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?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
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.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
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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By Joe Marconi
You spend a lot of time and money finding an hiring an employee. Whether it be a technician, service advisor or office worker. However, the real work to ensure that the new employee is up and running begins when you hire that person. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a new-hire can be put to work without an orientation period. No matter how experienced someone may be, take the time to slowly acclimate that person to your shop, your other employees and your systems and procedures. The time you take in the beginning will help to create a long-lasting employee relationship.
By Joe Marconi
A few years ago, some friends and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. There were six of us enjoying the food and having a great time. A few minutes after our waiter served us our coffee and dessert, the owner of the restaurant walked over to us, introduced himself and said, “I have people waiting for this table; how much longer do you think you’ll be?” Shocked by his comment, I hesitated for a second, looked up at him and said, “No worries, we’re done.” With just a few simple words, the owner of the restaurant wiped out the pleasant experience we were all having.
As we were finishing up, we couldn’t help noticing the stares from our waiter and the owner. Their eyes were laser-focused on us. They made it obvious that they wanted our table. We didn’t say anything to our waiter, or the owner. But we told each other, “We’ll think twice about coming back to this restaurant.” None of us ever did go back to that restaurant. And I heard similar complaints from other friends about that restaurant. About a year later, that restaurant closed its doors for the last time.
As a business owner, I fully understand what each table means in terms of profit. The tables at a restaurant are no different than the service bays in our business. The more people you can process through the restaurant, the more profitable the restaurant is. The more cars we can process through our service bays, the more profitable we are.
While I don’t fault the owner of the restaurant for recognizing the need to be profitable, I do fault the owner for not understanding a basic rule in achieving success in business. And that is: You build a business one customer at a time and by developing strong, long-term relationships with those customers. And to maintain that success, a business must continuously cultivate those relationships.
The owner of this restaurant didn’t get it. All of us had dined at his establishment before. The owner didn’t see us as an opportunity to strengthen the relationships. He saw the opposite. By asking for our table, he put the emphasis on his next sale and eliminated any chance of us returning again. Losing customers, and not understanding why, is the kiss of death for any small business.
What the owner determined important was profit per table, per person. The process to get people fed and done became the primary objective, when it should have been ensuring its customers were enjoying a nice meal and having a great time. It was a mistake that eventually led to his failure. Never think that customer quantity ever outweighs the quality of the customer experience. Making a memorable experience is the essence of great customer service.
If we dig a little deeper, we find another mistake made by the restaurant owner: believing that the customer experience was over when the meal was over. The meal was prepared, it was served and we consumed it. Then, at some point during the end of that process, we became an obstacle to his next sale. He failed to comprehend that the sale is not over when the meal is over, and that everything that occurs right up to the moment when a customer drives away from his parking lot will have an influence on whether that customer will return in the future.
The lesson for us is simple: Never lose sight of the importance of creating a customer. Establish a culture in your company that cultivates long-term relationships. Build a process that always strives for world-class customer service during the entire customer experience—and especially at car delivery.
Never think that when the technician completes the repair, your job is done. The customer experience continues right up until the time the customer is picking up their car. The time you spend with the customer after the repair is done is as important as making the sale.
Value each customer. Work on those relationships. Don’t worry about short term profit gain. Remember: building long-term relationships, builds long-term profit.
By the way, that restaurant has recently opened up again. My friends and I went there for dinner last Friday night. We noticed that the new owner was walking around greeting everyone. He eventually made his way to our table, introduced himself and said, “Can I get anyone anything? It’s great to see you here tonight and hope to see you again soon. Thank you.”
Now, you tell me: Do you think we’ll go back?
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 1st, 2019
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By Zs Automotive
I just opened an auto repair shop about 4 months ago, but I'm still working my full time job as a tech therefore I open the shop from 4 pm until 9pm M-F and 8-5 on Saturday. I'm starting to build customers but most are from referrals and neighbors I don't get much traffic cars. I'm starting to think that the hours I'm open don't really work for the auto repair business seems like after 6 everything dies. Has anyone worked this kind of hours or what do you guys think about this odd hours.