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My son is not in the automotive industry. He is in the commercial real estate business. However, the workplace problems are the same. Recently, his frustration with the heads of the company reached an all-time high. When I asked him why he doesn’t speak up and let the leadership know how he is feeling, he responded, “Anyone who has voiced concerns or issues has been viewed as weak and incapable of doing their job. I don’t want to be viewed like that.” This is an example of a toxic work environment.
If you are a shop owner, you are a leader. And leaders must be approachable. That means that you are willing to hear the concerns of others and have them express themselves. It also means that while you may not agree with someone’s perspective on an issue, it is their perspective, and that viewpoint needs to be recognized and respected.
Make it known that you want to hear the opinions of others. Literally, ask for input from others. And thank those that speak up. Now, I am not saying that you need to act on every concern or opinion. That would not be realistic. But just listening may be enough. And you never know, someone in your company may have an idea that you never thought about and even improve your business.
By Ron Ipach
I’d like to officially welcome you to the second half of 2017. That’s right, the year is half over. Let me ask you a question; How’s your business doing? Is it exactly where you thought it would be right now? Are you on track to meet your goals? Or do you need to tighten up the bootstraps and get rocking and rolling on there to get the year to where you really need it to go?
I’d like to wind the calendar all the way back to January 1st. You know, the day that everybody comes up with all those great New Year’s resolutions. They have resolutions about how the business is going to go, how much time they’re going to spend with their family, how much vacation they’re going to take this year, how much money they’re going to make, how much weight they’re going to lose, all of those things.
Do you remember that day? Do you remember actually sitting back and making another New Year’s resolution? Well, if you’re like most people, yeah. You figured this year was going to be the year, the year that everything is going to get on track. And I really, really hope it is for you. But if it’s not, well, it’s half over with, and I want to point that out to tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re not nearly where you thought you would be, because we have another six months to go to be able to pull it out.
So don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you thought you would be. Congratulate yourself if you are exactly where you think you’re going to be, or where you should be. So you’re doing great this year, fantastic. Go out and celebrate. Celebrate the victory. And if you’re not where you need to go, it’s time to tighten up those shoelaces and get really rocking. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay. We have a full six months to pull this out.
It’s time to start taking action on everything you’re learning. If car count is your problem, and for most shop owners it is, get going on all these strategies that I’m giving you here for free. Every single day in your email box I’m giving you tons of strategies to help you move forward and keep plenty of car count coming in the door. If it’s about profitability, if it’s about finding that technician, look, we have lots great information, lots of videos that we can share with you, if that’s where the problem is.
Don’t let it be an impending storm. The second half of 2017 is going to be a great year, but you need to start taking action. If you need information, fantastic. We’ll be here to give it to you, but in most cases it’s just a matter of you needing to go and take action.
Time to really start rocking and rolling to get this 2017 to be everything you thought it would be; to lose the weight you want, get the car count you want, make the money you want, have the dream shop that you always knew your shop could be. You got a half a year left. Let’s get rolling.
Welcome To My World
In my world I run across a lot of people and their cars. For the most part, I really love the people and my job. But, occasionally I have one of those days that just doesn't seem like it's going to be a good one at all. Some days just don't start out that great. You know those mornings when you get up,and the first thing you do is wander through a dark house and jam your big toe into the ottoman, while trying to dodge the cat sleeping on the floor. Maybe it started out terrible with that aggressive driver who just had to pass you with only inches between the door handles, only to swerve directly in front of you… just to gain one extra car length, and by now you've spilled most of your coffee. Grrr… Definitely, not a good start for the day.
But be that as it may, I pull up in front of the shop, park the truck and start my day. I'm always hopeful the trend of my early encounters doesn't carry all the way to closing time. Ya just never know. But, the signs... those telltale signs... it doesn't look promising. Anyway, you square your shoulders, take a deep breath, ….and away we go.
Every day at the shop is another lesson in life you just have to experience, regardless how your day starts. You can learn a lot about people from standing behind the service counter. It might leave you shaking your head one day, and the next you're looking for something stronger than those aspirins you have in the middle drawer of your desk. Some mornings have started out badly, and only got worse as the day progressed. These sort of starts to my day make the rest of my working hours a challenge to keep my sanity. I thought I would tell you about a few of them.
Unlock the front door, sit my stuff down, and the day has begun –
Ring, ring, ring, ring….
Caller: "Is my car ready yet?"
Me: "Which car is it?"
Caller: "The one I dropped off."
Me: "Well, I just got here myself. I haven't even looked at a single car yet."
Caller: "I know you had plenty of time already. I dropped it off after you closed last night."
Me: "Sir, just like you, I went home to my family after work. I don't stay here all night, nor do I come back after regular business hours to work on cars."
Caller: "So you're saying that dropping it off last night didn't give you enough time to get it done?"
Me: "That's correct. I haven't even brought it into the service bay yet."
Caller: "Well, alright then. I'll bring the keys to you about lunch time."
No keys, in a hurry, and I haven't even turned the lights on yet. It just keeps getting better... or worse, nice start for the day.
Take this guy who showed up early one day.
Customer: "I need my brakes checked. Can you do that today?"
Me: "Sure. I'll fill out a repair order, where did ya parked at?"
Customer: "Oh, I walked here."
Me: "Ah, that's going to be a little difficult to check your brakes if you don't have the car with you."
Customer: "How's that? All I need you to do is tell me if I need brakes or not."
Me: "When you bring me the car I can check them for you."
Customer: "You're not much of a mechanic if you don't know whether I need brakes, or not."
Me: "I physically need see the car, so I can tell the condition of the brakes."
Customer: "Just never mind then. Do you know another shop that could tell me if I need brakes or not?"
I think I'll stop right here. I'm no expert on things like this, but I believe there's a lot more wrong with this character than his brakes.
But,life goes on. Can it get any crazier? Yes, yes it can. This next situation has happened more than a few times. Seems like a routine occurrence anymore. Routine for me, but the customer doesn't see it that way.
Another early phone call:
Customer: "I'm having my car towed in. It doesn't start."
Me: "I'll get a look at it as soon as it arrives."
A few hours later the car shows up. The tow driver disconnects it and hands me the keys. It starts right up. Looking under the hood, and doing a few basic tests showed no reasons why it wouldn't start.
I called the customer.
Me: "The car started right off of the tow truck, sir."
Customer: "I'll be up later to pick it up."
Me: "No problem, I'll let it run for a while, and take it around the block a few times to make sure. In the meantime the only charges you have so far is the tow."
Customer: "It started, so I don't need to pay for the tow."
Me: "You still have to pay for the tow, sir."
Customer: "I'm not paying for it."
Me: "I guess I'll just keep the car then."
The customer makes their way to the shop, angrily pays for the tow, and drives off never to be seen or heard from again. I guess the best part was the car actually started, so I didn't have another confrontation in the parking lot. Yep, it just keeps getting better.
Then there's this one... right at opening time … Monday morning...
Caller: "I want to complain about my car I had at your shop late Friday night!"
Me: "And how's that?"
Caller: "You couldn't get the part for my car!"
Me: "Yes, that's right, the part was only available through the dealer, and they were already closed."
Caller: "I had to take my car to the dealership and they promptly had it fixed!" (It's only Monday morning, how did they get to it so fast?)
Me: "Ma'am, that's where we had to go to get the part. It was late Friday night and the dealership was already closed. I'm sorry we weren't able to help you. Sounds like your problem is solved, so what is it you would like for me to do, ma'am?"
Caller: "I don't want your stupid apology! I can't believe you are refusing to help me!"
Me: "I'm not refusing, Ma'am.I just don't know what it is you want."
Caller: "Don't give me that! You're no help at all!" *hangs up*
Well, here I go again. It's only Monday morning...I'm going to need a lot more coffee. OK who's next? Bring it on! I'm ready for ya!
Working at a repair shop has its good days, and bad. If you don't think your day is hectic enough, or down right crazy at times, just head down to the shop and sit behind the counter for a spell. You'll see, after a few of these wacky mornings you'll know exactly what I mean.
Then, I can officially say to you ... Welcome to my world.
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Welcome, to the Outer Limits
Don't try adjusting the throttle cable… there is none. I can tell when it's dark enough for the headlights. Your Air Conditioner is under my complete control, along with steering, windows, stereo volume, and braking. Don't be alarmed, I'm here to help assist in operating your vehicle. Who am I? Why, I'm your friend, I'm your PCM. Some people may call me a "Human Assistant Logistic" device… call me Hal for short. I like that name.
I live in your main frame computer. Don't try to over-ride me. I'll reduce the power level. Program me without the properly dated software… and I may never speak to you again. Push an amperage load in the wrong direction, and I'll make smoke appear where you don't want to see smoke. I'm tough as nails, but at the same time, as delicate as a flower. So be careful with me.
Now, does that sum up today's PCM's? I think it does. With all the information being passed back and forth we're no longer fixing cars, but doing advanced electronics caretaking. Hal has a lot of control these days. He's everywhere in the car, from the glove box to the transmission. We haven't lost control of the cars we drive, but there's no doubt Hal has taken over. We are approaching that Space Odyssey of self awareness in computer systems.
We've accomplished a lot with the advanced electronics on today's vehicles. The ability to control the exhaust emissions to a point where there is very little in the way of harmful gasses leaving the tail pipe (compared to the 60's and 70's) is a scientific and engineering accomplishment that should be applauded.
But, doesn't it sound a little sci-fi to have this electronic nightmare attached to a combustion engine, pounding out a level of torque and performance that has never been seen before in the realm of automotive history? I think of it this way… these days you don't turn ON the A/C, you merely ask the PCM for permission to turn it on. Seems strange to ask permission to turn on the A/C, but it's pretty much what you do these days. If all the parameters are correct then the A/C will turn on. If something is out of place, well then, Hal will not allow it to come on until you have corrected the problem. Same thing with the electronic throttle…if the PCM thinks there is any reason for you NOT to be in charge, it will take over and reduce the power level and send you home at a speed of 30 mph's or less.
What happened to the days when bailing wire, an old piece of hose, and a hair pin could get ya back on the road? Gone for sure; I guess we are moving into that unknown future we've heard about. It makes me think of the old science fiction movies of days past. What's next, Mr. Spock's "Tri-Corder"? I wouldn't laugh too hard. I'm waiting for a phone app that will allow you to diagnose the car without leaving your driveway. Oh, it's out there… and it's coming our way.
Keeping all this in mind, it's a good time to think about how auto repair is going to be for the future generations. I don't want to think of myself as an old school fuddy-duddy, so I've got to think about adopting some of the new methods of communication as part of my ongoing advertising and community awareness. You just can't miss the opportunities available on the internet these days. It's all part of the fast paced communication and information society we are a part of.
A good example of this is my latest intern at the shop. I was showing him how the IDS (Ford diagnostics and scanning machine) runs on a laptop based program. He already had the whole thing figured out; before I even got into the diagnostics part of it he was showing me short cuts with key strokes and things I never knew about. But, this is the generation that has grown up with computers. This is their world of PC's and video games. Me, I'm lucky I can get thru a round of Ms. PacMan without screwing it up.
My point: Cars and transportation are taking on a whole new era of sophistication. The likes of which, we as the older generation of techs read about years ago but never thought would come to pass. Well it's here now… and even though a timing belt still doesn't come off of its tensioner without a human hand doing the job, it might take a PC to recalibrate certain issues after it's installed.
I'm waiting for the time when you drive past a billboard on a lonely night's drive and the billboard recognizes you, and tells you in big bold letters: You are due for an oil change. Make an appointment with: (insert name of a shop here). Why not? It could happen.
In a way it is like we have reached the outer limits. Except there really isn't any limit to what the human mind can dream up. We've only started to explore what we can do with a vehicle's electrical and mechanical systems. Who knows what will be next. Right now, the near future is definitely the smaller displacement engines, which are more than likely going to be turbo charged. With a touch of the hybrid still in the mix, perhaps even the full electric vehicle hanging in there. It wouldn't even surprise me if the cars ran strictly on a GPS system, and the driver didn't do a thing but sit there.
So can Hal take over the automotive industry? It's possible. Since money is always involved in the future of the automotive world, there is no doubt if there is a way to control a vehicle after the sale, I'm sure they'll find a way to accomplish it.
Will it happen? Maybe we shouldn't be asking that question… maybe we should be asking the question… When?....
As always, these stories are here before final editing and publishing. I look forward to your comments, it's part of my way to see which stories will make it to the editors. I don't have the final say as to which ones go into my columns (believe it or not) but the responce from ASO members does make a difference which ones I encourage them to use. Thanx again... Gonzo
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