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Joe Marconi

Management
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Everything posted by Joe Marconi

  1. January and February have always been a struggle. People are still paying off credit card bills from the holidays, heating bills are an issue, the weather is a problem and the overall mood of the consumer is not as positive as with other times of the years. The only thing that seems to help somewhat is the make sure you flood your customers with service reminders and recommended repairs during this time and get on the phone and call people who have not done the work you have recommended. Also, budget for the slow down to ride out those months.
  2. If there is one thing that doctors and dentists do very well, it's that they book the next appointment for their clientele. I have heard every excuse possible why many auto repair shops don’t do this. But the fact remains that everyone in your shop today will need future service and repairs. And the question is, “Are they coming back to you.” Another reason for booking the next appointment is that there are times when not all the recommended services were done today. Some were postponed due to budget and prioritizing what’s most important. So, before that customer leaves, make sure the customer commits to a future date to have the work done. After all, why did you recommend it in the first place? Car delivery is the time to review all the work done today, continue to build the relationship and to inform your customers of upcoming work and services. But don’t leave it to chance that the customer will remember. Be proactive, discuss future dates and put those dates in your calendar. Lastly, call customers a few days before the appointment as a reminder. If the appointment has to be moved, then move it.
  3. A few years ago, some friends and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. There were six of us enjoying the food and having a great time. A few minutes after our waiter served us our coffee and dessert, the owner of the restaurant walked over to us, introduced himself and said, “I have people waiting for this table; how much longer do you think you’ll be?” Shocked by his comment, I hesitated for a second, looked up at him and said, “No worries, we’re done.” With just a few simple words, the owner of the restaurant wiped out the pleasant experience we were all having. As we were finishing up, we couldn’t help noticing the stares from our waiter and the owner. Their eyes were laser-focused on us. They made it obvious that they wanted our table. We didn’t say anything to our waiter, or the owner. But we told each other, “We’ll think twice about coming back to this restaurant.” None of us ever did go back to that restaurant. And I heard similar complaints from other friends about that restaurant. About a year later, that restaurant closed its doors for the last time. As a business owner, I fully understand what each table means in terms of profit. The tables at a restaurant are no different than the service bays in our business. The more people you can process through the restaurant, the more profitable the restaurant is. The more cars we can process through our service bays, the more profitable we are. While I don’t fault the owner of the restaurant for recognizing the need to be profitable, I do fault the owner for not understanding a basic rule in achieving success in business. And that is: You build a business one customer at a time and by developing strong, long-term relationships with those customers. And to maintain that success, a business must continuously cultivate those relationships. The owner of this restaurant didn’t get it. All of us had dined at his establishment before. The owner didn’t see us as an opportunity to strengthen the relationships. He saw the opposite. By asking for our table, he put the emphasis on his next sale and eliminated any chance of us returning again. Losing customers, and not understanding why, is the kiss of death for any small business. What the owner determined important was profit per table, per person. The process to get people fed and done became the primary objective, when it should have been ensuring its customers were enjoying a nice meal and having a great time. It was a mistake that eventually led to his failure. Never think that customer quantity ever outweighs the quality of the customer experience. Making a memorable experience is the essence of great customer service. If we dig a little deeper, we find another mistake made by the restaurant owner: believing that the customer experience was over when the meal was over. The meal was prepared, it was served and we consumed it. Then, at some point during the end of that process, we became an obstacle to his next sale. He failed to comprehend that the sale is not over when the meal is over, and that everything that occurs right up to the moment when a customer drives away from his parking lot will have an influence on whether that customer will return in the future. The lesson for us is simple: Never lose sight of the importance of creating a customer. Establish a culture in your company that cultivates long-term relationships. Build a process that always strives for world-class customer service during the entire customer experience—and especially at car delivery. Never think that when the technician completes the repair, your job is done. The customer experience continues right up until the time the customer is picking up their car. The time you spend with the customer after the repair is done is as important as making the sale. Value each customer. Work on those relationships. Don’t worry about short term profit gain. Remember: building long-term relationships, builds long-term profit. By the way, that restaurant has recently opened up again. My friends and I went there for dinner last Friday night. We noticed that the new owner was walking around greeting everyone. He eventually made his way to our table, introduced himself and said, “Can I get anyone anything? It’s great to see you here tonight and hope to see you again soon. Thank you.” Now, you tell me: Do you think we’ll go back? This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 1st, 2019
  4. A few years ago, some friends and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. There were six of us enjoying the food and having a great time. A few minutes after our waiter served us our coffee and dessert, the owner of the restaurant walked over to us, introduced himself and said, “I have people waiting for this table; how much longer do you think you’ll be?” Shocked by his comment, I hesitated for a second, looked up at him and said, “No worries, we’re done.” With just a few simple words, the owner of the restaurant wiped out the pleasant experience we were all having. As we were finishing up, we couldn’t help noticing the stares from our waiter and the owner. Their eyes were laser-focused on us. They made it obvious that they wanted our table. We didn’t say anything to our waiter, or the owner. But we told each other, “We’ll think twice about coming back to this restaurant.” None of us ever did go back to that restaurant. And I heard similar complaints from other friends about that restaurant. About a year later, that restaurant closed its doors for the last time. As a business owner, I fully understand what each table means in terms of profit. The tables at a restaurant are no different than the service bays in our business. The more people you can process through the restaurant, the more profitable the restaurant is. The more cars we can process through our service bays, the more profitable we are. While I don’t fault the owner of the restaurant for recognizing the need to be profitable, I do fault the owner for not understanding a basic rule in achieving success in business. And that is: You build a business one customer at a time and by developing strong, long-term relationships with those customers. And to maintain that success, a business must continuously cultivate those relationships. The owner of this restaurant didn’t get it. All of us had dined at his establishment before. The owner didn’t see us as an opportunity to strengthen the relationships. He saw the opposite. By asking for our table, he put the emphasis on his next sale and eliminated any chance of us returning again. Losing customers, and not understanding why, is the kiss of death for any small business. What the owner determined important was profit per table, per person. The process to get people fed and done became the primary objective, when it should have been ensuring its customers were enjoying a nice meal and having a great time. It was a mistake that eventually led to his failure. Never think that customer quantity ever outweighs the quality of the customer experience. Making a memorable experience is the essence of great customer service. If we dig a little deeper, we find another mistake made by the restaurant owner: believing that the customer experience was over when the meal was over. The meal was prepared, it was served and we consumed it. Then, at some point during the end of that process, we became an obstacle to his next sale. He failed to comprehend that the sale is not over when the meal is over, and that everything that occurs right up to the moment when a customer drives away from his parking lot will have an influence on whether that customer will return in the future. The lesson for us is simple: Never lose sight of the importance of creating a customer. Establish a culture in your company that cultivates long-term relationships. Build a process that always strives for world-class customer service during the entire customer experience—and especially at car delivery. Never think that when the technician completes the repair, your job is done. The customer experience continues right up until the time the customer is picking up their car. The time you spend with the customer after the repair is done is as important as making the sale. Value each customer. Work on those relationships. Don’t worry about short term profit gain. Remember: building long-term relationships, builds long-term profit. By the way, that restaurant has recently opened up again. My friends and I went there for dinner last Friday night. We noticed that the new owner was walking around greeting everyone. He eventually made his way to our table, introduced himself and said, “Can I get anyone anything? It’s great to see you here tonight and hope to see you again soon. Thank you.” Now, you tell me: Do you think we’ll go back? This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 1st, 2019 View full article
  5. I think it’s safe to say that few people go to McDonald’s for the fine dining. In fact, McDonald’s struggled a few years back when it introduced healthy choices on its menu. Even with its challenges, McDonald’s is considered one of the most successful business models on the planet. It’s a brand that is so well known for its consistency that it actually promotes comfort in the mind of the consumer—a lesson in marketing that could prove powerful for your business. Imagine yourself traveling with your family on a highway far from home one night. It’s late, everyone’s hungry, and you’ve been on the road for hours. You’re not familiar with the area but you tell yourself to turn off the next exit and find food. As you drive off the exit, you notice a cluster of stores and bright lights; a good sign for weary travelers. As you approach the stores and bright lights you notice two food establishments: Billy’s Burgers and McDonald’s. The only two restaurants in town. Now you tell me: Which one would you choose? Most would choose McDonald’s. While there are many reasons why most people would choose McDonald’s over Billy’s Burgers, perhaps the most compelling reason is that McDonald’s has done an amazing job building its brand on the consistency of its service and its products. McDonald’s’ customers know exactly what they are getting, and that communicates comfort. People tend to feel more secure with what they know and what they anticipate. So, what does McDonald’s have to do with running a repair shop? It’s the marketing lesson of consistency of service. Promoting consistent world-class service with each customer will create an experience that will give customers a compelling reason to return in the future. Now, most of us are not franchised across the country, and many of us are single location business owners. Our business model is different in that we tend to build relationships over time. While we may not be a national brand, we can still have brand recognition in our community. We can still have a brand that communicates consistency and comfort; a winning marketing strategy. When a customer walks into your business, it’s not because he or she is hungry and looking to eat a meal. There’s a problem with his or her car, or a service they need to have done. People rely on their cars and leaving their car at your shop can be disrupting to their lives. This causes a level of anxiety within every customer. We need to recognize this and find ways to reduce or eliminate this anxiety. If not, the experience won’t burn a positive impression in their mind, which means they may not be back. The customer experience is a crucial element to the success of any company. But, do we fully understand the impact of consistency in service at every step of the customer experience? How being consistent can promote a feeling of comfort and security? Your customers must be greeted the same, the phones must be answered the same, car delivery must be the same, and the quality of service and repairs must be consistent. Something as simple as forgetting the lube sticker or not resetting the maintenance light can raise anxiety and make the customer question the quality of your service, which will have a negative effect on the entire experience. However, the marketing lesson is not only how you define great customer service, but in defining how to deliver consistent, great customer service at every step of the customer experience, time and time again. This strategy will ease the anxiety within your customer, which will benefit you the next time your customer’s check engine light comes on or when her car needs servicing again. By delivering a consistent, amazing customer experience again and again, you will instill comfort and security in your customer’s mind. This simple strategy increases the odds that the customer will think of you the next time for their automotive needs. And that’s the secret of McDonald’s. Think about this. A consumer is traveling to work on a Monday morning. She notices that oil change maintenance is on. This consumer has been to your shop, the dealership and the local quick lube in the past. She knows the cars needs servicing. Where will she choose to get her oil change done? Will it be your shop? Will it be the dealership or quick lube? That all depends on what business made the best impression in her mind. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 25th, 2019
  6. I think it’s safe to say that few people go to McDonald’s for the fine dining. In fact, McDonald’s struggled a few years back when it introduced healthy choices on its menu. Even with its challenges, McDonald’s is considered one of the most successful business models on the planet. It’s a brand that is so well known for its consistency that it actually promotes comfort in the mind of the consumer—a lesson in marketing that could prove powerful for your business. Imagine yourself traveling with your family on a highway far from home one night. It’s late, everyone’s hungry, and you’ve been on the road for hours. You’re not familiar with the area but you tell yourself to turn off the next exit and find food. As you drive off the exit, you notice a cluster of stores and bright lights; a good sign for weary travelers. As you approach the stores and bright lights you notice two food establishments: Billy’s Burgers and McDonald’s. The only two restaurants in town. Now you tell me: Which one would you choose? Most would choose McDonald’s. While there are many reasons why most people would choose McDonald’s over Billy’s Burgers, perhaps the most compelling reason is that McDonald’s has done an amazing job building its brand on the consistency of its service and its products. McDonald’s’ customers know exactly what they are getting, and that communicates comfort. People tend to feel more secure with what they know and what they anticipate. So, what does McDonald’s have to do with running a repair shop? It’s the marketing lesson of consistency of service. Promoting consistent world-class service with each customer will create an experience that will give customers a compelling reason to return in the future. Now, most of us are not franchised across the country, and many of us are single location business owners. Our business model is different in that we tend to build relationships over time. While we may not be a national brand, we can still have brand recognition in our community. We can still have a brand that communicates consistency and comfort; a winning marketing strategy. When a customer walks into your business, it’s not because he or she is hungry and looking to eat a meal. There’s a problem with his or her car, or a service they need to have done. People rely on their cars and leaving their car at your shop can be disrupting to their lives. This causes a level of anxiety within every customer. We need to recognize this and find ways to reduce or eliminate this anxiety. If not, the experience won’t burn a positive impression in their mind, which means they may not be back. The customer experience is a crucial element to the success of any company. But, do we fully understand the impact of consistency in service at every step of the customer experience? How being consistent can promote a feeling of comfort and security? Your customers must be greeted the same, the phones must be answered the same, car delivery must be the same, and the quality of service and repairs must be consistent. Something as simple as forgetting the lube sticker or not resetting the maintenance light can raise anxiety and make the customer question the quality of your service, which will have a negative effect on the entire experience. However, the marketing lesson is not only how you define great customer service, but in defining how to deliver consistent, great customer service at every step of the customer experience, time and time again. This strategy will ease the anxiety within your customer, which will benefit you the next time your customer’s check engine light comes on or when her car needs servicing again. By delivering a consistent, amazing customer experience again and again, you will instill comfort and security in your customer’s mind. This simple strategy increases the odds that the customer will think of you the next time for their automotive needs. And that’s the secret of McDonald’s. Think about this. A consumer is traveling to work on a Monday morning. She notices that oil change maintenance is on. This consumer has been to your shop, the dealership and the local quick lube in the past. She knows the cars needs servicing. Where will she choose to get her oil change done? Will it be your shop? Will it be the dealership or quick lube? That all depends on what business made the best impression in her mind. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 25th, 2019 View full article
  7. In my opinion, competition is actually good for the industry, and good for your repair shop too. It keeps us focused and forces us to maintain pace with other repair shops. It drives us to take a look at our own business to see where and how we can make improvements. Don't worry about the competition. And never compete on your competition's features. Find what sets you apart; your differentiation factor. Deliver world class service and promote your culture to your employees. So, how do we handle the competition? Learn from them, but don't copy them. Become the best you can be. Promote a culture of customer caring with your employees. The rest will take care of itself. Your thoughts?
  8. With over 40 years in the auto repair industry, I can write a book on shop production, and I would title it: "The reason why production suffers, and ways to improve it" But, perhaps the first step in getting production to where you want it is to promote team spirit. Yes, I know about training, workflow processes, making sales, the right tools, quality equipment, shop layout and correct labor billing. All that counts too. But, none of that means anything if your techs and service advisors work in an workplace with poor morale. As a shop owner, recognize the performance of your employees. Set the right tone and encourage them to exceed their limitations, and also say thank you once in a while. Raise team spirit, and you will raise production. I know this is a wide-open field for discussion; so what are your thoughts.
  9. At the end of each year, it's typical of tool reps and salespeople to give you tax advise. Often they will tell you that buying tools and equipment can be used as a way to lower income taxes. While this may be true, no one has a better handle on your financial situation that a good tax accountant. Listen to the expert, not the tool truck rep. Spending money to save on taxes also reduces your cash flow. I am not an accountant, but sometimes its better to pay a little extra in taxes and maintain a cash reserve. Your thoughts?
  10. Your accountant is dead on! I have been in business for 39 years. I have to be honest, I hated the years I had to pay a lot of taxes, until I realized they were my best and most profitable years!
  11. Joe Marconi

    BG Products

    I agree Frank. We keep the margins low for that reason. We want to be competitive. What we do is to combine services. For example: When replacing spark plugs, we sell a package - Spark plugs, Oil Change, MOA, Fuel Induction Service. Or, we combine any brake work with a brake fluid flush. When we do a timing belt, we will package in a coolant service. When we do Factory Maintenance Services on vehicles less than 100k, we offer the benefit of the BG Lifetime Protection Plan. There are many other examples. We also so seasonal packages: MPI Safety Check, LOF, MOA, CF5 for $69.95. By the way, perhaps our best marketing plan is the Lifetime Protection Plan. A week does not go by when we tell someone, "Good News, Bad News" The bad news is you need a water pump that will cost $600. The good news, you don't pay a dime. It's covered under the BG Protection Plan. I hope this helps.
  12. Joe Marconi

    BG Products

    We have a few different three part kits. GDI, regular fuel injection, etc. Our rep makes up the kits for whatever we need.
  13. Below is a link to an article in Ratchet and Wrench Magazine about what Valvoline is doing about the tech shortage. The aftermarket needs to look at social media and other unconventional ways to bring techs to our industry. https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/7471-Valvoline-launches-auto-career-platform
  14. Joe Marconi

    Shop owners: Should we embrace competition?

    Frank, I have seen this before, and you are right; it hurts us all. And as you said, we are all in this together. I don't know if we will ever overcome some of these challenges, but we are making a difference. I have been in this industry for decades and I see a promising future with bright young techs, service advisors and shop owners that truly care about the work they do and the industry. As long as we keep communicating and pushing forward, we will continue to make a difference.
  15. Joe Marconi

    New York Cost of Doing Business

    The cost of doing business in NY is high. It seems as if the expenses are going up faster than our sales income. How do we keep pace with cost of living and still remain competitive? It's hard to decrease fixed expenses.
  16. Joe Marconi

    New York Cost of Doing Business

    You are right on target. Even without the internet, part prices in general are lower now than they were years ago. That's why we need to be careful with margins. A 50% margin on a water pump that cost us $40, five years ago, is not the same as a 50% margin on a water pump today that cost us $30. Years back we made $40 on that pump, now, at the same margin we make $30. Pay attention to dollars, not margins. Add in the internet, and you have challenges. That's why we need to sell the Customer Experience, and make sure our labor dolllars drives our profit. Keep expenses under control, keep production up and make sure we all get paid for the hard labor we do each and every day.
  17. Joe Marconi

    BG Products

    I am, and the products are great and so is the support from my rep. We also promote the BG Lifetime Protection Plan. This is a Gold Mine for shop owners. You sell the service and the customer has a protection package. If a failure does occur, such as a caliper or wheel cylinder, the customer has coverage and in most cases BG pays the entire bill. And the best news is, it's not like working with an extended warranty company. In terms of marketing, BG is something I would urge every shop to consider.
  18. We sell service, not products. Yes, we sell water pumps, brake pads and air filters. And yes, those are products. But it’s the service we sell, the customer experience, which lives on well beyond the customer leaves your shop. Think of it this way; when you buy a watch, or a new cell phone, the experience of what you purchase continues after the sale. When we replace a customer’s water pump or air filter, there is very little about those items that lives on beyond the sale. But, what does live on is the customer experience. The better the experience, the more likely the customer will return to you. So focus on the customer experience, not the products you install.
  19. At this very special time of the year, I would like to wish all the very best life has to offer. My gift from all of you are the amazing posts and contributions each of you have made to help each other and help the industry. It makes me proud to be among such an elite group of shop owners! Thank you all! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Joe Marconi
  20. Here's a tip I have posted before, but it's worth repeating. One job that goes unnoticed most of the year is the job of the part's driver. You get part deliveries all day long, every day, all year long. Many times, these part's drivers take all the abuse due to wrong parts, the parts took too long to be delivered, on and on and on. Those drivers may not say anything, but they take it to heart. So, here's what you are going to do. Buy small gifts, such as small boxes of candy or chocolate. Nothing expensive. During the holidays, give all the drivers one of these small gifts and say "Thank you, I appreciated what you do." Two things will happen. First, the driver will be stunned and will not know what to say, and they will be very thankful that you thought of them. The second thing that will happen is this: The very next time those part drivers have three delivers to make at three different shops, what shop do you think they will want to go to first? Yes...Yours!
  21. Joe Marconi

    Article: Helming Your Ship

    Thank you Frank! I always value your opinion. If I don't speak with, Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!
  22. 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 View full article
  23. Joe Marconi

    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 View full article
  24. Joe Marconi

    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
  25. Joe Marconi

    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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