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    • Article: Helming Your Ship

      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 Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Articles

        
      • 1 reply
      • 11 views
    • Article: Two Faced

      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, in AutoShopOwner Articles

        
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      • 7 views
    • Article: 12 Days of Christmas

      12 Days of Christmas        at an Automotive Repair Shop   You know the song, so just sing along with me in the holiday spirit.   On the 1st day of Christmas  a customer sent to me: A cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 2nd day Christmas a customer sent to me: 2 Latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 3rd day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 3 Wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.    On the 4th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 4 Wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 5th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 5 Piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 6th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 6 Brand new sockets, 5 piston rings,  4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 7th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 7 Dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings,  4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 8th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 8 Engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 9th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 9 Coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 10th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 10 Headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 11th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 11 Gears a-grinding, 10 headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   On the 12th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 12 Trannys slipping, 11 gears a-grinding, 10 headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings,  4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun.   Speaking on behalf of the entire automotive repair industry, Thank you to all our customers for their patronage.  We appreciate it. Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 1 reply
      • 24 views
    • Customer's buying their own parts

      Hey guys. I'm new to the forum and was looking for this subject but couldn't find it. Sorry If I'm posted something that's already been discussed. I own a brake shop in Austin, TX. We do anywhere from 10-20 brake jobs a day. We only do brakes so I don't know how much full service auto shops deal with this problem but... Customers are constantly calling in claiming they've bought the best parts or they want to provide their own parts because they've done research and know what is best. This drives me crazy. First of all they don't know whats best. Then after being told no they get offended and act like tons of shops allow this. What is the best way to handle these customers? Just send them away? I'll quote them a price using our parts and they act as though its a rip off. What shops are doing this for their customers? I feel like I'm letting jobs get away from me. Any experience with this?

      By Jonathan Ganther, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 78 replies
      • 3,807 views
    • Broken Parts

      Are you guys charging your techs for parts they break? In the past we have never made our techs pay for something they broke, the shop did and talked to the tech about what they need to do to prevent this in the future. It's getting old though. 2 weeks ago one young tech back a mirror into a pole so we bought a new mirror. This week, a different tech while removing a fuel tank, didn't discount the fuel lines on top first and ended up dropping the tank too fast and broke the fuel sending unit. On this truck that is a $300+ part that we are now eating on a $500 ticket. I want to tell the tech he is responsible, and will have to pay the shop back for the part. What say you? 

      By ADP, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 6 replies
      • 309 views
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