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The Janitor


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The Janitor


Granted I don’t wear my finest clothes to work, and I wouldn’t think a three piece suit would be a good choice. I wear what’s appropriate, old jeans, a washed out company shirt, and a work bib loaded down with hand tools. The bib I buy off the tool trucks from time to time and as I wear the old one out I’ll replace it. The bib allows me to carry all the daily essentials that I need most often. After awhile, the old bib gets pretty ragged looking and the old shirt starts to show major fatigue. My wife keeps threatening me that she is going to toss some of my shirts and buy new ones. That hasn’t happen yet, but I’m sure it will someday.


As you can tell, my appearance is (at times) pretty ragged and probably would make anyone who didn’t know me quite suspicious of whom or what my purpose was at the shop. But that said, what I am, is a mechanic, and a pretty good one. In the mean time, I don’t want to have to be putting on “airs” for somebody just because they don’t like the way I’m dressed… to bad… this is what ya get.


One evening … late evening… I was the last one at the shop and I was heading home. I turned on the alarm and headed out the door. My usual ride home is my ever faithful old truck…. Gerdie…. She’s an old truck, a good one though. It’s an 84 Toyota 4X4, runs fantastic, stops on a dime, and looks like hell. I’d drive it to the coast and back and wouldn’t worry about a thing. I think of it as a show piece…. A 25 year old truck that runs like new… hey, we should all have one… why it’s probably due to the expert care she is given. Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with maintaining a maintenance schedule, and not “over-driving” the vehicle through conditions that would over work the designed capabilities from the manufacturer. I’ve owned this truck since it was new, I’ve serviced everything and anything it’s needed over the years. But back to the story….. I wanted to go home, but old Gerdie had other plans… seems the clutch master cylinder needed a bit of fluid. So I went back … unlocked the door and turned off the alarm… Grabbed a bottle of brake fluid and filled her back up for the trip home. In a bit of a hurry I spilled some of the fluid. I ran back in and grabbed a broom and some oil dry. It was about then that a car pulled up to the shop and a guy came into the office. Me, I was still outside, in fact I still had the keys hanging in the door. Why I even had forgotten to take off my old bib still full of tools.


Once I had filled the master cylinder back up I went back into the office.


“Anything I can do for you,” I asked.


“Yes, is there someone here that can help me with my car,” He answered.


“Sure, I can”


“But you’re the janitor… I need to talk to a mechanic”


Now, I realize that the lights are all off, the place is quiet and I’m standing there holding a half gallon jug of brake fluid, some oil dry and a broom….. I guess, you might assume that I’m the janitor… now wouldn’t you…


Well, he did…


“Well, sometimes I’m the janitor; then again, I’m also the complaint department, the head mechanic, and the bill payer around here. What ya need slick,” I said.


“My headlights aren’t working, the repair shop down the street said this was the place to get it fixed at. They said the connector is melted and there were no replacement parts,” he answered.


“Sure, no problem, can you drop it off tonight and I’ll get a look at it in the morning,” I asked.


“Well, ok, if you think you can fix it, I don’t want to leave it with just the janitor you know,” he hesitantly answered.


“Don’t worry, in the morning I’ll put my broom away and grab my test light.”


“Oh, OK, I’ll leave it with you… if that’s ok.”


I took down his information and the next day I made the repair without much of a problem. I didn’t call the customer, Mandy did and she didn’t have a problem with this guy, he was a typical nice guy customer. When he came to pick it up though, he asked Mandy if it would be alright if he thanked that nice janitor for taken his car in after hours last night. That’s about the time I came in from the shop, wearing my same bib of tools I had on the night before.


The new customer took one look at me, and said, “Oh, could you tell the mechanic that worked on my car that I would like to thank him personally?”


“Ya just did,” I said.


“Ah, sure, ah that’s nice, but do tell him that he did a great job, oh, and by the way, you’re doing a fine job of keeping this place cleaned up… wonderful work your doing,” he proudly said. He turns to Mandy, “I’m glad you folks have such a nice man on your staff, he’s doing a fine job.”


I didn’t have the heart to say anymore about the whole thing. I figure since this guy thinks I’m such a damned good janitor I might as well live up to it… I’ll just keep sweeping up around here.


Sooner or later I’ll learn a thing or two about fixing cars. But it is kind of nice being the janitor… heck; people don’t try to ask all those car questions to ya… I’m just the janitor you know. Makes me wonder how many “janitors” are really rocket scientists or something. It’s amazing to me how differently people think of you when you’re not the “guy”. Even though this incredibly thoughtful customer was only trying to thank me… the mechanic, I felt really honored to be thanked as the … janitor. Oh, and for all those rocket scientists turned janitors out there in the world… Don’t worry your secret is safe with me.



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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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