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You’re Fired!

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On the T.V. show "The Apprentice", Donald Trump bluntly and with little emotion blurts out a simple phrase; "You're fired". But believe me, there is nothing simple or unemotional about firing someone. Although I've done it many times before, having to let someone go is a distressing event. I accept it as a part of doing business, but even when a person fully deserves to be fired, the process still stinks.


Last year I hired a tech in preparation for our expansion project. With the addition of 4 new bays, I knew that increasing staff and getting the right people would be challenging. When I hire people I look for more than skill level. Obviously, the person must be technically competent, but there are other qualities that are equally important. For me, having that perfect "fit" is essential for the morale of the shop. During the interview process I try to get a feel for the applicant and am more interested in making sure that the new-hire will have the personality and character that will work well with our team. All shops have a particular culture. From my experience, the better your people work together, the more productive your shop will be.


I thought I found such a person. This newly hired tech had a great sense of humor, seemed eager to learn, came in early every day, was always willing to help other techs, and worked hard. He graduated from a well-know automotive trade school and had a number of years experience under his belt working at a dealership. He had all the makings of a team player and potential leader. All was good for about 6 months. Then things began to fall apart.


A few months ago a pattern began to develop. The quality of his work was not up to our standards and he started to get a few comebacks. A lot of them were silly mistakes; he forgot to rotate the tires, or neglected to install a set of wipers, which had been clearly written on his work order.


It wasn't just the comebacks that bothered me; it was the lack of focus and indifference I began to see. He didn't seem to care as much as he did, just a few short months earlier. The other techs began to see it too and shop morale began to suffer. I have to tell you, I never give up on anyone. That's not my style. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to train a tech, and having to fire someone would negate all of that. Plus, the way I feel is that, whatever happens in my shop and what my people do, is my responsibility and is a direct reflection on my ability as the leader of the company.


We had many one-on-one meetings and I gave him additional training to get him back on track. But, nothing seemed to work. Still, I did not give up. I moved him next to my lead tech, as a sign that I believed in him. I thought working next to our top tech would be beneficial to his self-esteem and boost his image, but that didn't work either. When I caught him a few times on his cell phone while working, I knew the end was near.


What happened next would be the decisive moment. I caught him in a lie. Then, I caught him in a series of lies. There's a saying that someone once told me, "Man does not have the memory to be a perfect liar, you will eventually get caught".


Dishonesty was something that I could not tolerate and he had to go. After I fired him, I began the mental process of examining the entire situation. Did I do all I can to work with this individual? Was there something that I did that turned this employee from a potential star into a dud? Did I miss something in the interview process that may have indicated a problem? I was disappointed in him and in myself.


As shop owners we need to remember that we cannot judge our employees by who we are. We need to remember that sometimes no matter how hard we try; we cannot get out of someone that's not in them to begin with. We also need to realize that sometimes there aren't any clear reasons why some people act the way they do.


Firing someone is never easy, but if an individual's actions put your business in jeopardy, you must act and let that person go. It's not about the person you're terminating; it's more about the rest of the team. The greater good of your company must be your determining factor.


I never did fully understand what happened with this tech, but I do feel better now that he's gone. Shop morale is better and I'm over the emotional roller coaster this individual caused me. Actually, it got a whole lot better when I found a new technician two weeks later, shook his hand and happily told him…"You're Hired!"


That's the thing about employees.... "A new broom sweeps well" It's when that broom gets a few miles on it that you find out what you really have.


Over my years I think I've had every type of wrench head work for me. Most all end up with the same problem,... production, come-backs, and hours at the shop. One or all of them become an issue. I usually can tell when it's about to happen. The first thing I notice is they stop coming in early, or the bathroom breaks get closer and closer together. Stuff like that.


The thing that I feel is neccessary for a shop owner to keep in mind.... "Know when it's time to get a new broom" and "don't hang on to a useless broom"

Just my thoughts on the subject.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         1 comment
      I am going to borrow a quote from billionaire, Warren Buffet, “The best investment you can make is in yourself,” This statement, while simplistic, speaks volumes. A shop owner is much more than a boss, a shop owner is a leader. And leaders are solely responsible for the success of their team. This means that you must work hard and commit to a life of continuous learning and improvement. It also means that if the team fails, a leader must always blame himself or herself for that failure and find ways to improve.
      For your business to flourish, you must invest your time and energy in understanding what your role is in your company. It also means that you must be committed to continually improving your level of competence. This does not mean that every task is your responsibility. However, it does mean that the buck stops with you. If your business is not where it needs to be, or you are looking for increased growth, then it is your obligation to do the hard work and set goals, have the vision, perform the research, and develop the plan to achieve your overall objectives.
      When you invest in yourself to become the best leader and the best businessperson you can be, others around you will feed off your energy and your passion. This sends a strong message to everyone on your team that you have what it takes to bring the company to the next level.
      One last thing, another obligation to your company is assembling the right team of people around you. Once you have the right people, you need to invest in them too. Find what truly motivates them, not what you believe inspires them. Be a coach to your employees and always strive to bring out the best in them. Be strong with your convictions and expectations, build strong relationships with your employees, and don’t be afraid of admitting when you drop the ball.
      While Warren Buffet is best known for making billions of dollars with his investment strategies, I want to believe that this quote has its basis in something that money cannot buy.
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