I got an email from a reader that really got me thinking. The writer’s basic complaint was that not every hard-working shop owner is swimming in cash, looking for the next investment property to sink all his extra money into.
I agree – most shop owners do work hard to keep up in today’s business environment and the vast majority of ShopOwner readers are not absentee owners with a monocle and top hat running their empires from a distant beach (although, I’d guess the majority probably aspire to that – top hat optional). Still, that’s not the part that’s sticking in my craw.
“Are the techs waiting for the owner/manager to make a decision or waiting for approvals?“
The writer’s complaint centered on the perception that shop owners are pressured into offering health insurance, tool allowances and retirement plans for employees. “My shop struggles daily to make ends meet and get techs who can just give me 40 hours in production instead of 20-25.”
Here’s the part of the message that got to me: “I’m tired of hearing how it’s always the fault of the owner. Bull. You can only do so much.”
As it turns out, at the same time, I was having a conversation with ShopOwner Contributor Victor Broski who has nearly 40 years experience in the industry, working his way up from apprentice to technician to service writer to service manager. Broski worked in five different shops with five different perspectives, where he learned what to do and what NOT to do.
“I get it, that not every shop owner is interested in getting bigger and bigger. Some just want to own a shop,” said Victor.
“Are techs a problem? Maybe. But they look to the owner/manager. And, many get away with what they can.”
“Is the problem shop procedures or lack thereof? Are the techs waiting around for his decisions or waiting for approvals? Is he spread too thin or micro-managing?”
Victor says if you’re having trouble with techs, look in the mirror.
“Do you have regular shop meetings to talk about things? Ask questions – the owner doesn’t have to be the smartest guy in the shop.
“Do you compliment your techs? Do it in front of your customers – it’ll make them feel special.”
“Just as important, don’t pass negative comments about customers on to the techs.”
However, Victor says being TOO accommodating can be just as damaging to your business:
“I once had a life-changing comment from a customer. He drove an old BMW and said he was a lifeguard who didn’t make a lot of money, so could I … (fill in the blank)? The first time, I fixed something I should have replaced. For my second discount, I know he reminded me he was a lifeguard. The third time he was in, he said: ‘I just got back from Tahiti, now I REALLY don’t have any money. Could you …?’ No! I helped pay for HIS vacation, not mine. Never again!”
Remember, there are things you can control and things you can’t. But, who else can you blame? It all starts at the top.