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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Our experience with ADAS has been a truly amazing learning journey. Our learning journey is making us wonder what the direction of the industry is with ADAS and more importantly... how service center goals for growth and profit align with maintaining customer satisfaction while performing precise services with a skilled workforce that is in decline. If you're thinking about ADAS... you should read this first.
Another acronym being thrown around is ADAS, short for Advanced Driver Assist Systems. I think everyone is stuck staring at those four letters without understanding the liability that those 4 letters represent for the future of the automotive industry, regardless of how much safer they make vehicles on the road. As one of the first facilities in NJ to purchase and utilize the ADAS calibration system from Autel, we have some really unique experience with it and want to pass on some information you should be aware of when considering whether or not you want to jump in.
Facility Is Too Small - Size matters, A LOT with ADAS calibrations and if you have less than 2500 sf of space with a booming business... chances are you don't have the room to perform calibrations. Your exact business configuration will help determine this, but you ideally need a location where you can pick up 10 feet of open space all around a vehicle for most calibrations, but some calibrations may require 20 feet or more. Floor Isn't Level - If your floor is uneven, you can't perform ADAS calibrations, period. Can't Program? - If you are not experienced with programming modules or updating vehicle modules, you will not be able to perform a fair amount ADAS calibrations. Can't Diagnose? - If you don't have a team that can efficiently and accurately troubleshoot the vehicles already coming into your shop, ADAS isn't going to be any easier, it's going to be significantly harder. Who Needs OE Information, I have "X"! - Replace X with All Data or Mitchell or even the instructions in your scan tool. What happens when the manufacturer updated the information on the procedures yesterday and they didn't share that information with anyone yet? We've already encountered steps missing from the Autel scan tool... Minimum Insurance Policy Is More Than Enough - We have more than double the minimum and we are worried it's not enough. With lawsuits that settle into the tens of millions of dollars, we're not sure what enough is anymore. Don't Document Your Process? - This is where a lot of people will scoff. Who has the time? Save pictures and files, where am I supposed to do that? Who's gonna pay for this? We've figured this out and more importantly... we get paid for documenting. Do you? Mobile Calibrations? - Besides the fact that you're trying to transport $20,000 of equipment needed for calibrations in a van, this one is so serious... we couldn't give you a 2 sentence paragraph, read below. How are mobile glass services, like Safelite, performing calibrations on the go? We don't know, but we have A LOT of questions surrounding this. A recent calibration of a 2019 Toyota C-HR, after a windshield replacement, has some really interesting requirements. Requirements which we are used to, but we want to know... how is a mobile tech handling this? These are the requirements that must be met prior to starting a calibration:
It is our experience that once a windshield has been replaced, the vehicle should not be moved for a period of at least 2 hours (weather dependent) in order to allow the glue to harden properly. So, what's going on? Is the mobile glass tech filling up the vehicle prior to replacing the windshield? How many of you had a windshield replaced and a vehicle calibrated with a fuel tank that was not full? We don't know how many corners are being cut and where they are being cut... but what we do know is that the above requirements have been there in every vehicle we have calibrated at this facility thus far. Lastly, pay particular attention to this requirement in this photo...
*Calibration should be performed in a window-less environment with no bright lights or reflective materials. Ensure no other black and white patterns similar to the calibration pattern should be behind the calibration pattern. In a world where reducing liability is at the forefront of most public discussions, there are sure a lot of companies undermining their insurance policy in the field.
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Advance Auto Parts Expands TechNet Program with New and Enhanced Offerings for Professional Shop OwnersBy AutoShopOwner
Advance Auto Parts Expands TechNet Program with New and Enhanced Offerings for Professional Shop Owners Improvements designed to help strengthen relationships between shops and customers
RALEIGH, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 29, 2019-- Advance Auto Parts, Inc. (NYSE: AAP), a leading automotive aftermarket parts provider that serves both professional installer and do-it-yourself customers, is introducing new benefits and enhanced offerings to TechNet Professional members in 2019. These new benefits and offerings include insurance and affinity benefits, enhancements to the nationwide warranty, digital menu boards, a TireAmerica.com partnership and a TechNet-branded Virtual Vehicle tool.
TechNet is a business solutions partnership program from Advance designed to help independently owned repair facilities grow their business and develop customer loyalty while maintaining their own identities and serving their local communities. More than 10,000-member shops across the United States and Canada are part of the TechNet banner program creating a trusted network of automotive repair shops across North America.
“We continue to listen to our TechNet members, many of whom have been partners of the program for more than 20 years, and are leveraging the feedback of shop owners and operators to introduce new benefits and optimize the banner program,” said Walter Scott, Senior Vice President of Professional Marketing and Programs at Advance. “TechNet is a key component of delivering the right experience and solutions to Professional customers. Ultimately, we strive to help our customers serve their customers better and grow their business as independent operators.”
The launch of a new insurance and affinity benefits program was a top priority to current TechNet customers. The insurance benefit program enables TechNet member shops to access health insurance plans for the individual, family or small business, including medical, dental, life, prescription discounts, disability and pet insurance. Business coverage, as well as HR and payroll services, launched in May.
Among the new enhancements for 2019, TechNet’s nationwide warranty has been simplified for an improved customer experience for both motorists and member shops. When motorists have service and repairs performed by an authorized TechNet professional service facility, they are covered by a nationwide limited repair warranty that extends across North America for 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. At the same time, TechNet also increased value for member shops by increasing the rate paid for local labor reimbursement claims.
The TechNet digital menu board is a new benefit included in membership that displays the shop’s services and pricing, as well as educational programming related to car maintenance and care, on a smart TV in the customer service area of a TechNet member’s shop. This digital menu board is customizable, enabling shops to make updates in real time to showcase their offers, and TechNet can also provide custom content tailored to the shop’s program preferences.
TechNet’s new national installer program partnership with TireAmerica.com gives shop owners the ability to offer their customers access to Tire America’s inventory for a wide range of vehicles. This partnership allows customers to select the necessary tires for their vehicle online, with Tire America shipping the tires directly to the TechNet shop for installation.
Virtual Vehicle, another important element of TechNet, supports the service recommendation by bringing the inspection results to life via vehicle system animations that illustrate the cause and effect of each problem. The inventory of more than 400 animations can be viewed in the shop lobby or can be emailed or texted to the customer allowing them to make an informed decision with confidence. Virtual Vehicle is also integrated with several shop management systems that enable the animations to be included in a regular communication process, and can easily sent to a customer via text or email. Finally, a customized loop of animations can be served on a lobby monitor or embedded in the shop website providing customer education opportunities.
“The enhancements introduced recently are programs that truly benefit our business,” said Christa Browne of Dave’s Automotive in Stockertown, Pa. “For example, increased labor rate reimbursement for warranty items speaks volumes to Advance’s commitment to bring us the best quality parts backed by the best industry warranty. We’re keeping our customers very happy knowing we stand by our work. That is commitment.”
For more information about TechNet and other services available from Advance, visit technetprofessional.com or call 1-877-280-5965.
About Advance Auto Parts
Advance Auto Parts, Inc. is a leading automotive aftermarket parts provider that serves both professional installer and do-it-yourself customers. As of April 20, 2019, Advance operated 4,931 stores and 146 Worldpac branches in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Company also serves 1,238 independently owned Carquest branded stores across these locations in addition to Mexico, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands. Additional information about Advance, including employment opportunities, customer services, and online shopping for parts, accessories and other offerings can be found at www.AdvanceAutoParts.com.
View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190529005545/en/
Source: Advance Auto Parts, Inc.
Advance Auto Parts Contact:
T: (540) 589-8102
E: [email protected]
T: (919) 227-5466
E: [email protected]
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
By Bob Cooper
When it comes to keeping your employees operating at peak performance, I am sure you will agree that training is critical. Accordingly, I felt it would be appropriate for me to provide you with what Elite feels to be the most important considerations when it comes to training your team.
First of all, here in the U.S. both physicians and attorneys are required to participate in continued education, and I feel your team members should be required as well. It is for this reason that I would strongly encourage you to have a policy in place that mandates that as a condition of ongoing employment, each year your technicians will need to complete (as an example) at least 40 hours of training, and your advisors will need to complete at least 8 hours of training. In all cases, the training will need to be company approved.
Secondly, as we all know, there is no one right answer for who pays for the training, but you may want to consider this. As soon as the employee has completed their training, they have benefited, because they are now more knowledgeable. On the other hand, as the owner of the shop, you will not benefit (economically) until your employee has applied their new-found knowledge, and the application has increased their productivity. I am sure you will agree, these two reasons alone suggest that an employee should invest in their own training. Additionally, when someone has their own dollars invested in any type of training, they will take it much more seriously.
Accordingly, you may want to consider having the employee pay a percentage of the cost of the training, and letting them know that if they are still employed with you XX months later, you will then reimburse them for their contribution. If they are cash strapped, you can always do a payroll deduction spread out over 2-3 pay periods.
If you find you have to sell your employees on participating in such classes, you will ultimately discover it’s due to one of two reasons. One, they don’t see the value in such courses, and if you discover this to be the case, you may find that they have taken courses in the past that were sub-par, and they lost interest. In such cases you need to sell them on how you select the courses, and/or have them participate in the selection process. On the other hand, if you find you have an employee that has little or no interest, or if they suggest there is nothing left that they can learn, then clearly you have the wrong employee.
Whether or not they are paid for their time taking the courses is subject to state laws, and to your discretion. Just bear in mind that the only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is not training them, and having them stay.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), 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 the industry’s #1 peer group of 90 successful shop owners, training and coaching from top shop owners, service advisor training, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548.
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So its been a little slow lately so I visited every garage around to see what I'm doing wrong. What I found got me thinking, just about everyone had the same empty parking lot as me. Made me feel better. Some places had million plus $$ renovations since the last time I had visited, they have shops and customer areas way nicer than I can afford without going into huge debt. To be honest it made me feel a little insecure. My waiting room is clean but dated, my shop is also clean and modern but the building is 70 yrs old, so its about as good as its going to be without spending big money. I resigned myself to keep offering the best customer service possible as that's what I feel really matters. I can't compete in the spend more money game, some of these guys can easily out do me every time.
What are your thoughts? Do you think customers are attracted to brand new facilities or can they be satisfied with just good service alone?
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By Joe Marconi
I remember being at a meeting with my staff where I voiced my opinion on an important issue. When I was finished, I asked if everyone was in agreement. Everyone nodded their heads yes.
After the meeting, one of my service advisors told me that half of the employees did not agree with me. When I asked why did they agree, he replied. “You’re the boss, you intimidate others.”
This made me think about my leadership style. Being unapproachable will prevent you from hearing other opinions; which is important to the success of the company.
When speaking with your employees, ask a lot of questions. Avoid giving your opinion until you have heard from others. Praise suggestions and the opinions of others, and thank others for speaking up.
The most successful teams are those that build strategies through a collective effort.
By Joe Marconi
If there is one thing that doctors and dentists do very well, it's that they book the next appointment for their clientele. I have heard every excuse possible why many auto repair shops don’t do this. But the fact remains that everyone in your shop today will need future service and repairs. And the question is, “Are they coming back to you.”
Another reason for booking the next appointment is that there are times when not all the recommended services were done today. Some were postponed due to budget and prioritizing what’s most important. So, before that customer leaves, make sure the customer commits to a future date to have the work done. After all, why did you recommend it in the first place?
Car delivery is the time to review all the work done today, continue to build the relationship and to inform your customers of upcoming work and services. But don’t leave it to chance that the customer will remember. Be proactive, discuss future dates and put those dates in your calendar.
Lastly, call customers a few days before the appointment as a reminder. If the appointment has to be moved, then move it.
By Joe Marconi
In my opinion, competition is actually good for the industry, and good for your repair shop too. It keeps us focused and forces us to maintain pace with other repair shops. It drives us to take a look at our own business to see where and how we can make improvements.
Don't worry about the competition. And never compete on your competition's features. Find what sets you apart; your differentiation factor. Deliver world class service and promote your culture to your employees.
So, how do we handle the competition? Learn from them, but don't copy them. Become the best you can be. Promote a culture of customer caring with your employees. The rest will take care of itself.
By Joe Marconi
We sell service, not products. Yes, we sell water pumps, brake pads and air filters. And yes, those are products. But it’s the service we sell, the customer experience, which lives on well beyond the customer leaves your shop.
Think of it this way; when you buy a watch, or a new cell phone, the experience of what you purchase continues after the sale. When we replace a customer’s water pump or air filter, there is very little about those items that lives on beyond the sale.
But, what does live on is the customer experience. The better the experience, the more likely the customer will return to you. So focus on the customer experience, not the products you install.
By Joe Marconi
Here's a tip I have posted before, but it's worth repeating.
One job that goes unnoticed most of the year is the job of the part's driver. You get part deliveries all day long, every day, all year long. Many times, these part's drivers take all the abuse due to wrong parts, the parts took too long to be delivered, on and on and on. Those drivers may not say anything, but they take it to heart.
So, here's what you are going to do. Buy small gifts, such as small boxes of candy or chocolate. Nothing expensive. During the holidays, give all the drivers one of these small gifts and say "Thank you, I appreciated what you do."
Two things will happen. First, the driver will be stunned and will not know what to say, and they will be very thankful that you thought of them.
The second thing that will happen is this: The very next time those part drivers have three delivers to make at three different shops, what shop do you think they will want to go to first? Yes...Yours!