. But if you stay sharp, and never put money ahead of people, Mother Google will help you take your shop to the top.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

One of the most common questions we hear from shop owners is regarding how often they should perform employee reviews. I would like to use this article to not only answer that question, but to provide you with a guide that will enable you to perform reviews that will keep your employees happy and productive.

Putting first things first, let’s start with new hires. With every new employee, during their orientation you should clearly outline the company goals, their personal goals, the goals of the position, the minimum levels of acceptable performance and the relative deadlines. You will also need to let the employee know how you will monitor and measure their productivity, and how you will be reviewing their performance as well as their compliance with company policies.  With every new employee the most critical period will be the first 90 days; it is during this probationary period when you should be evaluating and making your decision regarding whether they are the right fit for your company. This is why we at Elite feel it is critical to review your employees most frequently within the first 90 days.

With all new hires, during the first week I strongly encourage you to perform a short 15-minute review at the end of each day. This end-of-the-day review should include a quick discussion about what they have accomplished and learned during the day, you should ask if they have any questions, and you should provide them with an overview of your expectations for the following day. Once the first week has come to an end, you should plan on performing weekly reviews of the employee at the end of each week for the following three weeks. At the end of the first month, you should tell the new hire that you will be performing reviews at the end of each month for the first 90 days. And lastly, at the conclusion of the first 90 days (probationary period), we recommend that you schedule the reviews to occur every 6 months. 

The secrets to performing great reviews? There are actually a number of them. First of all, you need to monitor and measure everything so you can go into each review well prepared, and in a position where you can speak with certainty rather than just communicating your general feelings about the employee’s performance. Secondly, you should advise all employees of their upcoming reviews one week prior to the review date, and you should provide them with a document that outlines what will be addressed during the review. At a minimum, that document should include their specific job goals, the minimum levels of acceptable performance, and all the relative deadlines. Ideally it will also include their documented productivity and historical performance, points of compliance with your company policies and with their specific job description, their personal goals, and their advancement when it comes to their skill set. Lastly, you should have a list of any specific accomplishments that you can recognize and praise, along with your notes from the employee’s last review, which should include points of agreement and action items.

In all cases the reviews should be casual, and you need to ensure that you will be uninterrupted. At Elite we employ our 50/25/25 review strategy, which means that the first half of the review is dedicated to reviewing the employee, 25% of the time is dedicated to the employee reviewing our company, and the remaining 25% of the time is dedicated to the employee reviewing whomever is conducting the review. During your reviews you should always draw information out of the employee by asking them how they feel they are performing in each category, and as appropriate, you should ask them how they feel they can best improve. At the conclusion of the review you should go over your understandings and action items with the employee, and then follow up by providing them with a written copy of your agreed upon understandings, your expectations, the relative action items and the deadlines. 

Does this method take time? It does, but you can rest assured that it doesn’t take nearly the amount of time it takes to deal with employee issues that stem from lack of communication, or to look for new employees when you lose those priceless stars… that you already have.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.

Elite Worldwide Inc.

By Bob Cooper

If you speak with most shop owners they’ll tell you that they think their shop is worth x amount of money. Ask them how they came up with that number, and they’ll tell you it’s based on what they heard another shop sold for, or it’s predicated on their annual sales. But if you really want to know what your shop is worth, first of all, forget everything you’ve heard about “goodwill” and the fact that you have thousands of names in your database. That’s icing on the cake, but it’s not something a buyer can take to the bank. And although there is some value associated with some franchise names, there are two things that are most important to a buyer: the “tangible assets” and the “income history.”

Tangible assets are things like real estate, cash in the bank, secured receivables, inventory and equipment. To put it another way, these are the assets that buyers could turn into cash if they had to. When you’re establishing the value of your inventory and equipment, bear in mind that the actual appraised value may very well be far less than what you originally paid. So tangible assets are always number one.

In regard to “income history”, we all know that past performance is no guarantee of future performance, yet the substantiated income history of a company is what buyers can use to forecast earnings. And don’t forget: The amount of money the “company” made does not include any income you’ve drawn out of the company as a salary. The company’s income is the amount remaining after all expenses, including your salary, have been considered.

So imagine you’re looking to buy a shop, and let’s say the tangible assets are worth $400,000. In addition, let’s say the shop has a history of generating $100,000 in annual income after all expenses, and let’s say the owner has been drawing a salary of $80,000. So if you were to buy that shop, how much would you be willing to invest? Well, only you can answer that question, but I hope you take these 6 points into consideration:

1. If you were to liquidate after you purchased, how much could you sell the assets for? I call this the “street value” of assets.

2. How long has the company been in business, how long have the key employees been with the business, and what’s the probability that these key employees will stay on once you buy?

3. What is the probability of the company continuing to earn the same $100,000 in annual profits, and for how long?

4. In regard to the $80,000 salary the owner was taking, would you be willing to do what he or she does for the company for the same amount? Or will you be able to hire someone to do that job for the same or less?

5. If you were to invest the same amount of money in any other business or investment vehicle, would you receive a better return?

6. What are the terms of the purchase price? You may be better off to pay a higher price in return for a lower down payment, good financing rates and a non-compete.

So, how do you establish the value of your business? Not by the icing (goodwill and number of names in your database), but by looking at it through the eyes of both a banker and a buyer.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.



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