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Breaker, Breaker… In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a countless number of other shops with their electrical problems. Some shops I would see a few times a month, and others only once in awhile. This was years before the internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have. So, most everything was done by a land line or over the CB radio. Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day. Great guys, but not so great as mechanics. The owners name was Joe. His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs. His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days. One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on. They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life. Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it. So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop. “I’ll be on the road all day. I've got to get back out there. I've got tows lined up all day. If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck. “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off. The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on. The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly. The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try. Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it. But it didn’t. I wasn’t about to go that route. Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip. Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire. Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull. I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running. Ok, time to check the fuel pressure. Interesting... there was pressure. Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume. I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start. The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time. Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same. It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle. Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going. Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank. I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great! Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas. However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem. It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed. Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop. He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast. In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies. About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.” “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him. “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies. The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic. So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that. He is going to be so pissed.” “I don’t think you should either. At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile. The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker. The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed." I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car. Either way, he’s not going to like this answer. “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.” “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe. "Yea, go ahead, over." "It was out of gas.” A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, all hell broke loose. Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe. The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it. “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter. As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car. When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him. I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain. I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again. After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet.
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Not every shop pays flat rat; for many reasons. So, many techs are on hourly pay. There is nothing wrong with hourly pay, as long as you have an incentive program in place that promotes high production levels to avoid complacency. For hourly paid employees I strongly urge you to have a pay plan that rewards production levels on a sliding scale. As a business coach, I have seen too many times shops with low production levels and high tech payroll due to overtime pay. Overtime pay must not be used to get the jobs done with no regard to labor production. Limit overtime and create a strategy that increases production and rewards techs with production bonuses. By the way, there are many ways to incentivize techs, it's not all about money. Overtime without high levels of production will eat into profits and if not controlled, with kill your business. If your shop is an hourly paid shop, what incentives do you have in place to maintain production levels?
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Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels. I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive. What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?
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I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office. We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive. Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think. Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
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If you want to build a more profitable, successful auto repair business, you’ll need to make sure that every single employee has a clearly defined, written job description. If you’re a shop owner who has a manager in place, then here’s a list of things you will need to include in their job description. 1. They must know the goals of the company, as well as all of the relative Key Performance indicators. For example, when it comes to the company goals, they’ll need to know the long-term goals, as well as the annual, quarterly, weekly and daily goals. They will also need to know the goals for car count, sales, ARO, customer retention and satisfaction, gross profit, technician productivity and efficiency, and taxable income. 2. All shop managers must embrace the mission and culture of the company. The mission is why you do what you do, and the culture is the glue that holds your team together. For example, the mission may be to be to better your community, and the culture of your company may be defined by your shop’s ethics. 3. Shop managers need to ensure that they have a team of superstars, and they need to know how to keep their employees operating at peak performance. This means they’ll need to know the minimum levels of acceptable performance for each position, and all company policies. They will also need to know how to hold effective team meetings and perform reviews, and how to deal with every type of employee issue. 4. Shop managers need to know how to effectively manage customer concerns, and have a firm grasp of the situations that warrant contacting the shop owner, or their designated superior. 5. Shop managers must know how to properly secure the facility, vehicles, cash, checks, credit card information, all customer information and all employee records they have access to. 6. All shop managers must be able to properly maintain equipment, and process both customers and vehicles in a safe and efficient manner. This includes managing the shop’s labor inventory and expenses, properly assigning and dispatching work, and complying with all governmental requirements. 7. All shop managers need to know how to report to the shop owner, or their designated superior. We understand that every shop owner will have different reporting requirements, but at a minimum the manager should be required to provide a daily report on all relative KPI’s, violations of company policies, and customer concerns. This reporting must also include scheduled meetings with the owner (or their superior) to discuss the performance of the business and their recommendations for improvement. 8. At Elite we realize that there will be limitations on the control and authority assigned to the manager, but regardless, they must be held accountable for the overall success of the business. If the manager feels there is something that is holding the company back, or causing harm to the brand in any way, they have an ethical responsibility to advise the owner or their superior immediately. 9. All shop managers must effectively manage their time and tasks. They need to ensure they have a daily plan in place that allows them to remain focused on their goals, roles and responsibilities. 10. Shop managers must accept the fact that it is their responsibility to provide leadership to all the employees. They can fulfill this requirement by remaining focused on the goals of the company, fulfilling the requirements of their job description, treating all others in a professional way, and behaving in a manner that reflects that they will never compromise their ethics, show preferential treatment, or put money ahead of 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 online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com, or calling 800-204-3548.
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By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, we sometimes feel that we need to answer every question and handle every situation. While you need to be proficient as a business owner, you also need your employees to think for themselves.
Empower your people to solve problem. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be too quick to jump in on every situation. The more you jump in and solve their problems, the more they will rely on you. This is not to say you don’t have their back; but a team functions best when everyone takes ownership of their position and takes responsibility to take care of problems.
Will employees make mistakes? Yes. But there isn’t a shop owner on this planet that has a perfect record at making decisions. We all make mistakes.
As a shop owner; teach, mentor and coach. Include your employees in on decisions that relate to their job position. When employees feel you trust them, they will begin to solve their own problems. This will set you free to work on the things that will bring you greater success.
By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
By Joe Marconi
I’ll never forget the day when Mrs. Obrien brought her car back for me to look at. She was furious. I stayed late the night before, well into the night, to finish her car so she could have it for work the next day. I even did a few little things on the house because I felt she may be a little inconvenienced picking the car up so late.
Why did she bring the car back? A comeback? Well, not in the conventional way. It was the greasy smudge on her seat that she was angry about.
But what about me staying late? Or giving away a few minor services? Doesn’t that count? She is upset about a grease smudge? Oh yes, and she has every right to be.
The fact is, you can do the best repair, using the best parts, performed by the best technician on the planet. But what the customer sees is not necessarily your hard work, it’s that little greasy smudge that you are judged by. Unfortunate and unfair? Yes. But it’s a reality.
Perform the best repairs and provide world-class customer service; and never forget; it’s the little things the customer sees. And that’s what important to them.
By Stevens Automotive Service
You are a entrepreneur and your business is Automotive Repair. Run your business like a business and become more profitable.
You have a tool box just like your techs in the shop do and the ones with the correct tools , good work ethics and knowledge are the best at what they do. So can you in the shop management area just use your TOOL BOX!
A few things to get cleared up. I have read a lot of post , forums etc, dealing with car count, advertising, us against the dealerships etc. WELL ! First you have to concentrate on your business not what someone else is doing, what works for you and makes you money should be what matters to you and your business.
1) Concentrate on what your doing right if it needs refined ..REFINE IT.. DIAL IT IN... GET THE PERCENTAGES CORRECT.
2) Do you have enough work flow and are you getting the max out of what you already have ?
3) IF you don't have a good even flow of car count, advertise, but do it in a way that it comes back to you to show what your business has to offer that the others don't.
4) REPUTATION, CUSTOMER SERVICE, FIXING THE CONCERN and BEING A SMART BUSINESS OWNER are the only steps to winning.
5) Last but not least .. PEOPLE BUY GOODS AND SERVICES FROM PEOPLE PERIOD !!
Look at it in this perspective for a moment. Your advisors are problem solvers, customer comes in with a problem or just for a service and they let them know what it will take to repair it or what the car may be in need of if not now then soon. They are solving problems if not right now then later, building trust and reputation for your business. I always say if you solve there problem the rest SELLS itself. And for those of you that think and have been programmed to think that getting new customers, keeping the good ones you have to spend crazy money to get them and keep them is just that "crazy".
I will be glad to speak with anyone that wants to have less stress and make there shop profitable. Send me a message, email, phone call and we will go over what you have and what you are wanting to achieve and the consultation is always free. IT COST NOTHING TO ASK BUT IT COULD COST A LOT IF YOU DON'T !!
"LOAD YOUR TOOL BOX WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS"
By Ron Ipach
Let me start off by asking you a very important but very quick question: what BS story are you telling yourself? Let me repeat that: What BS story are you telling yourself? We all have these stories and shop owner excuses that we keep telling ourselves that we think are true, that when you really look at it, they're really utter bullshit, but we've been telling ourselves the same story over and over that we actually believe it's true.
Case in point, now if you've ever been on one of my live webinars, you know that because I'm live, I can have a conversation with some of the people that are on the webinar. The other night, a gentleman was complaining about car count. He said because cars are made better (another thing I hear A LOT), there are no cars out there and there's a lack of car count, and that's a big problem.
I took that as an opportunity to tell him what I've probably told you before, if you've been watching these videos, that I don't believe that there's a car count problem out there at all because in every city all over the United States, all over Canada, there are cars sitting on lifts right now in your own town, dozens, maybe even hundreds of them, every single day that are being repaired and maintained by other shops, other shops collectively, but on any given day, there are tons of opportunities to repair cars. The problem is they're just in somebody else's shop, they're not in yours.
It's not a lack of cars out there to be repaired, there's just a lack of cars in your auto repair shop. It's a marketing problem, it's not a problem caused by cars being made better. Now I've told that story before. In case this is the very first time you've heard that, please believe me it is a marketing problem, not cars are made better. That's the reason why you don't have enough cars. Now we're past that.
Because I can go back and forth with them, I told that same story. He'd so believed that it was a problem that he wasn't able to fix, that he told me about the shop owner that was less than a mile away from his shop that said the very same thing, that his shop was down with cars as well. I guess the two of them got together and commiserated about the car count being down, and now both of them believe that there's a car count problem out there. That's an example of the BS story we keep telling ourselves that simply isn't true.
I want you to go back and think of all the things you say on a daily basis, maybe, "I can't find good techs," or, "There are no good techs out there anymore." There are good techs out there, they're just not working for you. What you look for, you're going to find. It's just the truth. Let me give you an example, and this is a story I've told my clients over and over. It's a great example of what you look for, you will see in abundance right there in front of you.
A few years back, we bought a beach condo down in Florida. We thought it'd be fun to have a Jeep, to be on the beach, and just the perfect car to have down there. I never owned a Jeep before, but guess what? As soon as I decided I was going to buy a Jeep, I saw Jeeps everywhere, all shapes and sizes and colors driving everywhere. I've been seeing them every single day go by, but I didn't see them until I decided I want to buy a Jeep.
Did everybody all of a sudden go out and buy a Jeep when I decided? No. It's because I was looking for Jeeps, all of a sudden I saw them. There was an abundance of Jeeps driving by me every single day. I just didn't notice them because I wasn't looking for it.
Then I decided I was going to buy a blue Jeep. You guessed it; pretty soon everybody was driving a blue Jeep. There were blue Jeeps everywhere. Everybody didn't go out and decide that they're going to buy a Jeep, and then they didn't decide if they're going to buy a blue Jeep. It's just I started focusing on it and I started finding exactly what I'm focusing on.
If you're saying that there are no good techs out there, you're going to focus on all the bad hires that you've had, you're going to focus on all the bad interviews you've been on, and you're going to say, "See? I told you so. There are no good techs out there." The same thing with your car count.
If you're going to constantly complain and look at the lack of cars that are out there in your own shop, you're going to keep seeing the same problem over and over and over. It's going to become etched in your mind. It's going to be a BS story, but if you start looking around, start driving around and realize there are dozens, if not hundreds, of cars sitting on lifts every single day in other people's shops and not in your shop, you'll realize you have a marketing problem and you'll start to tackle the big problem that you have right there.
I hope this helps. Go and think of all those things that you tell yourself so often that it's now etched in stone and it's true, and see if you could find the opposite. I guarantee you'll find it everywhere. Thanks for watching. Oh, by the way, I really appreciate all the comments.