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Why Is It?
There are so many questions that need answered. Some can be answered with a little background in engineering or technical information. Some can be answered after a few visits with your local shrink. Other questions are just left in limbo for eternity.
I thought I’d put together a few of those perplexing questions a mechanic might have about his daily life with cars, people and all the other nuts … and bolts of the business. It ain’t all about ratchets and wrenches, you know. Sometimes ya just have to ask “WHY?”, even if the answer doesn’t matter. Here’s a few to ponder.
Why is it - Some OEM parts come in fast food tater tot trays?
Why is it - That some people can’t tell you what’s wrong with their car, or the reason they’re at the repair shop, without starting their explanation from the day they bought the car?
Why is it - When I hear, “All the fuses are good”, without fail, the problem turns out to be a fuse? Usually the missing one.
Why is it – An intermittent problem won’t act up (at all), you’ve been waiting
all day(s) for it to fail, and just when the customer decides to bring it back, and you’re just about to pull it out of the service bay…then it stars acting up?!
Why is it - Friday is just two days before the next Monday. However, Mondays can last all week. That makes Friday the new Monday, which makes Saturday Tuesday. Now you’ve got a whole new week ahead of you, and you haven’t even left the shop for the weekend. I know… it gets confusing.
Why is it - A bad day always starts right after a good day?
Why is it - An appointment only means “maybe I’ll make it”, while “I’ll be right there” means tomorrow or next Tuesday?
Why is it - The car stops acting up for the customer as soon as it’s at the shop?
Why is it - Diagnosing a problem with the customer hovering over your shoulder always takes longer?
Why is it – Those special ordered parts that you’ve been waiting for all day, perhaps even a week, show up really late in the afternoon (as usual), and are either bad out of the box or the wrong part all together? But, the correct part has been on the shelf at the dealership the whole time. (Probably in a tater tot tray)
Why is it - On most cars with a single exhaust pipe, the exhaust is always on the opposite side of the fuel filler door?
Why is it - The manufacturer’s scanner that you’ve had for years, which has worked great on every car that has come in, but won’t work on the model you now have in the service bay? This one requires the use of the “new” manufacturer’s scanner and not the “old” factory scanner.
Why is it - As soon as you (or the shop) can afford to spring for the latest greatest factory scan tool to handle those models not covered on the original factory scan tool… not a single car has come in for the past 6 months that needs the newer scanner?
Why is it - A watched pot never boils, but a watched mechanic will?
Why is it – On those really slow days the only phone calls you get are from one of those long winded solicitors?
Why is it – You can tell the new guy isn’t going to work out when he spins the fake lug nuts off the hub caps?
Why is it – Nobody will admit to blowing the fuse in the shop’s multimeter or clogging the shop toilet?… same difference.
Why is it – That everyone assumes you make a zillion dollars a day fixing cars, but we all know that ain’t true. The proof? … You wear rented work clothes.
Why is it - No matter how many wrenches you grab out of your tool box… you never seem to have the right one?
Why is it – Just as soon as a technician has successfully mastered the latest greatest system in a car… they change it all up again?
Why is it – The kid at the parts store with his little generic code reader has as much influence on the outcome of a repair (as far as the customer is concerned), as the seasoned tech does at a professional repair shop with the latest and greatest diagnostic equipment?
Why is it – Some people think price is the only consideration when it comes to car repair? I wonder what those same people would do if they could price check their doctors the way they price check their mechanic?
I could go on. But, it’s time for you to think of some of your own “Why is it?” I’m sure you have a few you’d like to share. It doesn’t take much for a mechanic with today’s sophisticated car technology to ask why they do the things they do. And yes, there are answers to some of these questions… just not all of them. That’s why ya have to ask… “Why is it?”
Now, I think I’ll go grab some grub and a cup o’Joe, and ponder a while. Hmm…tator tots sound good for some reason.
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I love reading about all the articles here about Customers asking for Quotes for repair before the shop even sees the car.
Now that we are getting very busy I am sticking more and more to the rules. Biggest rule I am trying to follow is NO OUTSIDE PARTS. Just got off the the phone with a phone shopper, asked for a price on some stuff installed and then when told he couldn't bring his own parts I got a swift, "o, ok thanks." Definitely not sweating it but just wondering how many of you guys out there allow customer provided parts? For those who don't, how many of these do you turn away?
You’re at the emergency room, you’re left arm is swelling up, pain relief is a priority. The initial diagnosis involves a few x-rays and checking your vital signs. The nurse writes down all the information on your chart and then places it by the door of the exam room so the doctor can read it. The doctor enters the exam room already flipping the pages of information, and takes a seat on the little stool. The doctor introduces himself, “Hello, I’m Doctor Smith,” with the formal introductions out of the way the next question is usually in regards to the information on the chart and his initial evaluation. He asks, “So, how’d ya break your arm?” Without hesitation, you go into a detailed explanation of how it all happened. In some case the story is very important to the diagnosis, while other times it’s just another one of those typical stories the doctor has probably heard before. Never the less, they’ll listen. (I think they call that “bed side” manner.) When your tests are done, the cast is applied, and you’ve got a few pain meds prescribed, it’s off you go to home sweet home.
Now what in the world does a trip to the emergency room have to do with cars? Well, nothing, and everything at the same time. If you’ve ever stood at the service counter and was asked, “So what’s wrong with the car?” you might find this interesting. Just as the doctor asked when he entered the exam room there is a few primary questions to answer at the service counter. At the emergency room it’s all about gathering pertinent information about the problem and it’s the same at the service counter. There’s no doubt even at the ER the answers to the questions can be jumbled up and misleading as they can be at the service counter.
The service writer isn’t asking, “How you broke you’re car.” But, “What’s wrong with the car.” For some people answering that question with, “It doesn’t shift, or the battery is dead every morning” isn’t possible. They somehow start in the middle and work back to the beginning of their story, and then finally to the real reason why they are there. I’m still baffled at the answers I get on these occasions, and just like the ER doctor, listening to the various replies takes a bit of patience. Sometimes I have it… sometimes I don’t.
Let’s face it; I fix cars not people. If I could ask the car directly I probably would. But, as it is, the car can’t speak. (Yet) In the meantime, standing at the service counter and deciphering the bits and pieces of information from the owner seems to be the best way. Needless to say, at times, there’s a lot of piecing together be done.
Granted, a lot of people don’t know the first thing about cars and with the internet full of suggestions and friends with more than a cursory knowledge of the modern automobile the confusion at the service counter can be overwhelming. I hear all kinds of wild and exotic solutions and explanations about car problems when I’m standing at the counter. All this random information might seem important, when in reality, most of the time, less = more.
The other day I had an encounter at the counter after asking the usual question, “What’s wrong with the car?” It was definitely one of those multiple answer and confusing explanation type of situations. I generally keep notes as people are explaining things to me. I was going to need a lot of scratch pad on this one.
The owner began with, “It doesn’t start every once in a while.”
Our conversation covered the typical reasons for an intermittent no start, which also brought up the diagnostic hassles with this type of problem, and the problems of trying to find intermittent issues.
“As long as I can duplicate the problem I can fix it,” I told him.
“Oh, you won’t have any trouble with that,” he answered, “It does it all the time.”
Now that’s interesting, before it was once in a while, now it’s all the time. I think I’m somewhere in the middle of this story right about now… I hope we get to the finale soon. Cross out intermittent and below that write “does it often” on the scratch pad.
“That’s slightly different from what you just told me. When you say all the time, do you mean once in a while or do you mean,” holding my fingers up for quotations, “all” the time?”
He answered, “What I mean is, it’s doing it more often now.”
“That’s great,” I said with a smile, “I’ll be able to find the source of the problem much easier now. Let’s get it into the shop as soon as possible and run a few tests.”
“Super, I’ll get it towed in this afternoon,” he cheerfully replied.
“Wait a minute,” I answered with a questioning tone, “Why a tow truck?”
“I’ve tried to start it every day for the past 2 weeks and it still hasn’t started. That’s what I’ve been telling you. It doesn’t start.”
I checked my scratch pad, several pages of jotted notes, turn back to page one, cross out “does it often” below it write D.O.A. It’s just another round and around story at the service counter.
I really wanted to tell this guy. “What if we started this whole conversation in reverse? So when I ask, “What’s wrong with the car?” You say, “It hasn’t started for the last 2 weeks, but before that it was intermittent at best.” I should have, but I didn’t. Would have made a whole lot more sense that way and probably would have saved a few pages of that scratch pad too.
Of course, there are the ones that have to lump everything and anything that has ever gone wrong with the car into their present story. (You’ll need a lot more paper to jot these stories down.) That simple question of what’s wrong becomes a dissertation of every little bump or bruise the car has ever had. And, they have to throw in every shop that’s worked on it and every part that’s ever been changed. Is it important? Well, kind of, but probably not as important as what’s wrong with the car now.
Ya just gotta smile, and go on. If it makes that particular customer feel better to tell every little bit about their car by all means… tell your story. Whatever way you’d like to tell it is fine with me, and it doesn’t matter about the multiple answers you have to the question or what order you want to tell them. I’ll try to keep up and sort out the important parts. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of scratch pads and pens. Will it change the outcome of the repair? Nope, not a bit. But I’m sure, just like any emergency room doctor will tell you too; these stories sure do make for an interesting day at the office.
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Questions and Answers For Retired People
Q: Where can men over the age of 60 find younger, sexy women who are interested in them?
A: Try a bookstore, under fiction.
Q: What can a man do while his wife is going through menopause?
A: Keep busy. If you're handy with tools, you can finish the basement. When you're done you'll have a place to live.
Q: Someone has told me that menopause is mentioned in the bible. Is that true? Where can it be found?
A: Yes. Matthew 14:92: "And Mary rode Joseph's ass all the way to Egypt. ;
Q: How can you increase the heart rate of your 60-plus year old husband?
A: Tell him you're pregnant.
Q: How can you avoid that terrible curse of the elderly wrinkles?
A: Take off your glasses.
Q: Seriously! What can I do for these Crow's feet and all those wrinkles on my face?
A: Go braless. It will usually pull them out.
Q: Why should 60-plus year old people use valet parking?
A: Valets don't forget where they park your car.
Q: Is it common for 60-plus year olds to have problems with short term memory storage?
A: Storing memory is not a problem. Retrieving it is the problem.
Q: As people age, do they sleep more soundly?
A: Yes, but usually in the afternoon.
Q: Where should 60-plus year olds look for eye glasses?
A: On their foreheads.
Q: What is the most common remark made by 60-plus year olds when they enter antique stores?
A: "Gosh, I remember these!"
SMILE, You've still got your sense of humor, RIGHT?
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By Joe Marconi
Can someone truly have two personalities? A real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—the one you see, and the one everyone else sees? I had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde employee a number of years ago; we’ll call him Dr. J. He was my shop foreman and helped the manager run the daily operations. Dr. J was employed about five years before things began to change.
I first learned about Dr. J’s erratic behavior from a few of my employees. According to these employees, his behavior was destructive, disrespectful and rude. He never acted differently in front of me, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on. I talked to Dr. J about what others were saying, and he looked stunned.
“Joe, I really can’t tell you why anyone would be unhappy with me. I get along with everyone,” he told me.
I met with the employees who expressed concerns and let them know that I appreciated their feedback. I told them that Dr. J had been with us for a number of years and that I had never witnessed any unusual behavior from him. I tried to look at all sides and suggested that perhaps he was going through some personal issues, so let’s try to be a little more understanding.
Out of respect, the employees agreed—but not for long. I was away on a business trip when I got a disturbing text message from one of my technicians. The text read, “Joe, if you don’t do something about Dr. J, we’ll deal with it ourselves.” It was late when I got the text, but decided to call the tech anyway. He told me in great detail what Dr. J was saying and how he behaved. I was shocked by what the tech told me. Could this person be a real life Jekyll and Hyde?
It was early Monday morning, my first day back, when my office manager came into my office, closed the door behind her and said, “Joe, if you don’t do something about Dr. J, people are going to quit.” I knew at this point I had a real problem on my hands.
I brought Dr. J into my office and told him everything that I had heard. I told him that the employees did not like the way he treated them and that the harsh words he used was causing a problem with everyone. Again, Dr. J was defensive and denied everything. However, this time he told me his perspective of the situation.
According to Dr. J, the rest of the employees were not pulling their weight and that all he was trying to do was to motivate them. I tried to explain to him that criticism and harsh words are viewed as an attack. And if this strategy is repeated over and over, people will push back and shut down—the exact opposite of any intended good. I could tell by the look on Dr. J’s face that he really didn’t agree with what I was saying, but he told me that he would take my opinion under consideration.
After that meeting, I paid careful attention to Dr. J’s treatment of others. All seemed good. Then one day, I witnessed the Jekyll and Hyde persona for myself. Dr. J didn’t know I was in the front office as he lashed out at one of the technicians. The tone and the words that came out of his mouth were unacceptable and appalling. I saw firsthand what everyone in the shop was experiencing. After repeated attempts to correct his behavior, his conduct never improved. It was time to let him go.
I never found out what changed Dr. J, but I did feel confident that I gave him every opportunity to correct his behavior. While Dr. J may have fooled me initially, I have to admit that I did see that the mood of the shop was tense and morale was down. With Dr. J no longer employed, morale improved and everything went back to normal.
The workplace environment is a delicate balance between culture and production. It’s also filled with emotions. People want to rally together for the greater good. But, they also need to know that their leader protects them from any threats that attempts to harm the team. It’s also wise not to readily dismiss the concerns your employees express to you. Be on the lookout in your shop. You just might have a Dr. J of your own.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on December 7th, 2018
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By Joe Marconi
I will never forget the day I met Carlos. It was 13 years ago at a small business conference in New York City. The conference drew business owners from all types of industries throughout the greater New York area. Carlos was sitting next to me at orientation. The day was lined up with guest speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. By the third networking break, Carlos and I were hitting it off. We traded war stories, discussed business challenges and brainstormed new ideas. Carlos owns two Italian restaurants, one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. His first restaurant was founded in 1986 when he was 27 years old. I finally asked Carlos, “What’s your background? Did you go school to become a chef? Did your family own a restaurant? Do you enjoy cooking?” Carlos turned to me, smiled, and said, “Joe, I am going to let you in on a little-known secret: I have never cooked a meal in my life.”
Unlike Carlos and his business venture, most auto repair businesses are started by technicians and use their technical skills to run their companies. I was one of them. I spent years honing my technical skills from the time I graduated high school in 1973 to my first day in business, Oct. 1, 1980. I worked hard at becoming the absolute best automotive technician I could possibly become. I also spent another decade after starting my business improving those skills. That is, until one day I realized that while I may have used my technical skills to start and initially build my business, it wasn’t enough.
In the first 10 years, I grew my business primarily with my hands, my strength and my determination. At the end of that decade, I hit a wall. Thankfully, that wall knocked some sense into me. My business was largely dependent on my abilities and what I could produce. After analyzing my business and realizing that it had plateaued for a number of years, I had to make a tough choice. It was time to put down the tools. I had to learn a different set of skills—the skills of running a company. This proved to be the right choice for me.
I’m not saying I regret what I did in those early years. I didn’t know any other way. I loved the auto industry and I loved working on cars. However, when the day came that I decided to become a business owner, my life changed. And, my awareness of how to build and run a business should have changed with it.
There are shop owners that were never technicians, and do quite well. It’s argued that they have an advantage over technician-turned-shop-owners. A technician’s brain is wired to look at the problem at hand, create a solution and move on. An entrepreneur looks at business from a different perspective: always looking to the future, at growth and what other greater things can be accomplished.
I remember many years ago meeting a very successful shop owner from the west coast at a trade show. We were both standing at a booth that displayed emissions-related products. I picked up a sensor, turned to this shop owner and asked what he thought of the new air fuel ratio sensors. He replied, “I wouldn’t know an oxygen sensor from a spark plug.” I kept silent. This shop owner was, and still is, well known in the industry—and very successful.
Here’s the bottom line: As a business owner, the skills of repairing cars have little to do with the skills needed for long-term business success. For many of you with a technical background, you may have come to the same conclusion. If you have not come to this realization, please take a long hard look at your life and your business. While you may love to be in the bays, your place it a helm of the ship. Use those technical skills, but understand that those skills may have gotten you this far, but they won’t get your business to where it needs to be. It will be your business skills and people skills that builds a sustainable company that continues to grow and becomes a source of enrichment for you, your family, your employees and their families.
Carlos and I still keep in contact with each other and he still owns and operates his restaurants. Carlos called me the other day and told me that he actually had the opportunity recently to work in the kitchen at one of his restaurants. Perhaps even entrepreneurs can cross over into the world of technicians. I’m betting it did a world of good for Carlos.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on November 1st, 2018
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By Ron Ipach
December spells the end of 2018, and hopefully you're wrapping up what was a fantastic year for your auto repair shop and business.
Now… it’s time to start thinking about how to make 2019 an EVEN BETTER year. (Heck, let’s go ahead and plan on making it your best year ever! Right?)
By attending for this special Live Online Webinar, you're going to get the proven 4-step process that will practically GUARANTEE 2019 to be a blow-out success for you.
With these four steps, you’ll be able to…
👉 ==> DOUBLE your take-home pay (Yes, that’s not a misprint. I’ll show you how.)
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👉 ==> Easily sell your services at higher prices than your competitors
👉 ==> Find, hire, and keep that elusive tech you’ve been searching for
👉 ==> Put the fun back into running your shop!
If you're interested... there is absolutely ZERO cost to attend this training.
All you'll need is 45 minutes of your day set aside in order to watch this webinar live.
For the dates, times, and registration details, CLICK HERE