I currently employ a mechanic and friend who has been with me for about 20 years. He was formerly a transmission rebuilder, but we have switched to mostly reman units and have no need for a rebuilder. His pay has remained the same despite his value declining. I am currently paying him roughly $100,000 a year. The problem i'm having is that his skill set is not near that pay level anymore. He does light diagnostic and basic managerial work, but I am not confident enough for him to run the shop for more than an hour. With the current state of the industry our numbers have gone down a bit over the last two years. While still being profitable, I can't help but think about the extra income that would be available by terminating this employee, I just dont know how to do it. Any advice on how to do this? I like him as a person and have known him a very long time, but I feel his is paid about twice as much as he is worth. Any help wouldbe greatly appreciated.
By Mark Johnson
To refresh, a business meal includes: meals in your area of business WITH a business colleague, or meals by yourself when you travel out of town for business.
The key to making sure any deduction holds up in an audit is DOCUMENTATION.
For meals specifically, there are five items you need on a receipt:
1. The name of the restaurant
2. The date of the meal
3. The amount you paid
4. Who you met with and their business relationship
5. What business items you discussed
The first three items are already on the receipt so you’re covered there.
The last two, a best practice is to jot them down on the receipt right when you make a purchase and then snap a picture of that receipt so you have it!
Remember, you want to pay as little tax as possible and also have those deductions HOLD UP if you get audited!
Please take the proper steps to document your meals guys.
To learn more about this and other tax saving strategies please call 1954-324-0803 or book an appointment at
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By Joe Marconi
“Why are we discussing these issues when the people who need it the most are not here? We’re not reinventing the wheel. We get it. But the ones who don’t get it need to be here, too!”
Those were the words spoken by one of my service advisors during a recent meeting. We were discussing quality issues and ways to improve overall production, which, we determined, would improve sales and profit. I listened as Tommy (not his real name) continued for a few minutes. I could hear the frustration in his voice, so I let him speak until I felt he expressed all his feelings to the group.
I am a firm believer in holding regular meetings. And, while there are times when the group gives me feedback, rarely does anyone voice their opinion with such passion and intensity the way Tommy did that day. Drawing on experience, I thanked him for his openness and honesty. I also asked him if we could continue this discussion in the morning in private. He agreed.
The next morning, I paged Tommy and asked him to come to my office. I thanked him again for his openness and asked him to elaborate more on what he said the night before. Tommy hesitated at first, but slowly began to tell me his frustrations. It really boiled down to the level of commitment from a few techs. Tommy spoke in length about what he would like to change in the shop, and again repeated that we’re not reinventing the wheel. His words were clear and on point, “Joe, we all know what to do. We all know our goals. And we all know when we perform to the level we are supposed to. So, I just don’t understand why all of us can meet those expectations.”
Tommy’s insight into the work environment and the dynamics of people’s behavior was perhaps deeper than he even realized. When people within an organization feel that some of their coworkers are not pulling their weight, animosity begins to set in. Essentially, your top employees want to make sure that everyone is committed to the company’s success and doing their very best for the greater good of the team.
We also need to remember that people look at things from their own perspective. And their perspective becomes their reality. The key thing is to keep the lines of communication open, learn from each other and try to view different situations from the viewpoint of others.
After nearly 30 minutes of discussion, it was time to give Tommy my input on how I viewed the situation. I let him know that, while not everyone will be in total agreement with how he views these concerns, he has made a giant step forward at letting me know the issues we have in the shop. I then asked Tommy, “Out of our 16 employees, how many people in your opinion, without giving me any names, do not live up to the expectations of the company?” Tommy thought for a moment and replied, “Well, when I think about it, just a few. Two, maybe three.” Here was my opportunity to bring logic into a very emotional discussion. “So, what you are telling me is that the majority of your coworkers do live up to the company’s expectations and do a quality job?” Tommy replied, “Yes, I didn’t see it that way.” I let Tommy know that I would take his ideas and implement them into my strategy to improve the work environment. He appreciated the fact that I listened to his concerns.
Here’s the bottom line. When a person speaks up like Tommy did—listen to them. Don’t shut them down. They are expressing more than their frustrations over a few of their coworkers. They are giving you real-life, from the trenches information. And although it may be from their perspective, their viewpoint can give you valuable information that will help you and your company improve. Even a few people not pulling their weight can be enough to affect morale. And others may be feeling the same way.
What you don’t want are “yes” people who merely agree with you because you’re the boss. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, welcome feedback and criticism from your key people. We also need to listen more and speak less. And most of all, we need to understand that the solutions to our problems don’t always have to come from us. Sometimes, an employee’s outburst is just what we need to put things in the right perspective.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 1st, 2020
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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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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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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
My son was an accomplished wrestler in high school, competing in the New York State Championships. He continued competing during his college years. At a major tournament, in which my son was ranked No. 1, the coached worried about his first match. In tournaments, the No. 1 ranked wrestler competes against the bottom-ranked wrestler in the first round. When I asked the coach why he worried about the bottom-ranked opponent, the coach replied, “Tough competition keeps you sharp. Weaker competition makes you complacent.”
In business, as in sports, complacency occurs when you fail to recognize the strengths of your competition—even if the competition is considered weaker than you. Complacency is caused by many reasons. It could be the result of being successful, which gives you a false sense of security that the good days will continue forever. Or, it could be that the business owner is so entrenched in the day-to-day operations that he fails to recognize the world around him. Complacency also lowers your drive and your focus. It spreads to your employees. Eventually, this will have a detrimental effect on your business.
However, loss of business due to complacency doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow, painful death. One day you realize that your car counts are down, your customer base is dwindling and your new customer acquisition is declining too.
Today, consumers have choice and competition is fierce. Every segment of the auto repair industry wants a piece of the service and repair pie. You need to take a long hard look at your competition, analyze it and study it. Then build a strategy around what you bring to the marketplace that will set you apart from the rest.
One thing to keep in mind: In the business world, competition is everywhere. And it’s not just other repair shops, dealerships or the tire store down the road. Your business is being judged and compared to by every experience the consumer encounters. In other words, if your customer had an amazing experience at a local restaurant, your business will be judged against that experience, too. But the question is: How should you compete?
In his book The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin makes the point that your business needs to be so remarkable, people will stop in their tracks to learn more about you. To make the cow comparison: Cows are essentially boring. They really don’t stand out. But, if you’re driving down a road and see a purple cow in a field, you’ll more than likely stop your car to take a closer look. Now ask yourself: Is your business boring? Does it have the look and feel as every other repair shop in town? What can you do to make your business so remarkable, so different, that people will stop in their tracks and take notice? This is a powerful marketing strategy.
No matter how successful your business may be, it’s wise to look at all prominent businesses in your area. Find out who they are, how they market themselves and what makes them stand out. Then, create a strategy that differentiates your business from the rest. By the way, never compete with another business by copying what it does or by the benefits it offers. Copying the competition is what many businesses do, and it’s a mistake. Studying the competition is more about learning what they do, and then finding out what makes you different. What can your business bring to the marketplace that will make people take notice? Think about the company Harley Davidson. When you drive a Harley Davidson, you drive a Harley. It’s not a motorcycle—it’s a Harley. Harley Davidson is a brand so strong, people will actually tattoo the Harley logo on their bodies. Consider Starbucks. People don’t say, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee.” They say, “I’m going to get a Starbucks.” These two companies have a unique brand identity. They stand out among the rest.
Competition is a good thing. It makes you stronger. It makes the entire business world better. It forces you to think about yourself and your brand. And by improving your brand, the customer benefits also improve, which, in turn, makes your business more successful. Never fear competition; rather, you should embrace it. Learn from it. But, remember, look for ways to set you apart from other businesses.
One last thing: Don’t focus on what you do. We all essentially do the same thing—oil services, brake work, suspension, tires and more. Think about why you are in business. It’s your culture. Think about what makes you special and communicate that to your customers and potential customers. Make that special something your purple cow.
By the way, my son took first place in that tournament. Although every match was a challenge, the two toughest matches were the final round and (you guessed it) his first match against a weaker opponent.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 31st, 2019
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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.