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Did You Manage Your Shop Today Or Did It Manage You?


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It’s a typical day, if there is such a thing in this business. You start thinking about what has to be done during your drive into the shop. You get to the shop and it begins. Your service advisor wants to know how to handle a warranty situation. Next is your lead tech and he’s not sure what to recommend on a car because fixing it the right way may cost more than the car is worth. Just as things are starting to settle down another tech pops in your office and needs you to see the play in some upper control arms bushings, then “call the ball” for him. Next is a customer that wants to deal with you directly. Your service advisor asks you to help Mr. Jackson, who is one of many who insists on dealing with you and only you. This continues through the day. The details of each situation are different, but the issue is always the same. Your employees cannot or will not make decisions. Does any of this sound familiar? It probably does.

 

Shops that operate like this are stuck in a type of dysfunction and will never experience any real growth. This begs the question, how can you break out of this cycle and have your staff function independently and efficiently? The primary problem in shops that function like this is that the employees feel disconnected from the company. Employees can feel this way for a number of different reasons. It may be that they do not understand your vision for the company. They may feel that no matter what they do, it won’t be good enough. Many times employees are reluctant to make a decision because the owner seems to think job one is to assign blame when something goes wrong, and take credit when it goes well. Some owners and managers engage in gossip and closed door criticism with other employees. All of these things, and more, can and do contribute to a culture of dysfunction that is apparent throughout the shop.

 

First thing first. Stop this type of negative behavior. You must decide to adopt a positive attitude and lead in a productive way that empowers your employees to function independently and contribute to their own success and the success of the shop.

 

Hold regular meetings and share your vision for the business. Hold meetings at least once each week. Tell your staff what you expect and give them the authority to make decisions. Assure them that they will have your full support. Make sure your meetings are interactive and get your staff to participate.

 

Commit to spending at least one hour per day developing written standards and procedures on how you want your shop to be run. Develop an employee policy book. Have a written procedure for the top ten jobs performed at your shop and let your staff have plenty of input.

 

Get with your service advisors and develop a procedure for customer write-ups. Be sure to always emphasize the three C’s; Cause, Concern, and Correction. Be positive with your staff every day. Compliment them on their success. You need to be a force for positive change every chance you get.

 

The gold standard of shop management is that the shop functions as if you were there, even in your absence. Break the cycle of employee emotional dependency and take your shop to the next level!


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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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