When Ayton Senna was still racing Formula 1 for McLaren the pit crew that serviced his cars was truly a marvel to watch. During the Australian Grand Prix Ayrton raced unexpectedly into the pit because it needed new tires. The crew was on the ball and serviced that car in under four seconds.
In the world of professional racing especially at the level of Grand Prix “comebacks” carry a fantastic cost (the race or more). The job has got to be done right the first time and it has to be done efficiently. It’s an activity where errors are not tolerated by anyone on the team. It’s a tightly organized group with a purpose. They are trained within an inch of their lives by top notch coaches. And the best crews have great leadership.
What’s the difference between a pit crew and your shop?
Is it fair to pit your people against a professional race car pit crew?
Someone might argue they are not the same thing. The professional crew has many guys going over the wall to do the service. Yes that’s true. But this valuable comparison can be used, piece by piece, to improve your shop.
Let’s see what makes a professional pit crew tick.
#1 is their PURPOSE. This is probably the single biggest factor that separates a professional crew from everyone else. Those guys that jump over the wall live a hard life. They’re on the road all the time working crazy hours getting paid peanuts. So why do they do it weekend after weekend from February through November? What drives them to do it and keep doing it? The answer is PURPOSE. What is purpose? It is the stuff that real living is made of. It is the reason you and I get out of bed in the morning and do the things we do. Without purpose life would be extremely boring. A shop is boring without a purpose. And bored people don’t produce much and when they do finally produce something it’s low quality.
#2 is their TEAMWORK. Those pits are a team. And a great shop operates as a team. In order to have a team everyone has to know how to play the game. They have to agree with the rules of the game. Then they will push (as a unit) along the right path. The employees on a team share common goals with the owner. They know what they have to do and how they fit in to the big picture. It’s a nice feeling.
#3 is their ORANIZATION. In order to get people to work as a team there has got to be a well-guided flow of organization in place. This includes people, paper, cars, parts and cash money. Note: money flows into the hands of a well organized shop owner and out of the hands of a poorly organized one.
#4 is their TRAINING. In order for the team to be efficient and get the job done each person on the team must know what their position is, how to perform the task expected from that position and how to do it effectively and efficiently. This requires training and drilling. One of the first things I like to do when I help an owner to manage their shop is to get them training and drilling their team. When the right things are drilled, wow what a difference! And fast!
#5 is their LEADERSHIP. All good teams have a good leader. So what makes someone a good leader? Here are some of the basics:
- He or she has a clear vision of what they want. They have a goal.
- They have a great attitude toward the business and life.
- They can communicate their vision clearly.
- They can gain agreement from others.
- They know how to handle people.
- They can easily give and enforce orders.
When people see that what they do makes a difference, they get inspired. It’s nice for someone to know that what they do is important. And it’s great to feel that what they do adds up to something larger than what they could accomplish on their own. A leader lets the team know how valuable they are, because it’s true, they are.
So how about McLaren’s Ayrton Senna 4 second pit stop? It couldn’t have been done without these five:
This is also the heart and soul of managing a shop.
Fortunately you do not have to have been born with these abilities to succeed; they can be learned!