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Cheap, Good,Fast Those three little words....

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If you're in the auto repair business like I am, you know there are certain times and events throughout the year that dictate how business is going to flow in the shop. Sometimes it's a good thing; sometimes the shop moves really fast, other times it's so slow you have enough spare time to build a canoe and wait for the rain to come.


For me, I can just about plan my year by the calendar. School starts, shop goes dead. Holidays, shop goes dead. Tax season, shop goes dead, change political parties, shop goes dead. Any long stretch of mid-70 degree days with no need for air conditioning, heater, or the wipers, shop goes dead. Pretty much anything that upsets the balance of the space-time-continuum, the shop goes dead. However, through all the usual up and down cycles I manage to keep the doors open.


There are so many different things that can get in the way of maintaining a full shop. Of course, in the midst of all this chaos I have to find time to keep up with the current technology, and at the same time, purchase any new equipment to go along with this new technology.


I try not to buy the cheapest scanner or tool out there. I've seen the results of poor judgment when it comes to that. Fast service to the customer is a plus. However, too fast and you may over look things. I'd like to think I am doing the best I can with every job that comes into the shop. Hopefully, keeping in mind to not go too fast, not use cheap parts, and always give good service.


There's no doubt that the electronic age has affected every part of our daily lives. I see it even more when it comes to car maintenance and general repairs. Even with all of this technology they haven't been able to get rid of the technician and a toolbox. There's still a need for a trained technician to be under the hood doing the hands-on work to get the car back out on the road.


I hear so much talk about "Weeding" out the cheap shops, and promoting the good ones in the automotive repair trade. I believe that's a good thing, a really good thing; it puts all of us in the business on the fast track to success, and hopefully gives more credibility to the automotive repair shops out there. Although, as it is in the real world, for some people, all they really want is cheap. Cheap enough that their pocketbook doesn't dry up after a car repair. Let's face it, as long as there are those "Bottom-feeder" shops out there, and people willing to go to them, little is going to change.


That's where one of my favorite little quotes comes into play. It goes like this: "There are three things you can have in auto repair or any business for that matter… and that's--- "Good, Cheap, and Fast". The only problem is that you can only choose two of these. Choose wisely, because the one you did "not" pick, you must use it to finish this sentence: "It's not going to be very _____." I've heard this quote from a lot of different sources. It's nothing new. I wouldn't doubt it's been around for a hundred years or more, but it's still true even today.


To bring it into some modern terms let's take this example: "Temporary battery clamps."


You know the ones you find on about 50% of the cars that come into the shop? Hmm… they're not called "Replacement Clamps," now are they? No, the common term I've heard for years for them is: "Temporary Clamps." (Call the parts store and ask for temporary clamps, see what they send you.) So, why are so many of them installed and then left on the car? Well, let's see, they're cheap, and they can be installed pretty fast. Would I say they are good, well, good for a while… they're only temporary right? Thus, the answer to this one is "Cheap and Fast" and the results are: It's not going to be very – Good.


Maybe I'm just a little crazy, but wouldn't it make more sense to invest in a battery clamp crimping tool, some good replacement clamps, a few sections of color-coded shrink tubing to seal the ends, and take the time to repair them correctly? Hmmm, problem here….. if I was using the quote as a guideline, it would read: "It's not going to be very "Cheap". Again, those three little words come into play again.


For me, the real funny part, is how-in-the-world did you end up needing a new clamp in the first place? Oh, that's right, the maintenance was neglected, or should I say… somebody was too cheap to get regular maintenance done. There are always other reasons you know; I could go on about those… Am I moving too fast for ya? I'm not? Good.


I guess it all goes back to that "Good, Cheap, and Fast thing". It's amazing how it seems to always end up with those three little words to explain it all. I don't think it really matters whether it's something for the house, or that awful hotel room you stayed in, or even a battery clamp. Some way or another things can or will go wrong if poor choices are made on just about anything in life.


So keep this little quote handy and see how often it works out there in the real world. I have it posted in the front office area, and when someone asks I'll tell them, while pointing to the little sign: "If you want it cheap, and you want it fast"…


"It's not going to be very… Good."


Hope you enjoy the stories, leave a comment if you'd like. These stories are here before final editing and publication. Always love to hear from everyone. Don't forget to stop by my website www.gonzostoolbox.com Gonzo

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I couldn't agree more Joe. I could sit here and write ten pages of what I think of the whole thing... but I might as well save that for another story. Gonzo

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  • 2 years later...
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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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