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The Magical Elf - Cars are our business, our Family is why we do


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The Magical Elf

There’s a Christmas tradition in our family involving a little magical elf. This elf lives in a box all year until December 1st. Then he magically comes to life. At night he gets into all kinds of mischief, and just before the little ones get up in the morning, he freezes motionless, wherever or whatever he was doing at that very moment. He’s been known to spill flour on the kitchen counters and make snow angels, sometimes he can be found sitting on the toothpaste tube, one night he even wrapped the big screen TV like a huge present with a large bow on top! He could be anywhere; you just never know what he’ll be into next, and he seems to stay busy getting into things all night long. But, even when he is motionless he’s actually working… watching and listening to all the children in the house. His job is to report back to Santa at the north pole just before Christmas eve, so Santa can be sure each and every little boy and girl is on the right list. You know, the “Naughty or Nice list”? That’s how Santa knows so much … he has his own spies… and that little elf doesn’t miss a thing.

My oldest daughter Katie wanted to start her own magical elf tradition at her house with her kids. Let me introduce you to my three adorable granddaughters; Kelsie is 12, she’s the nonbeliever. She doesn’t think Santa is real at all… that’s kid stuff… she’s all grown up, you know. Kaitlyn is 9, she’s the tattle-teller. Maybe more like the talker of the group… even if she’s a part of whatever trouble they’ve gotten into now, she’ll be the first to tell you all about it. And of course, she’s still a big fan of jolly old Saint Nick. Then there is Audrey, she’s 6. Now Audrey…well, she and Santa go way back. (Too cute for words the way she tells her stories about the guy with the white beard and the big red suit.) She’s all about decorating the tree, and making sure there are milk and cookies for Santa on his big day. With these little munchkins, you can count on one thing for sure, there’s always something about to unfold at their house, especially around the holidays.

This year was special, as it was the first year for their magical elf. He came in his own little elf box, all decorated like a little house. There are even holes on the sides for him to breathe, cause ya know, ya gotta keep him comfortable and all. The house rules about the magic elf when he is in his box are simple. No one is allowed near the box, no touching, no looking, no nothing. He’ll come out when he’s good and ready. So on the shelf this little house sat… waiting for the right time to make his entrance. All the kids knew what was in the box, because they all knew the story of the magical elf, and they all knew he would be informing Santa, well… except of course for the nonbeliever, she’s too old for that sort of thing you know.

It was December 1st, and Katie was so busy preoccupied with putting up decorations she had completely forgotten about the little elf. She had to get him out of the box and into his mischief as soon as possible, time for a plan, a plan that would distract them long enough for her to accomplish her mission. Katie had an idea that just might work. Get the younger two interested in decorating cookies while Kelsie was upstairs in her room. Then she could pop the little guy out of his box and put him somewhere for the girls to discover him later. The cookies were out of the oven, cooled off and the decorating began as planned. Katie made her way out to front room while the two were busy adding sprinkles to everything and anything that was on or near the cookies. She took a quick peak up the stairs to make sure there was no sign of Kelsie. So far so good, now to get the little elf out of his resting place.

As she carefully opened the box she could hear tiny footsteps coming down the hallway. The rush was on, Mom can’t be caught with the box opened, no turning back now… what’s this???? The new little elf is wire tied into his little house!!! Quick, quick, untie him and get him out of there! The footsteps grew closer as the last wire tie came loose, then with a quick fling the elf went sailing through the air and landed in the branches of the Christmas tree. His head was buried amongst all the lights and ornaments with only his butt and legs exposed… undignified yes, but no harm, no foul… the game was on. Just as the tattle-teller rounded the corner Katie was standing there with that typical motherly look we all know from being on the other end of the situation, and using her best “mom” voice while showing her the empty box said, “Kaitlyn have you been in this box? Where is the elf?” Kaitlyn completely surprised and in utter shock says, “No Mommy, I know not to touch it. It wasn’t me… honest…ah, ah, I think it was… ah, Audrey.” Of course by now, that mom voice brought the youngest one running into the room carrying a half-eaten cookie and leaving a long trail of sprinkles behind her. “Where’s the elf mommy?” she asked. Katie with that stern look still on her face said to her, “Did you open the box?” Audrey, now almost in tears thinking the little elf must have ran away, “No Mommy, where did he go?”

Katie wasn’t about to let up on the Mommy thing just yet, but decided to soften the blow of losing their new elf and assure them it was perfectly alright. She told the two girls, “Well, it is December 1st, and it is his day to magically come to life. I guess he got out, and is probably somewhere in the house.” About then the nonbeliever came down from her bedroom, “What’s going on?” Kaitlyn quickly told everything (as usual), “He got out, he’s in the house somewhere, and we’ve got to go find him! Come on, let’s go!” Now Kelsie, who didn’t seem so interested, is now very interested, because she knew something that they didn’t know. She was going to logically explain the whole thing… because she knew mom wouldn’t have known about it either. With a firm conviction Kelsie said to them, “There’s no way he could have gotten out. He was strapped in there!” (That little sneak peeker!!) Clearly she had more interest in that little elf than she let on.

Kelsie, being the oldest, took charge of the situation and told the other two, “You look over there, you go over there, and I’ll look over here.” Off went the three of them, running through the house in search of one small magical elf, while mom stood by the tree still clutching the empty box. They eventually found him and screamed with joy like the little girls they are. And as for Kelsie, well… I think she already knows mom is really Santa, (the hand writing and the way the packages are wrapped are just like her birthday presents… sorry mom, she’s figured it out.), but that magic elf… oh he’s real… he’s very real.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the magic of the season is for the kid in all of us, and sometimes all it takes is a little mischievous elf to bring out. Even Kelsie knows that now.

Wishing you and your family (and your little magical elves) a Very Merry Christmas.


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         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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