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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 View full article
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