Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Secret to Sustained Success at Your Auto Shop

“What got you here, won’t get you there.”Marshall Goldsmith

Are you a “one-hit wonder” who can’t maintain the success you experience? This question reminds me of an encounter I had with “Jim,” a shop owner struggling to find the right technicians.

He desperately posted hiring ads and communicated with his vendors to find “Mr. Right.”

He spent most of his time working in the business turning wrenches and was averaging $15k per week in mechanical sales with a $350 average repair order (ARO). Jim’s struggle to find the right tech ended when he hired “Tom” to be his diagnostic technician.

If you were to “Google” the term “A Player near me,” Tom’s picture would show up on the map! He was master certified and could flag 50 hours a week with zero comebacks.

During the first four weeks of Tom’s tenure, Jim’s sales jumped to $20k a week, with a $471 ARO. For the month, his gross profit improvement performance was on par with the top shops in the ATI program.

There were no billboards, blimps, or banners added to his marketing mix. The secret to Jim’s sudden success was Tom. Thanks to Tom, Jim was finally out of “desperation mode” and on his way to experiencing the freedom he’d been seeking since he opened his shop.

As Tom approached Jim on the following Monday morning, everything was going great to let him know that he was resigning to pursue another opportunity. In addition, Tom was offered a pay guarantee from the shop down the road that exceeded what Jim could afford to match.

After Tom’s last day, Jim went back to turning wrenches, and his shop’s sales dipped to $13k per week. Jim’s great month was just a fluke and not a trend. He was a one-hit-wonder. So, why was Jim unable to sustain the success he experienced?

It’s because he ignored the following secret that all consistently great performers know: The secret to sustained success is staying desperate after you’ve succeeded. Sometimes, desperation is the best inspiration for pursuing your goals.

Jim lost his desperation once he gained a technician, so he stopped doing what made him successful. He stopped running ads. He stopped talking to vendors. He stopped posting signage.

What have you stopped doing since you lost that desperate feeling? Stay with me to learn two things you can start doing to experience sustained success at your shop.

Ideas to grow your businessNon-ATI Members: Discover more valuable tips and strategies for how to maintain success, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business in ATI’s shop owner events. Register at

Stay with “why

I was recently watching the movie Invincible starring Mark Whalberg. This picture is based on the true story of Vince Papale, who defied the odds by making the Philadelphia Eagles Football team as an undrafted walk-on.

Every morning before football practice began, the lead character would open up his locker, read from this sheet of paper, and close his locker with renewed enthusiasm. What was on that sheet of paper?

The “locker room letter” was a note from his ex-wife, who wrote that he would never succeed or amount to anything in life. Part of his “why” was to prove her wrong. Staying with his why helped him maintain the level of desperation he needed to stay on the team.

Your goals represent why you are doing what you do. Having a vision board that you never see isn’t enough. If you want to be an invincible shop leader, I challenge you to take things a step further.

First, get in the daily habit of writing down your three most important business goals on a 3×5 index card. Next, make sure you write them in the present tense as if you have already achieved them. For example, “I am an absentee owner” or “I have $30,000 in my savings account.” Lastly, review what you have written each day to verify that your daily actions line up with your why.

Taking these steps will allow you to stay with why.

Always Be Shorthanded

At the beginning of every month, I pose the following question to the Members I coach: “How many employment interviews did you conduct during the previous month?” I get answers ranging from as high as 12 to as low as 0. However, lately, I have noticed an interesting trend.

Several of my members who consistently conduct the most interviews are fully staffed and tend to rank highly on the top shop rankings. Now, why would a shop that’s fully staffed lead the pack in average monthly interviews? It’s because they’ve embraced the “always be shorthanded” mindset.

Embracing this mindset means that after you hire your “A” player, you keep posting ads and networking with the same feeling of desperation that inspired you to fill the opening.

So you’ve just made a great hire. Congratulations! Your work has just begun. Don’t stop recruiting; start building your Rolodex. Don’t stop networking; start asking your recent hire about who she knows. Don’t stop displaying your signs; start building your career opportunities tab.

If Jim had embraced this mindset, he would have had other technicians to call after Tom resigned. If you fail to embrace this mindset and go back to business as usual, you will always be shorthanded.


The secret to sustained success at your shop is to stay desperate after you’ve succeeded. If you commit to staying with why and to embracing the always be shorthanded mindset, you will avoid becoming a one-hit wonder!

Non-ATI Members: For more tips on how to achieve specific results and run a productive, profitable shop, check out our shop owner events at

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.