By David Rogers
If we accept that the technician shortage is here to stay, what comes next?
I’ve used these pages to talk about technician compensation and how top techs deserve the chance to earn compensation on par with their professionalism and dedication. I’ve also talked about tools that create more efficiency and productivity, and how it’s the responsibility of every owner to invest in the tools that techs need to maximize their billable hours.
In a lot of ways, these remain the keys to surviving and growing in a world where it’s increasingly harder to attract and hire top techs. Technicians deserve a chance to earn six figures, and a big part of helping them get there is maximizing efficiency in the shop.
But even taken together, they’re only half of a real solution. They are real steps that operators can take in their organization, for sure, but they don’t mean anything if the culture in the organization is broken. They’re kind gestures and nothing more.
Culture and communication are the keys to creating a winning organization. They give employees a sense of purpose, a reason to help the shop succeed, and form a common bond.
How do we take big concepts like “creating a healthy culture” and turn them into direct applications and simple steps? It all starts with how we handle mistakes.
Mistakes happen. It’s an unavoidable consequence of hiring a team to help you get more done in your shop: people screw up sometimes.
The best operators see mistakes as an opportunity.
It’s an incredibly common reaction when an employee makes a mistake to think, “I don’t have time for this.” It’s very common in this kind of situation to pull the employee aside and retrain them on the right way to handle that process or procedure or situation next time. And there’s a good chance that this employee won’t make this mistake again.
Of course, training one person at a time means your operation can still make the same mistake with every other person in your shop. The reason why your first reaction is to think, “I don’t have time for this” is because you’re training each employee individually instead of using that opportunity to retrain the whole team and bring the whole organization closer together.
Worse, keeping mistakes in the dark like this doesn’t just make you busier, and it doesn’t just prevent your whole operation from learning and growing together. It also makes it so that mistakes are tied up in ego and emotion, and people feel upset when their mistakes come to light, instead of seeing it as a positive that the whole team can learn the best way to help each other.
I framed this as “keeping things in the dark” versus “exposing to the light” for a reason. In shops and in life, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The more transparently we operate, the more trust we create; with our teams, with our customers and with our communities.
- When there’s a communication breakdown, we need to retrain the whole team.
- When there’s a comeback, we need to retrain the whole team.
- When there’s a broken process, we need to retrain the whole team.
Not only will it constantly reinforce to your team how they can best love and support each other by following the correct process, but perhaps even more importantly, this is the only way to grow right now.
Techs are hard to find; we covered as much in the intro to this article. It is increasingly going to be the case that we need to grow our own master techs as it gets harder to attract and hire them, meaning you desperately need a culture where everybody knows the importance of communication and training and helping each other.
Which brings us to an even more important point. Because as critical as it is to create a culture of communication and teaching and learning, it’s even more important to create a culture where our teams know how much we love and care about them.
If the end goal is to constantly reach for perfection, and that requires everyone to set aside ego and emotion, then we have to create an environment where our teams know we’re acting with their best interest at heart.
And that only comes when we live it out constantly.
The reasons why solutions for running a successful shop include things like incentive pay plans and investing in tools that make the shop more efficient is because these are specific ways of living out something that is a much bigger idea: that we chose the people on our team for a reason, and that they’re worth investing in.
Success doesn’t come from half-measures, though. You can’t simply implement an incentive pay plan and expect that everything will change. You can’t buy some tool and expect that the culture will shift overnight.
Success comes when you build a culture of success and live it out every day. I know this because I’ve lived it, and I’ve seen it happen again and again in shops.
Shops that grow by hundreds of thousands of dollars year over year don’t grow like that because they’re greedy. You can’t sustain that kind of success if you only care about money. They experience that kind of growth because they’ve created a culture where their teams are held to high standards and rewarded them for reaching and exceeding them.
Top operators are the ones who build a culture of winning and communication by training their teams consistently and with love. The best organizations focused on efficiency and productivity as goals, not to eke out a few more dollars each day, because these are sure ways to help everyone win: employees, customers, and the operation.
Growing your operation quickly by adding a new technician may be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean that shops are unable to succeed. Building a wildly successful operation is thankfully much easier and more rewarding than that.
It starts with loving and appreciating the people in our lives and finding ways to show that love and care every day. Not only will that help you and your employees feel more personally fulfilled and guarantee that you’re working toward the same goals, but you’ll also create success and growth for everyone your organization touches: your family, your employees, your neighbors, and yourself.
Read the article here on Shop Owner Magazine.