By David Rogers
Does it ever feel like you’re too busy and stretched too thin to focus on your operation?
It’s harder than ever to find and hire critical team members, so it’s no surprise that during busy summer months, many shop owners feel like they only way to stay on top of higher car counts is to drop everything else so they can focus on working inside the business as an advisor or technician.
The problem is that the shop has to keep operating, whether or not the owner has time to focus on fixing profit margins or managing their marketing strategy.
This often leads to the operation leaving significant money on the table at the very same time that the business could be maximizing profits.
There’s a better way than simply putting your head down and working your guts out for a few months each year. You don’t have to accept the status quo or avoid making changes that could improve your situation just because car counts are up.
But you do have to stop being the secret sauce to your shop’s success.
As long as you make yourself necessary, you keep yourself stuck in a situation where you have to work your guts out for months on end every year. As long as you’re the best, the fastest, the most skilled, the most knowledgeable at every position in your shop, the operation’s capacity can never grow more than what you can take on.
All of which means training.
This isn’t an easy button, I know. It will take work to get your team trained up so that they know what they can control, how they need to control it, and why. But this journey ends with you able to spend more time away from your shop, and with you not feeling trapped inside it for months on end every year.
Which means this is a journey worth going on.
“We can’t just run out and hire technicians anymore. To sustain growth and make it work, we’ve got to retain quality employees and train quality people to be superstars someday. Training is a huge tool because it’s frustrating when you’re ordered to do something, but you don’t have the right training or tools in front of you to get it done.”
Daris D, shop owner
The first real trick to training your team so they can take responsibilities off your plate is to stop doing it one person at a time.
First, get the process you want them to follow written out. Written policies and procedures mean that they can sign off that they understand it and refer back to your instructions without having to come to you for a refresher. As that quote from a successful owner above makes clear, it’s frustrating to know what’s expected of you but not have the training or tools to control it. Written policies and procedures remove a lot of that mystery.
But once written, the next critical step is to train the entire group at the same time – everyone who is responsible for executing the procedure. Simply put, training one person at a time when it comes to policies and procedures doesn’t work.
If every time a process gets violated, you meet with that employee individually, you’re almost certain to end up teaching the whole shop the correct behavior in the least productive way possible: one person at a time. Not only will this end up taking far more of your time to make sure that each person individually understands your expectations, but it will also likely lead to growing resentment among the team members who follow your rules and have to watch as others violate them.
The only way to make changes stick and successfully implement processes and procedures is to train everyone at the same time. When a process is violated, calling the whole team together to go over the documented process and your expectations prevents all of that wasted time and effort.
Honestly, the same is true for pretty much every area of the shop. If you install a new tool or software system in your shop and then make yourself or your GM or any other single employee responsible for going to training and then coming back and training the team – rather than everyone going and learning best practices together – then the shop has a major bottleneck to adoption and growth. When the opportunity exists to train the entire team together in a new system or procedure, take it.
“Great success comes when every team member does something little, and all those little things come together to make a big success. Every team that puts together an effort is not run by one. It’s run by several team members that do something small to make a great result.”
Joe P, shop owner
When it’s time to train the team on new skills, it’s critical to teach the why. If everyone is engaged in learning and working toward the same goals – and they understand their role in helping to make life better for everyone else – then growth doesn’t depend on your micromanaging every process to ensure compliance.
This is critical, because if all growth, change, and improvement occur because the operator is micromanaging things to force that improvement, the shop will only grow as far as the owner can carry it. This means that the business owns you, not the other way around.
The only sustainable way forward is to create a culture where the team is always focused on becoming more efficient, productive, and profitable because they understand both how to help, and why it makes a difference for themselves, their coworkers, the business, and the community.
This can’t be done solely through training, though it is a critical first step. It also takes a commitment to incentivize that behavior. Incentive pay plans are used by top operators to encourage employees to follow correct processes and procedures that help the business grow without your micromanagement, for instance.
But it’s about living that commitment out in every other area as well: the tools you provide, the learning opportunities you support, the personal growth you encourage. When your team sees you investing in them both emotionally and through tools and training, they’re far more likely to invest their own time and energy back into the business.
When you build that culture and your whole team can see that you’re committed to growing your operation so that it can better care for them and for the customer, you’ll have a team that wants you to succeed. This is the secret to building a team that loves working for you and wants to retire with you someday!
Read the full article here on Shop Owner Magazine.