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I have never met a shop owner who didn’t have the desire to be successful. People go into business with dreams of changing the world and to make a positive influence in the industry to which they have dedicated their lives. They’re devoted, sacrifice time away from family and, at times, drive themselves to exhaustion—all in an effort to become the best they can be and make their mark. However, all too often, something happens along the way and the business begins to suffer. While shops owners may start their business with passion and vision, they tend to create a world in which everything revolves around them. When the business is small, the owner pays careful attention to every detail. Every car is repaired with the highest degree of excellence. Quality time is spent with each customer and a bond is created, which gets stronger and stronger as the years pass. As the business begins to grow, the owner realizes that the amount of work to be accomplished each day is overwhelming and hires more employees. Everyone is working, but not necessarily with the same culture the owner has. They do their job, but they are not really aligned with the goals and vision of the owner. The shop owner continues to work on his or her skills, learning everything that is needed to run a successful business. After a number of years, the shop owner becomes skilled at running a shop and proficient in nearly every aspect of business, except one: the area of people. And that is when the downward slide begins. The owner recognizes that, in spite of the dedication to excellence, things are not right. The shop owner has established the goals of the company and put everything in place. Everything is attainable. But it’s not working. Frustration sets in, and it’s not long before the owner begins to complain about the lack of performance and drive from the employees, which is the perceived root of the problem. Well, the root of the problem is the owner. We all know that running a business is not a walk in the park, but if your business is struggling, you, personally, are struggling. If your people are not performing the way they should, then you are not performing the way you should. Granted, there are employees that are a problem, and if that’s the case, they need to go. But even superstar employees will turn sour under poor leadership. There are endless issues and problems you encounter each and every day, and some of those problems are out of your control. But, excluding a cataclysmic event, you can trace most of your problems back to you. You are the shop owner, you are the leader. The strength of your business begins and ends with you. Given two equally talented ball teams, the difference between winning and losing is usually leadership. Employees need to know you care about them. The people you employ have vision and goals, too. Not the same as yours, but real nonetheless. One of your jobs, as leader, is to align their goals with yours. We throw this leadership term around a lot these days, and for good reason. It’s the most powerful skill you have in terms of getting the results for which you are looking. The horrible truth is there are too many bosses and not enough leaders. Anyone can be a boss. Bosses order people around. And people will follow, but not for the long term. A leader motivates others by understanding what drives the individual. A leader gives credit to others, never seeking gain at the expense of others. Next time you walk through your shop, pay attention to the mood of your employees. Are your employees laughing and talking to each other? You know, having a little fun at work. Do your employees look to engage in conversation with you, or are their heads buried under the hood of a car as you pass them by? Even worse, does everyone stop talking when you are around? These are signs that your employees are not engaged, which means they are not aligned with the goals and vision of the business, and you are not aligned with theirs. A leader finds out what’s important to others, and works to help them achieve it. Aligning the goals of the individual with the goals of the company will achieve great things. When employees are respected as people, they become motivated and perform at their best; not because they are told to, but because they want to. This is the highest form of team spirit and becomes your driving force toward success. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2018
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In my 38 year business career, it has always been an issue with summer vacations. We want our employees to enjoy life, but the summer is our busiest time. What are shop owners doing to maintain production, while balancing vacation time?
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It’s Doing the Same Thing Being on the mechanic's side of the counter, I've often wondered what does "the same thing" really mean? Nearly every time a customer comes up to the service counter, who has no background in automotive repair, or any idea at all on how repairs are made and what's all involved, but tells me, “It’s doing the same thing”, I have to ask myself… “How do they know?” Is it really doing exactly the same thing? Funny, how it turns out (99.9% of the time), that it’s NOT doing the same thing. I hear this rhetoric from customers now and then, but when my wife starts in on me with the good ol' 'It's doing the same thing', now I'm more than a little curious. Here's an example. We were about to head on our vacation when the bulb warning light on the dash came on indicating one of the rear lights was out. It was a side marker light on the driver’s side of the car. Easily changed and taken care of, and with all the commotion and last minute preparations, the warning light problem became a distant memory. So off we went on our little adventure. Several states and hundreds of miles later while the wife was driving, and I was taking a nap, she nudges me and says, “It’s doing the same thing”. Now I understand there is always the possibility that it really is doing the same thing, but really my dear … you’re married to a mechanic. Can we at least re-think how to inform me of such things? Yes, the light on the dash is “doing the same thing”, but let’s try rephrasing it to the guy just waking up from a pleasant-no-stress-day-off. How about: “The warning light is back on, dear.” At least that way I won’t feel like I’m back at the shop trying to decipher the latest “doing the same thing” dilemma. I’m on vacation for heaven’s sake! At the next stop I performed the usual "walk around" and noticed the passenger side marker light that was out this time. Not to be outwitted by a little warning light, I gave the lens a little tap. Low and behold, the filament lit up, and off we went. As we traveled down the road I had plenty of time to ponder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Doing the same thing”. Over the years I’ve seen this escalate into complete madness at the front counter or end up with a tap on a bulb lens. As in my wife’s case, the dash warning light could only indicate that a bulb was out and which end of the car it was. However, when a customer lays down a chunk of their hard earned cash their interpretation doesn’t include the possibility of multiple issues controlled by the same warning light. From their perspective, it's doing the same thing. A few weeks ago I had a 1995 Saturn in the shop that had been all over town, as well as to every relative who owned a tool box. No one seemed able to get the air conditioning to cool. Part after part was changed, but still no cold air. When I finally had a crack at it I was surprised at what I found. The connector for the A/C compressor was exactly the same style and type as the low coolant level sensor mounted in the over-flow bottle. Somebody had flip-flopped the connectors. Once I found the problem the cure was simple… just reverse the connectors and “Ta-Da” cold air. All the functions were working, cooling fan, line pressure, vent temperature, everything was great. Even the “low coolant” light was operating correctly. But where would this story be without a 'It's doing the same thing' scenario. A few weeks later I get a call, you guessed it… “Doing the same thing”. Now, I’m no dummy, I know what they meant. They're actually telling me that it's not making cold air again. I informed them it was probably leaking refrigerant or something like that, but I seriously doubt somebody switched the connectors again. They weren’t buying that, they kept insisting that it’s doing exactly the same thing as before. Even after reading the description of the repair on the invoice, and telling me they totally understood it… they still can't break away from the common reply... it's “Doing the same thing”. This follows right along with the typical scenario right after changing out a blower motor for a customer and a week later they're back because their air conditioning isn’t cold. I’ll ask, “When did you notice the air wasn’t cold?” The usual answer, “Right after you changed the blower motor.” I should have a guy in the background with a drum set patiently waiting for me to ask, "So when did you notice the problem?" and when the customer delivers the inevitable punch line, the drummer could bang out the classic drum roll-rim tap and cymbal crash. A priceless moment for every counter person. The way I see it, the consumer brought their car into a repair shop for a professional evaluation of a problem, and expect to never see a related or similar problem ever again. But, as soon as the work is done and some other problem creeps up that seems to be more than a little bit like what they just had repaired, the mechanic is soon to have the same thing happen again. The fact that there are other things that can go wrong can be a huge mountain to climb. But, with some diplomacy, and tact, a good counterman can get through these situations. One thing for sure, as the mechanic, you've got to get in there and solve the problem no matter if it's the same thing or not. Generally, (from my past experiences) the same thing is hardly ever the 'same thing'. The Saturn, was a faulty compressor due to the fact the last shop didn't add enough oil to the compressor, the replaced blower motor problem, was a faulty low pressure switch, and the wife's car, well... she hasn't had to tap on the bulb lens ever since. But to me.... it's all the same thing.
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Looking forward and thinking about business goals for the future, I'm wondering if there is such a thing as a sales volume, personnel, or facility sweet spot for profitability. I'm in a semi-retirement mode already, so having profits to spend is a priority over simply growing the business for growths sake. I really enjoy being in business and planning and reaching for goals, but wondering about what those goals for the business should be. I've reviewed some industry financial data without any clear conclusions, but I'm wondering what folks here think or have seen or experienced. A little about where I'm at currently. I started this business from scratch 7 years ago. We currently have 8 employees and did 1.3 in 2017. Any wisdom from you who have been doing this longer?
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By Chris Monroe of Elite We have all felt that empty feeling in our gut when a client walks back in the door with the “look” shortly after installing that new set of tires on their BMW. As they uncomfortably begin to describe some rim damage that didn’t exist when the car was dropped off…yuck.
Yes, you have policies in place to address such situations, but for whatever reason, the training on quality control has failed and now you are left to deal with the fallout. What next?
It is obvious there is a quality control issue that must be addressed, but how you take the next steps are very critical to the image of your business, as well as the credibility of your team.
The first step is to remain calm while reviewing with the client their concerns. Walk out to the vehicle and allow them to express what they feel is of issue. Once you have listened and observed with sincerity, start the process of restoration.
In our case, we had an incorrect set up on the tire machine with a low profile run-flat that ultimately allowed contact with the rim. This scratched the lip in multiple places. In addition, the technician continued with the installation without stopping to involve the advisor so we could get in front of the issue with the client. The technician did tell the advisor, but the timing was such that the client looked at the assembly on the car prior to checking out. Imagine how much easier this would have been had the advisor gotten to the client immediately to make them aware and assure them that we would professionally restore or replace the wheel.
Needless to say, I spent the next day with each and every technician reviewing the situation and the importance of why we have policy and process in place. Our technicians are now well aware of what to do (stop immediately and report the issue to the advising team) if damage occurs or could occur to a client’s vehicle, and understand the importance of getting in “front” of these concerns.
A better example this week where a technician wisely notated worn lug nuts and a partially damaged center cap “before” we began work. He gave the advisor a quick heads up that enabled a client visit to the vehicle to see in person and discuss the concerns. Not only did we replace the brakes on the car, but also replaced 20 lug-nuts and 4 center caps! The service concluded with the client scheduling another vehicle for service and thanking our team for being honest and helping resolve the issues. (This ain’t rocket science folks)
If you are in the automotive service business, incidents can and will happen. Coach and train your team on how to handle these situations, and demonstrate how important timing is with advising your client. Your shop's reputation and credibility ride on it. This article was provided by Chris Monroe, an industry leading shop owner who recently won the 2018 Tire Dealer of the Year Award, and a Business Development Coach who helps other shop owners reach their goals through the Elite Coaching Program.
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By brian lorenzo
I am need of some advise. So the last year and a half we have had an up and down roller coaster of a ride. I have spent pat of my time trying to get our newest location up and running and neglected our original. In that time I have had a rash of "bad" employees, both techs and counter people. Quite a few upset customers and quite a turn over. 1 or 2 in particular have completely destroyed our reputation. We lost our core clientele as well as low car caking l, aro and overall phone calls and business. During this stretch, we would have great months when I or my GM would be there full time, then the complaints, and crash when we relaxed. April this year we had our worst month since 2008 right after 4 consecutive good months. Does anyone have any type of suggestions on how to go about repairing the damage that has been done?
I presently have one bulk oil tank that is dispensed from an overhead reel in the shop and we use case goods for all other needs. The bulk oil route was great years ago but late model vehicles require so many different oils that most of my volume is now from case goods. Bulk oil is probably still the best route for dealers that primarily use one grade of oil however it no longer meets my needs since I have limited space and I am unable to have multiple bulk tanks. I recently investigated "bag-in-box" rack systems. For those of you who are unfamiliar, "bag-in-box" is 6 gallons of oil in a cardboard box with a plastic bag "bladder" that has a spigot. The 6 gallon boxes are stored on a rack that has graduated pitchers under each box. Open a spigot, fill the pitcher to the desired amount, pour the pitcher into the engine. No large bulk tank, no pump, no piping, no overhead reel. The size of the 6 gallon box (24 qts) is about the same size as a regular case of oil (12 qts). I had a meeting with a sales rep from GH Berlin Windward yesterday. They offer "bag-in-box" rack systems from Kendall, Valvoline, Mobil, Chevron, Peak and Navi-guard (house brand).
Are any of you using a "bag-in-box" rack system? Do you have any comments or tips?
I have wanted to start my own shop for a while. I am having trouble finding resources for this matter. I am wondering how you started your businesses. Capital, business plans, first year profits? I am master tech and make decent money however I have two houses and a family to support. So, to jump into a business I would need enough money to fall back on while the business grows. I would definitely start out with a small shop to keep cost down. Any help will be appreciated.
I will be honest and upfront, I am not a auto-shop owner. I do work in the industry however, as I represent a lubricant manufacturing/distributing company located in Ontario.
I have a question, and I would greatly appreciate some feedback.
I know that the second I walk into most shops, as the salesman for my company, I am not met with much adoration or appreciation. I understand this. I know that you are extremely busy, and I am interrupting your day. I DO however come with options that can potentially allow you to earn more money. Which is how I look at it, as opposed to simply trying to make sales and pad my wallet (which is not the case.)
What I am hoping to achieve here is some insight on how to get through to my target demographic in a more effective manner. If I can provide a product that allows you to increase your margins, I would imagine that you would be excited about this prospect. This is not, however, how I am usually received.
Which is more important to you? Brand? Service? Or does it simply boil down to cost?
I apologize if this is perhaps not the best avenue to be seeking information from, but I thought getting a response directly from the source might be the best way to get direct responses.
Thank you very much everyone, and all the best.