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Joe Marconi

Improve Your Repair Shop Production with the Power of Praise!

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According to a Gallup poll, 99 out of 100 people say they want a more positive environment at work. The study also says that employees are more productive when they are around positive people. If you stop and think about it, this speaks volumes. A positive workplace produces happier employees, which ultimately improves shop production. And one of the best ways to promote a more positive workplace is with praise and recognition.

 

Everyone wants to be recognized for the work they do and want to know that what they do matters to the overall success of the shop. Without enough praise and recognition, employees become disengaged. When this happens, morale will suffer, and so will your business. Poor morale affects every aspect of your business, including customer service.

 

As a shop owner, I know how difficult it is to run a repair shop. You spend so much time handling issues and problems. Sometimes it's hard to put aside the issues and find the good that's around you. But the reality is that if you want a more productive and profitable business, you need to have positive work environment. And that begins with hiring the right people, and then making sure that employees receive adequate praise when warranted and recognition for a job well done.

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  • Similar Topics

    • By Joe Marconi
      The year was 1980 - the year I founded my company. And, like many new business owners, I didn’t have a clear understanding of what was needed to grow a successful business.  I thought that success would be determined by my technical skills and my willingness to wear the many hats of the typical shop owner. It wasn’t until I began to let go of trying to do everything that I realized that success is not just dependent on what I do, but by the collective work accomplished by the team. I eventually discovered that I was not the center of my universe.  After a few years in business, I began the transition from simply owning a job to becoming a businessman. And, while technology has reshaped our industry throughout the years—and will continue to do so—there is one constant that will never change: success in business rests largely on the people you have assembled around you.
      By the late '80s it was obvious that I was doing way too much. I looked at each role I had my hands on: shop foreman, service advisor, shuttle driver, bookkeeper to lot attendant. And, as long as I’m confessing all this to you, I need to disclose that I was also the shop’s maintenance person; making repairs to the bay doors, the slop sink and equipment. You name it, I did it. I was literally too busy to be successful.
      In order to lead my company, I had to first clearly define my responsibilities. These are working on the business, recruiting and hiring the best employees, becoming a leader of people and making sure that my business was successful. I also needed to fulfill the obligation I had to my employees. I realized that this required a deep understanding that putting people first is the best strategy for success. This was difficult at first because it requires working on things that have no immediate impact on the business. Unlike working in the trenches and having your hands on everything, working as a businessperson means that you need to spend time building for the future. The things that are most important to your success in business are the things that have a payoff down the road.  
      I also clearly defined the duties I should not be doing and assigned those tasks to others. This is a critical step for any shop owner.  Warren Buffett says that in order to be successful in whatever you do, it’s crucial to focus on the things that generates the greatest return and that you can’t do it all, and that means sometimes you have to say, “no.”  
      By the late '90s it became clear that the most valuable role I played in my business was that of coach. All the best marketing plans and the best business strategies mean nothing without a team of great people around you all pushing in the right direction. And that takes a strong leader. Not just a boss, but a leader.  Leaders inspire people. Leaders get others to reach down deep inside themselves and perform at their best because they are aligned with the leader’s vision. 
      Leaders inspire others through praise and recognition for the work they do. When people feel their work matters, they have a purpose. People are motivated by the heart, not the wallet. That’s not to say earning a decent wage isn’t important. But a focus on money alone is not a strategy for success. Focus on people first and profit will follow.  
      Spend time with your employees. Get to know them as people, not just the role they have in your company.  Find out what their dreams and goals are. And then find a way for others to achieve what they want out of life.  People cannot be motivated until they realize that what they do every day helps them to achieve what they want in their personal life.  
      There are other people in our business world that we must never forget. And that’s our customers.  If you were to ask me, who is more important, my employees or my customers? I would answer, “They are equally important.”  You cannot have a successful business without the right employees and the right customers.  
      One last bit of advice I can give you is to focus on your success, no one else’s.  Be very clear about the pathways you take and never forget about the obligation you have to others. Build a company culture of teamwork, quality and integrity.  Focus on what’s in the best interest of the customer and the people around you. Put people first, and everything else will fall into place.  
       
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 4th, 2020

       

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    • By Joe Marconi
      According to Zip Recruiter, tech pay on average is about $41,000 per year.  Is this an issue?   I know many of you pay more than average, but do you think that we need to increase tech pay in order to attract more people to the auto repair industry.   One other thing to consider, the shop and shop owner needs to be profitable and make the money first in order to pay anyone a decent wage.
      Your thoughts?  
    • By Joe Marconi
      What’s wrong with my employees? Why don’t they do what I ask of them? It’s the same thing every day.  I say one thing, they do another. It seems as if I am the only person who knows what to do around here.  
      Does any of this sound familiar? Have you said these words, or a variation of these words, from time to time? If so, you’re not alone. Getting people to follow policy or a new marketing strategy sometimes feels as if you are trying to move the earth off its axis.  
      People in high levels of authority are well-aware of the need to get things done. Each member of their team plays an integral part in the success or failure of the organization. In your shop, you are the authority: you are the shop owner. You know that the responsibility of attaining success directly rests on your shoulders. This is a weight you carry around with you each day. 
      Eventually, if your efforts don't attain the results you need to run a successful business, you begin to look around to find out what’s causing the problem. And the tendency is to assign blame. All too often, you find that your employees are not all pulling in the same direction. And you determine that this is the cause of your problems. The following may not sit well with you, but if most of your employees are not engaged and not performing up to your expectations, it’s probably not their fault. You need to take a long hard look in the mirror. The fault may lie with management, and that means you. 
      Assigning blame is destructive. It keeps our focus directed in the wrong areas. This is not to say we can never have a bad employee. But, if we focus on seeking blame, we are directing our attention from where our focus should be; and that’s accepting the responsibility to correct what’s happening and make the necessary changes. 
      In order to really get things done and achieve personal success and the personal success of your employees, it takes the cooperation of each team member. Getting people to work as a unified team involves commitment, not compliance. Compliance is demanding people to do something. And they will—but only up to a certain point and only for a certain period of time. What you need from your employees is not compliance; you need commitment. 
      Surveys have shown that the majority of employees in most businesses are not engaged at work and the primary reason is that most employees don’t know the overall goals and vision of the company. And they also don’t know what’s expected of them. Employees are largely left to react to their situations during the day; never really having a clear understanding of how their role contributes to their success and the success of the company. 
      A business team is no different than a sports team. Every member needs to know the objective and goals. Imagine the coach of a football team who does not let the quarterback—or the other players— know what the play is? He simply tells the players to get out on the field and perform. After all, the players are well-trained, highly capable and all professionals. Shouldn’t they know what to do to win?  And when they fail to win, the coach ends up blaming the players. Is this a ridiculous analogy? It may be, but this is what happens every day in shops across the country.  
      Your best employees don’t want to fail. They don’t intentionally ignore what you want from them. It’s more likely that they really may not know what you expect from them. Employees need to know exactly what is expected of them and they need to be motivated and inspired to perform their best. However, the only way your employees can perform at their best is for each of them to know what the company goals are. In other words, what is our overall objective and how we, as a team, are going to achieve it.  
      Each employee also needs to know that when the business wins, they do, too. When employees realize that achieving the company goals is also aligned with achieving their personal goals, you have commitment. And commitment equates to success. 
      Communicate the goals of the company often. Communicate what success looks like and how we are going to attain it. Create a workplace where the goals of the individual are aligned with the goals of the company. If things get off track, just look in the mirror. If you want to blame someone, you might want to start with yourself.  
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on December 3rd, 2019
       


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    • By Joe Marconi
      There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool. 
      The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away? 
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      OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.   
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      I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult.  And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence. 
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019


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      will bolt on work with ro writer


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    • By Joe Marconi
      Not every shop pays flat rate; 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? 
    • By Joe Marconi
      Got your attention? Good! Before I start, let’s get something out of the way. Does technician aptitude or attitude affect the productivity of your shop? Absolutely. But this is the exception, not the rule. If your overall production levels are low, that is the sole responsibility of management. Let’s look at a few reasons for low production levels.
      The first area I want to address is billing. Many hours of labor go unbilled due to not understanding how to charge. This area is most prevalent with testing and inspecting. If your technicians are handed a work order, with no direction and not a clear process of what to do, or when to stop and ask for labor testing fees, there will be a ton of wasted labor hours, never to be recovered again.
      Next is training. Service advisor and technical training is a key component to high production levels. But let’s not forget in-house training. All policies and procedures must be reviewed often and refined if needed. Your team must follow a process. With no road map, labor dollars are lost. By the way, if you don’t have procedures in place, you need to make this top priority. Every successful organization has a detailed set of workflow guidelines.
      Let’s look at shop layout. How organized is your shop? Are shop tools and equipment readily accessible? Or do techs tend to wander around looking for the shop scanner or TPMS reset tool. Are stock items such as wiper blades and oil filters fully stocked and cataloged properly? Do technicians have separate access to technical information? Or are techs waiting to use the same computer station? Again, all these things kill labor production, which kills labor dollars.
      Next up is scheduling. There should be a structured approach to scheduling where the day is balanced with enough opportunity to make profitable sales. Have a process where vehicle history is reviewed before the customer arrives. Any previous service recommendations or notes is any opportunity to make a sale. But the key ingredient is in preparation. A customer that’s scheduled for an oil change may have forgotten that he or she received a recommendation for tires. Informing the customer at the time of scheduling and preparing for the work ahead of time, greatly improves productivity and overall efficiency.
      Another problem area is with service advisors and their workload. The service advisor, in many situations, handles the front counter, the phone, scheduling, helps with dispatch, part procurement and sales. All these tasks are critical to the daily operations. However, nothing happens in the shop until a sale is made. You need to look at your service staff. Are estimates getting processed quickly and upsells getting back to the technicians in a timely manner? If not, this is another area where production suffers. Carefully analyze your staff and run the numbers. More estimates processed means more sales and higher profits. Adding a service advisor or an assistant may be the missing link in a shop’s production problem.
      Knowing your numbers is another key component to attaining high production levels. I will refrain from giving you benchmark numbers, since all businesses models are different. With that said, you need to determine your breakeven and establish your labor goal for the week. Then knowing your labor goal, you need to calculate how many labor hours you need per technician. Then, you need to communicate this number to each technician. Having clear expectations and knowing the goals of one’s position is essential for hitting production goals.
      With regard to the technician’s responsibility, let’s remember one important fact; the technician has control over his or her efficiency. That’s it. If you dispatch a four-hour ticket to a tech, the ability of the tech to meet or beat that time depends on the technician’s skill, experience and training.
      There are a lot of other factors that influence production, such as the right pay plan and hiring the right people. But perhaps the most important influence is leadership. The shop owner or manager must study and look at the entire operations of the shop. Productivity goals must be established and then a system of monitoring production must be put into place. This includes sales goals, as well. Service advisors and technicians must get continuous feedback on their progress. Improvements in sales and in production, no matter how small, must be celebrated.
      The bottom line is this: If you’re not happy with your production level, you need to look at every aspect of your company that influences production. Improvements in key areas put technicians in a position to win. When they win, so do you.
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on March 1st, 2019


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    • By Joe Marconi
      We allow visitors to read the first post of each topic. To read this post, please login or register for a membership. 
    • 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
      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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