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Joe Marconi

Management
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Everything posted by Joe Marconi

  1. Last week I was at a resort with family and the grandkids. We had a great time and it was a much-needed vacaction. For one day, I did it....I left my cell phone in the hotel room safe. It was not easy, and we all know how addicted we all are to our phones and laptops. The day passed and guess what? Nothing urgent happened. And if it did, I need to put trust in the people I employ that all will be taken care of. So, the question is: Can shop owners truly ever unplug from the outside world?
  2. A few weeks back I had a problem with my refrigerator. I got a referral and called an appliance repair company. I called three times and each time I called this is what happened: "C and E appliance, please hold." I was put on hold three times for about 5 minutes. After being put on hold each time, a women would say, "What's the problem?" No engagement, no sign of interest for me the customer, no signs of caring. I gave the women a brief description of the problem and each time she told me someone would call me back. Well, no one did. So, I called for the 4th time, and as the person answered the phone I said, "DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD." There was silence, so I continued. I explained to her that she has spoken to me three times, I left messages three times and three times you told me that someone would call me back. She replied, "You are talking to the wrong person, if you have any complaints, write a letter to my boss, after all he won't listen to me anyway." I hung up the phone and called another company. The lesson and takeaway here is simple: Who's answering your phone? The wrong people on the phone in your shop can kill your business. Have meetings with your people. Make sure you review your phone skills policy. If you don't have one, create one. Empower your people to people to handle issues. And make sure you log every phone call. If you feel you have a problem, start recording phone calls. Your phone is your lifeline to future business. So, please ask yourself....Who's answering your phone?
  3. We all have our favorite customers. You know who there are. They’re the ones that throw their keys on the service counter in the morning and say, “Do what you need to do and I’ll see you at 5 p.m.” They never question your price, they trust you and they keep coming back. But does that person define your true profile customer? The answer is probably yes. But it’s not the only criteria. It’s a little more complicated than that. Defining your true profile customer starts with you. It starts with who you are, why you are in business and the culture of your company. By the way, determining your true profile customer has nothing to do with excluding certain people due to their income level. The young 23-year-old college graduate who sets aside part of her paycheck to shop at Whole Foods does so because she believes in the company and for what they stand. It’s not about what she “supposedly” can or cannot afford. She is Whole Foods’ profile customer because she aligns herself with that brand. And Whole Foods welcomes her with open arms. Many of my profile customers endured tough economic times during the Great Recession of 2008. They lost their ability to pay for some of the things they previously could afford. What they didn’t lose was their loyalty to my company. So, what did we do? We helped them through that difficult time. We helped them manage their car care needs better, offering services that would save on fuel, reduce repair costs, and reduce breakdowns. We showed them how to squeeze every mile out of their tires and brakes. We took care of them and we still do to this day. We consider them family and we don’t turn our backs on family. One thing we didn’t do, and will never do, is compromise on price to get a job. That would not be fair to all my customers, my employees or the company. With regard to pricing your services and repairs, it’s a delicate balance between being profitable and competitive. But I don’t know of any shop that prefers a customer walk away or sends someone to another shop because he or she cannot afford a particular price. A smart service advisor will give options, prioritize the work needed, and offer finance options. If you’re a startup company, your doors are wide open to everyone. You need customers and car counts, and you need them right away. But as your business matures, you begin to realize that not everyone is your customer. And there’s nothing wrong with this realization. As you build your customer base, you begin to see that there are customers that respect the work you do, align themselves with your culture and appreciate what you do for them and for the community. They become your profile customers. Let’s say you sponsor a youth baseball team in your area, help out at community events and involved with local fundraisers. You will become known as the business person that cares about the community and children. That’s making your business stand out among the rest. As you define who you are, you also attract those that want to do business with you and support your brand. While I do recommend treating everyone the same, I don’t recommend trying to be everything to everyone. That’s not a sound marketing strategy—that’s a recipe for failure. Defining your customer and targeting your market does not isolate consumers. It actually increases market share. Here’s an important fact: In your geographical area, automotive shops basically do the same thing; they repair and service automobiles. So, how is a consumer going to choose you over another? You need to stand out. You need to be different. You need to build a brand culture and establish a marketing position that will make people take notice. By the way, every successful company, large and small, understands its true profile customer and creates a marketing plan on attracting them. One last thing: When you build a business around your culture, you put the focus on your brand and the value you provide. This strategy is one of your pathways to success. When you combine value with culture, you will have an enduring and profitable company. If you want to build a great company, ask yourself these questions: Why are you in business? What’s your life’s purpose? Your culture? Build a marketing strategy and a brand message around the answers to these questions. Not all people will take notice, but your profile customers will. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on August 3, 2018 View full article
  4. We all have our favorite customers. You know who there are. They’re the ones that throw their keys on the service counter in the morning and say, “Do what you need to do and I’ll see you at 5 p.m.” They never question your price, they trust you and they keep coming back. But does that person define your true profile customer? The answer is probably yes. But it’s not the only criteria. It’s a little more complicated than that. Defining your true profile customer starts with you. It starts with who you are, why you are in business and the culture of your company. By the way, determining your true profile customer has nothing to do with excluding certain people due to their income level. The young 23-year-old college graduate who sets aside part of her paycheck to shop at Whole Foods does so because she believes in the company and for what they stand. It’s not about what she “supposedly” can or cannot afford. She is Whole Foods’ profile customer because she aligns herself with that brand. And Whole Foods welcomes her with open arms. Many of my profile customers endured tough economic times during the Great Recession of 2008. They lost their ability to pay for some of the things they previously could afford. What they didn’t lose was their loyalty to my company. So, what did we do? We helped them through that difficult time. We helped them manage their car care needs better, offering services that would save on fuel, reduce repair costs, and reduce breakdowns. We showed them how to squeeze every mile out of their tires and brakes. We took care of them and we still do to this day. We consider them family and we don’t turn our backs on family. One thing we didn’t do, and will never do, is compromise on price to get a job. That would not be fair to all my customers, my employees or the company. With regard to pricing your services and repairs, it’s a delicate balance between being profitable and competitive. But I don’t know of any shop that prefers a customer walk away or sends someone to another shop because he or she cannot afford a particular price. A smart service advisor will give options, prioritize the work needed, and offer finance options. If you’re a startup company, your doors are wide open to everyone. You need customers and car counts, and you need them right away. But as your business matures, you begin to realize that not everyone is your customer. And there’s nothing wrong with this realization. As you build your customer base, you begin to see that there are customers that respect the work you do, align themselves with your culture and appreciate what you do for them and for the community. They become your profile customers. Let’s say you sponsor a youth baseball team in your area, help out at community events and involved with local fundraisers. You will become known as the business person that cares about the community and children. That’s making your business stand out among the rest. As you define who you are, you also attract those that want to do business with you and support your brand. While I do recommend treating everyone the same, I don’t recommend trying to be everything to everyone. That’s not a sound marketing strategy—that’s a recipe for failure. Defining your customer and targeting your market does not isolate consumers. It actually increases market share. Here’s an important fact: In your geographical area, automotive shops basically do the same thing; they repair and service automobiles. So, how is a consumer going to choose you over another? You need to stand out. You need to be different. You need to build a brand culture and establish a marketing position that will make people take notice. By the way, every successful company, large and small, understands its true profile customer and creates a marketing plan on attracting them. One last thing: When you build a business around your culture, you put the focus on your brand and the value you provide. This strategy is one of your pathways to success. When you combine value with culture, you will have an enduring and profitable company. If you want to build a great company, ask yourself these questions: Why are you in business? What’s your life’s purpose? Your culture? Build a marketing strategy and a brand message around the answers to these questions. Not all people will take notice, but your profile customers will. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on August 3, 2018
  5. As a young tech, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I diagnosed every car with the accuracy and skill of a Greek god. My efficiency week after week was over 150 percent, and with no comebacks. As a shop owner, I sold every job, and at a profit. Each new day was better than the day before. Boy, when I look back, I was amazing. Those were days. OK, OK, perhaps I am stretching the truth a bit. The fact is my past was not a smoothly paved road to success, but rather an obstacle course riddled with emotional and financial potholes, with more ups and downs than the biggest rollercoaster. Was it amazing? Oh, yes. Amazing because of all the mistakes I made along the way. As the years have piled up in my life, I often find myself thinking back to the “old days” and judge people by how “perfect” I thought I was back then. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was a good technician and somehow evolved into an accomplished businessman. But was I really as good as I remember? I was outside the bays talking with my manager when Nick, one of my techs, began his road test on a Chevy Tahoe. As he passed us I could hear that unique “squeaky” sound a seized, worn out u-joint makes. I yelled to him, “Hey, check the u-joints.” He nodded his head and drove off. About 30 minutes later, I walked over to Nick and asked him what he found on his multipoint inspection. He told me that the wiper blades were torn, there’s a little play in the right side outer tie road and he recommends a four-wheel balance with a wheel alignment. I asked him, “What about the u-joints?” Nick replied, “They’re fine; nice and tight.” I could feel the tension begin to rise when I continued with, “Nick, I asked you to check the u-joints because I could hear that something was wrong. How did you check the u-joints? Do you know how to check u-joints?” Nick was visibly upset, so I suggested another road test—this time with me. During the road test, I told Nick to roll down the windows and listen. I said, “Do you hear that squeaky sound? That’s a seized u-joint.” Nick listened closely and then said, “I never heard that noise before.” To myself, I said, “You must be kidding me! How in the world can this tech not know it’s a seized u-joint?” But, thankfully I paused, and replied with, “Nick, how old are you? He responded proudly, “Twenty-one, boss.” Nick is a recent graduate of a well known tech school. He comes to work on time, works hard, and learns every day. His production improves each month. He has a lot of raw talent and a great attitude. At 21, how in the world could he know what I know at 63? I often forget how young some of my employees are. I also need to remember that people will make mistakes and they need the time to hone their skills through years of experience. They don’t have the gray hair of knowledge that often comes with decades of experience. Allowing people to grow will mean making mistakes. A tech will make the wrong diagnosis. A service advisor will lose a sale or forget to sell the tire rotation. But, did you or I diagnosis every car correctly? Did we make every sale? Were we absolutely perfect in everything we did? Of course not. So let’s be a little more understanding. I am not suggesting we settle for mediocrity. People need to strive for excellence. But even the best home run hitter will strike out at times. As business owners, especially those from my generation, it’s our job to pass the baton, to teach others, to be a mentor and a coach. Don’t be too judgmental. If we are honest with ourselves when we look back on our lives, we will see triumphs mixed with a lot tough days. When you feel yourself losing your temper or getting upset over the mistakes or lack of knowledge from one of your employees, just think back and view your own past. Don’t look back with a skewed memory of your greatness, but with an honest recollection of your struggles and mistakes. And you never know, you just might help others avoid some of the mistakes you made. Oh, by the way, my approach with the way I handled the situation with Nick and the seized u-joint? Another mistake on my part. So even at 63, I am still making mistakes. Kind of humbling, right? This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 6, 2018
  6. As a young tech, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I diagnosed every car with the accuracy and skill of a Greek god. My efficiency week after week was over 150 percent, and with no comebacks. As a shop owner, I sold every job, and at a profit. Each new day was better than the day before. Boy, when I look back, I was amazing. Those were days. OK, OK, perhaps I am stretching the truth a bit. The fact is my past was not a smoothly paved road to success, but rather an obstacle course riddled with emotional and financial potholes, with more ups and downs than the biggest rollercoaster. Was it amazing? Oh, yes. Amazing because of all the mistakes I made along the way. As the years have piled up in my life, I often find myself thinking back to the “old days” and judge people by how “perfect” I thought I was back then. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was a good technician and somehow evolved into an accomplished businessman. But was I really as good as I remember? I was outside the bays talking with my manager when Nick, one of my techs, began his road test on a Chevy Tahoe. As he passed us I could hear that unique “squeaky” sound a seized, worn out u-joint makes. I yelled to him, “Hey, check the u-joints.” He nodded his head and drove off. About 30 minutes later, I walked over to Nick and asked him what he found on his multipoint inspection. He told me that the wiper blades were torn, there’s a little play in the right side outer tie road and he recommends a four-wheel balance with a wheel alignment. I asked him, “What about the u-joints?” Nick replied, “They’re fine; nice and tight.” I could feel the tension begin to rise when I continued with, “Nick, I asked you to check the u-joints because I could hear that something was wrong. How did you check the u-joints? Do you know how to check u-joints?” Nick was visibly upset, so I suggested another road test—this time with me. During the road test, I told Nick to roll down the windows and listen. I said, “Do you hear that squeaky sound? That’s a seized u-joint.” Nick listened closely and then said, “I never heard that noise before.” To myself, I said, “You must be kidding me! How in the world can this tech not know it’s a seized u-joint?” But, thankfully I paused, and replied with, “Nick, how old are you? He responded proudly, “Twenty-one, boss.” Nick is a recent graduate of a well known tech school. He comes to work on time, works hard, and learns every day. His production improves each month. He has a lot of raw talent and a great attitude. At 21, how in the world could he know what I know at 63? I often forget how young some of my employees are. I also need to remember that people will make mistakes and they need the time to hone their skills through years of experience. They don’t have the gray hair of knowledge that often comes with decades of experience. Allowing people to grow will mean making mistakes. A tech will make the wrong diagnosis. A service advisor will lose a sale or forget to sell the tire rotation. But, did you or I diagnosis every car correctly? Did we make every sale? Were we absolutely perfect in everything we did? Of course not. So let’s be a little more understanding. I am not suggesting we settle for mediocrity. People need to strive for excellence. But even the best home run hitter will strike out at times. As business owners, especially those from my generation, it’s our job to pass the baton, to teach others, to be a mentor and a coach. Don’t be too judgmental. If we are honest with ourselves when we look back on our lives, we will see triumphs mixed with a lot tough days. When you feel yourself losing your temper or getting upset over the mistakes or lack of knowledge from one of your employees, just think back and view your own past. Don’t look back with a skewed memory of your greatness, but with an honest recollection of your struggles and mistakes. And you never know, you just might help others avoid some of the mistakes you made. Oh, by the way, my approach with the way I handled the situation with Nick and the seized u-joint? Another mistake on my part. So even at 63, I am still making mistakes. Kind of humbling, right? This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 6, 2018 View full article
  7. Not every shop pays flat rat; for many reasons. So, many techs are on hourly pay. There is nothing wrong with hourly pay, as long as you have an incentive program in place that promotes high production levels to avoid complacency. For hourly paid employees I strongly urge you to have a pay plan that rewards production levels on a sliding scale. As a business coach, I have seen too many times shops with low production levels and high tech payroll due to overtime pay. Overtime pay must not be used to get the jobs done with no regard to labor production. Limit overtime and create a strategy that increases production and rewards techs with production bonuses. By the way, there are many ways to incentivize techs, it's not all about money. Overtime without high levels of production will eat into profits and if not controlled, with kill your business. If your shop is an hourly paid shop, what incentives do you have in place to maintain production levels?
  8. In addition to finding techs, we need to also consider "home grown" techs. There are shops that have been very sucessful with hiring entry level techs and creating a career path and training program. Let's face it, at one time every Master Tech was an enrty level tech. I know this takes time, but it's worth considering for the long term.
  9. Our industry has many shop owners well into their 60s and 70s, some even older. For many, they have taken a secondary role and have handed the business off to a younger family member. For others, they know that there are more years behind them then in front of them and planning their exit plan or succession plan. A question for all the senior shop owners out there. What are your plans for future? Sell the business? Keep it in the family? Continue to work as long as your can? Or something else?
  10. Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels. I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive. What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?
  11. Joe Marconi

    Shop Warranty policy

    A great warranty can be used as a marketing tool. It gives the customer peace of mind and shows you stand behind your work. I would post it everywhere; on the customer's invoice (usually on the bottom), on your website and on a company brochure. Some shops have a separate document they give to the customer. This is a nice touch and makes the warranty really stand out. It also communicates that the warranty is a cut above everyone else's. One thing, to really hit a home run with any warranty, make sure it is mentioned when making a sale and also when the customer picks up the car. Great question and again, a great warranty is a great marketing tool.
  12. Joe Marconi

    Shop Owners: Celebrate July 4th!

    Your situation is a tough one. And I am not happy with what I read and read between the lines. I truly hope things improve with you and your shop. Every work environment must have high morale and a team atmosphere. I have worked in the shop with 100 plus degree weather along with my techs and it can only be done if everyone has the right attitude and the right leadership. When you have teamwork, high morale and strong leadership, the heat does not affect everyone as much. With poor morale, no team spirit and no true leader, the heat will kill you.
  13. July 4th is this Wednesday. And as a shop owner, it means that sales may suffer. But, there is more to life than sales. Celebrate July 4th; commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence! Speak with your employees about their plans for the holiday. This will send a message that you care about them as people, and that it’s not always about business. With the right attitude, you will build morale and you will make up those sales. And let’s face it; we all need a little time off now and then.
  14. The best run businesses are those that know what they do best. I am not opposed to adding services, just be sure you it's in line with your business model. Also, trying to be everything to everyone will back fire. So, my advice is to sit down and determine what services and repairs fit your business model and make sure that what ever you offer, you do efficiently. You added oil changes a few years back; that's great. One suggestion I would make is to also add preventive maintenance services. People keep their cars longer these days and offering services that protect and extend the life of their cars is well worth considering. Best of luck!
  15. Great effort on such an important topic. If the entire industry, including shops, get involved with growing our own techs, we will solve the tech shortage. We also need to create a work environment and pay plans that attract talent to our industry.
  16. Joe Marconi

    Happy July 4th!

    On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event. Let's all celebrate this day and remeber that we live in the great nation on the planet!
  17. Joe Marconi

    Consider Joining Family Service Day!

    We had our 2nd Family Service Day Event this past Saturday, June 30th. It was amazing! We help 7 families from the community. Every family was so grateful. Some even cried. Family Service Day originated in 2009 with a Williamsburg, Virginia based company, American Pride Auto, owned by Charlie Marcotte. The idea was simple: offer support to single parent families and deployed military by offering the gifts and talents we have been given, the ability to repair and service vehicles, for free. Family Service Day is a great way to get involved with your local community. All my employees volunteer their time. We had two radio stations there doing live remotes, food and games for the kids. Shop owners, I recommend that you find out more about Family Service Day. Below is a link for more information: http://www.familyserviceday.org/
  18. At the Ratchet + Wrench Conference last month, I met Charlie Marcotte, owner of Amerian Pride Auto in Virginia and the founder of Family Service Day. After doing a little research, I joined the organization. Family Service Day originated in 2009 with a Williamsburg, Virginia based company, American Pride Auto. The idea was simple: offer support to single parent families and deployed military by offering the gifts and talents we have been given, the ability to repair vehicles, for free. There are really no limitations — if you have desire to make an impact in your community, Family Service Day is a great way to get involved. Getting involved in your community is the best way to make your shop stand out as the business that cares about people. Plus, it will get your staff involved which will boost morale. You can reach out to your vendors for help with parts and also get major businesses in your area to help sponsor the event. Shop owners, I recommend that you find out more about Family Service Day. Below is a link for more information: http://www.familyserviceday.org/
  19. Has any signed up or know of this product? "Truvideo" BG has partnered with a company called Truvideo. The process allows you to take a short video of the car and document any issues. The video is then sent to the customer, either thru a text message or email. The tech or service advisor narrates the video. The customer can see on video things like worn brakes, worn tires, a leaking hose, etc. I think that this has its place in the multipoint process. Below is a link for more information. Your thoughts? https://www.bgprod.com/programs/truvideo/
  20. I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office. We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive. Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think. Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
  21. The day to day operations of running a business can take its toll on anyone. To be a business owner means to address problem after problem and finding the right solutions. Sometimes the decisions we make will be the right ones, sometimes not. If we are not careful, this emotional roller coaster we call being in business, can make us focus too much on the negative, and not the positive things that happen in our lives. With nearly 4 decades as a business owner, I can say with certainty that one of the basic building blocks of being successful in business is having the right team of people around you and getting yourself in the right frame of mind. You need to find and hire great people. But once you have them, you need to do all you can to take care of them, train them and make them successful in order for you to be successful. Is it easy? No. But it is essential. Most important; you need to treat each day as if it were a gift from the heavens and base your entire perspective from a position of strength and remaining positive. I know it’s not easy, but I can tell you, it works.
  22. @Joe Marconi Buying lunch on Saturdays, and coffee and donuts during the week does show appreciation for your employees. It also set the right tone and improves morale. I can tell you that the greatest thing I learned about being in business is that your success is found through the success of others. The job of the leader is to ensure the success of others.
  23. Automotive mechanics is perhaps the most challenging career. What we need to know and to keep pace is monumental. It's rewarding too, but tough at the same time. You bring up great points Gonzo!


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