Most owners in the automotive industry have a pretty good vision of their ideal or perfect shop. If we were to list the key features of the perfect shop, it would include most of the following:
1. Very profitable and expanding business
2. Produces high-quality service for the customers
3. The employees treat customers with the same care the owner uses
4. Runs well without the owner having to be there.
While the above list covers most of the major points most owners would say is their vision of a perfect business, there is another piece that, oftentimes, owners fail to add to that list. This is known as the “self-fixing business.”
To me, the self-fixing business is the most important feature of a perfect shop or business. The employees of the business are able to run it successfully and profitably, and they must also be able to handle and fix any problems that come up.
A self-fixing business means that when the owner is on vacation scuba-diving in Australia and the service writer or lead technician quits suddenly, the owner does not have to come back to handle the problem or, worse, play the role of the manager, service writer, or technician again.
In the perfect shop, when the great manager who handles everything right quits over the weekend, that does not mean the problems all end up on the owner again. In fact, in the perfect business, the shop does not miss a beat.
It has a replacement manager ready to handle the operation or it finds and replaces any key personnel without having to bother the owner. Now, to me, that is a perfect business. It is one that allows me the freedom to come and go as I please. I am able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.
Unfortunately, although most shop owners have a vision of the perfect shop, they lack the blueprints and the plans to build it. They build their business without having some key pieces and the right people in place. These missing pieces keep their business from expanding and becoming totally successful, and sometimes they even cause the business to fail.
It is like trying to win a long-distance, cross-country race. You need several key things in order to win.
In order to win a long-distance, cross-country race, it starts with a really good car (the business). The key characteristics of a winning race car are that it is reliable and stable. It must be able to handle anything that comes up.
In terms of the business, it must be good at handling customers and fixing cars right the first time. If a business cannot do this, it will become hard to steer and eventually end up crashing and losing the race.
Every consistently winning race team has good, trained personnel who can handle any problem quickly and efficiently. It is the race team’s responsibility to handle the customers and fix the cars. The car will only be as reliable and stable as the members of the race team.
If one guy is not trained and is not doing his job, the chances of the team winning the race are slim. It is really important that the team owner knows how to select and train the right people to be on his team.
Oftentimes, some race teams have members that are good at their job, but create problems for the rest of the team; instead of the group concentrating on winning the race, they end up fighting and arguing with each other, and everyone loses.
Even when you have the fastest car and the best support team, if you do not have a good driver (the manager), you are never going to win the race. It is important to remember that the manager is not the service writer.
A good driver knows how to drive the car without crashing and wearing out the tires early. The driver is able to detect when the car (the business) is not firing on all cylinders and communicates it effectively to the support team to make the necessary adjustments to the car.
In a long-distance race, it is important to have someone who knows where the car (the business) is at all times and can steer the manager correctly to take the quickest and safest route to the finish line.
It is not the job of the navigator (the general manager/owner) to drive the car, but keep track of the business and make sure it is on the correct route to the finish line. It is the navigator’s job to tell the driver which route to take. It is the driver’s job to drive the car with all of his or her skills and steer it on the correct course, as quickly and safely as possible.
The most successful race teams are owned by the best team owner (the business owner). It is his or her responsibility to put together the best team possible and provide the team with whatever they need to win the race. It is not his or her job to race the car or manage the team.
The winning formula for any team sport is an owner who has the ability to hire the right people for the right job and then provide the team with whatever it needs (equipment and training) to succeed. In most cases, the team owner sits in a luxury box watching the team perform. If he or she has done the job right, the team wins. If he or she has not done it right, the team loses.
The key to expansion is knowing what you are supposed to be doing, rather than what you are doing. The perfect business is always the result of an owner who knows how to build a winning race car and a winning team.
It does not matter if the owner is a bright mechanic, a great service writer, or a great manager. The true test of an owner is, can he or she get others to do the job the way he or she wants it done, thus building the perfect business?
I will be writing a series of articles to address many of the issues that shop owners face in this day and age.