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.
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After years of work to get to this point, we are finally opening the doors to my new shop on Monday. I did a small friends and family test on Friday. We stubbed our toes on all procedures but the actual shop work. It was horrible, but a great learning experience. Most issues were procedural in nature, so this weekend was procedure repair. We really weren't ready to open, but it needed to happen. Still not ready on all fronts. My website is built, but awaiting my detailed review to go online. It'll happen in the next day or so. We're still buying shop tools. Many are in, but I wanted to let my staff be part of the tool choices. (Yes, we're going to have to pare back some of their big wish list).
Hiring is still ongoing. I had my 3 critical positions covered for a while now, but I still have more left to hire.
I chose Protractor as my SMS. I'm mostly happy with this decision. My biggest gripe is that the software is unforgiving of mistakes and new users make many mistakes. I now need to learn how to undo my mistakes so that the accounting part remains accurate.
Today, my entire computer network went down and it took us over 2 hours to get it back online. Next on the list is to practice recovery procedures.
One of my major marketing spend items was to be on a busy corner. It appears that this may indeed work out for us. We serviced about 9 cars on Friday and turned away about 15 drive-up customers. Have 1 appointment booked for tomorrow. Wish me luck!