by David Rogers
Change is hard. Realizing that your business needs to change something, and then seeing that through all the way to implementing a new process or procedure or software is one of the biggest challenges that shop owners face. After all, it’s very easy to keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done.
If you’re going to go through the effort of changing the way something is done in your shop, the best thing you can do—for your shop culture, for your mental health, for the future of the business—is to make sure that the change sticks.
This doesn’t happen by default. The natural trend is back to the status quo, the way things were before you created that new policy or procedure. Without any intervention, all of your hard work to put your shop on a new course will come undone.
Despite all of that, making changes stick doesn’t take a herculean effort. It’s entirely possible to implement change in your shop and not have to micromanage things in order to keep those improvements in place.
The secret is accountability.
Accountability has become something of a dirty word.
One of the most troubling trends in our industry is the rise of the cheerleader business coach. Rather than hold you accountable for making hard choices that lead the business to be more successful, this type of coach is there to make you feel good about yourself.
This type of conflict-free coaching might make you feel good about yourself as it’s happening, but ultimately it keeps you trapped in your business. It means you’ll never make that hard decision about that employee or vendor or policy that you know needs to be corrected, and that means these things will continue to hold your shop back.
And worse, this lack of accountability has a way of infecting other areas of the business. If employees know that they don’t have to follow a procedure every time on every vehicle because nobody will call them out, they won’t. This is what causes that reversion to the mean I talked about earlier – without accountability, the team will slide back to doing what’s easy instead of what’s right.
This is how shop owners get locked into being the “secret sauce” in their business, never able to take a vacation for fear that things will go off the rails while they’re gone.
In other words, there is no lasting change without accountability.
This means both good news and bad news.
The bad news is that there’s no easy button. You can’t hire a manager to come in and hold your team accountable to do things the way you want and expect everything to change for the better instantly. You can’t drop in a new policy or procedure or training program or new purchase and expect that everything will change for the better. Accountability doesn’t come in a can.
But the upshot is that you can build a culture of accountability as soon as you’re ready.
The first and most critical step is to train. Your team needs to know exactly what your expectations are, and the exact procedures by which they can fulfill those expectations. When your team doesn’t follow the letter of those procedures, you need to pull the whole team together to retrain and create a culture where everyone—from the owner down—is accountable to following the policy every time without exception.
Once your team is clear on what you expect them to do, then you need to measure it so you can easily tell if they’re following your policies and procedures. Your team should know what benchmarks they need to hit, how to hit them, and their progress toward their goals each day.
This has two long-term effects at the same time.
First, it means that the changes you make will stick because your team knows they’re being measured. You can see the results of your changes right in the numbers that you’re measuring each day and can tell if they ever start to slip backward.
Secondly, this means that you no longer have to babysit employees to know that things will be done correctly. Instead of being stuck in the shop watching every transaction or conversation or repair, your role is to measure performance, retrain your team when they’re not performing up to the expectations you’ve set, and maintain a culture of accountability.
I know everybody has different personalities. I know some of you hate conflict. I know some of you feel very uncomfortable having meetings or speaking publicly and the thought of holding your team accountable makes you uncomfortable.
But here’s the crux of the matter: your best employees—the kind that want your shop to succeed and who want your changes to stick—crave accountability. They want to be held to a high standard because they want a culture of excellence. If you want your shop to grow without having to babysit it every step of the way, the only answer is accountability.
Accountability is a two-way street, though. As we work to shape the behavior of our employees and the culture in our shop, we as owners have to work on ourselves, too. This is one of the main reasons why cheerleader business coaches are so detrimental to growth. We need to be held accountable constantly as leaders to make sure that we’re striving for excellence.
Growth is a good thing for leaders. For the first 10 years, I managed people in my shop, I like to say that I ran things like an angry monkey. My own leadership style has drastically changed over the years. I had to work on myself in order to become a more dynamic and effective leader.
The focus I paid on improving as a leader and manager happened at the same time that the shop was growing by millions of dollars in sales, and these changes stuck in both me and the shop because we had created a culture where we were accountable to each other and the success of the shop.
In other words, if you want your staff to grow, you have to do the same. Raise the bar for yourself and your whole shop will follow suit!
David Rogers is the COO of Keller Bros., an award-winning repair shop in Littleton, CO. Twenty-five years after David took over management of the shop, it continues to set sales and profit records because of the perfected pay plans, systems, processes, and marketing. In 1999, David founded Auto Profit Masters (APM) to help fellow shop owners implement these same perfected processes. Whether you need proven pay plans for your team or effective marketing to drive quality customers to your shop, contact David at autoprofitmasters.com, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 866-520-3030.