Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How To Bounce Back From Your Setback

"A setback is a setup for a comeback."Dr. Willie Jolley

So, there I was, managing a 3.5 million dollar shop in Largo, Maryland. For three months, I had a pressing need to hire another technician. While my colleagues and competitors complained about car count, I struggled to get the cars out that I had! But things were about to change because “Steve” had just accepted my offer to become the “A” technician.

Steve graduated from Lincoln Tech, had all the industry certifications, and had a following of customers that he promised to send my way. He passed his drug test and a background check with flying colors. During the reference checks, Steve’s previous employers told me they would hire him back in a heartbeat. I was looking forward to having him on my team.

Two weeks later he reported to work. I watched him during the morning shift as he completed several jobs under book time. As he clocked out and went to lunch, I patted myself on the back for making such a great hire. Two hours later, my assistant manager asked the following question that changed my mood: “Do you know where Steve is?” Later, at 5:00 p.m., we were still asking the same question. Steve never came back from his lunch break! What a setback!

Ideas to grow your businessDo you have setbacks or excuses? Discover valuable tips and strategies to bounce back from challenges, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business. Register for ATI’s free webinar.

Setbacks Versus Excuses

Whenever “Joe,” my district manager, asked about my technician staffing levels, I would remind him about Steve’s extended break. Joe seemed to get annoyed each time, and I didn’t know why. Then I read the following quote from the book Grit by Angela Duckworth that gave me the answer: “Do not let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses.” For me, losing Steve had become a permanent excuse.

Have you been allowing a temporary setback to become a permanent excuse? This mentality will make it harder for you to bounce back. The key to making a comeback is to embrace an always mindset.

The owner with the “always mindset” is always preparing for the worst-case scenario. Anticipating a possible setback gives you the opportunity to bounce back faster, and may prevent the setback from occurring. Below are two areas of the shop where you can apply this mentality.

Always Be Hiring

Every week I communicate with a shop leader who calls me in a panic because of the surprise resignation of their best employee. In most cases, these leaders rejected the idea of “always be hiring” when it was initially presented to them. The most consistent concerns I hear are as follows:

“What do I say to people I don’t want to hire?”
“What will my current employees think?”
“Will my customers lose confidence in us if I post a hiring sign?”

Instead of voicing these concerns consider the following question: If today, your best employee takes a lunch break that lasts a lifetime, how long would it take you to bounce back?

That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is confirmation that you should always be hiring. When you find a great candidate, ask her about the other great people she knows.

Once she accepts your offer, continue to refresh your ads and keep your hiring signs in place. Over time, this will give you an extensive list of candidates to contact if you have to fill a sudden opening.

Many great candidates are lost during the two weeks between acceptance and start date because most owners think they’re done once the candidate says yes. This is the perfect time to display the always mindsetI recommend doing a welcome dinner where you meet at a restaurant with the candidate and their spouse/significant other.

University of Chicago study concluded that similar food consumption leads to increased trust and increases in cooperative behavior. Maybe Steve would have returned from his break if I had done a welcome dinner to establish trust. I should have embraced the always mindset.

always Be Marketing

Several years ago, I worked with a client who experienced a major decrease in business. He was down 25 percent in gross sales and losing money on the bottom line. Whenever I asked him about his future, he would spend twenty minutes reminding me about the major fleet account he lost the previous year. This pattern continued for several weeks until one day out of frustration, I interrupted him in mid-sentence.

I asked what he had done since the previous call to attract additional fleet business. All I heard was the sound of silenceHe had allowed a temporary setback to become a permanent excuse. If you’re always marketing, you will sing a different tune, instead of sounding like a broken record.

The best place to start is with your existing customers. According to the American Marketing Association, 68 percent of all business is lost because of a failure to follow up. It’s easier to stay in touch than it is to get in touch. In other words, if you’re consistently communicating with your customers via social media, text messaging, phone calls, and emails, you stand a greater chance of becoming their shop of choice.

If you’re always communicating with the fleets in your area, losing an account will not be as devastating because of the other relationships you’ve developed.

When was the last time you delivered cookies or donuts? What special promotion have you offered the fleet employees for their personal vehicles? Have you offered the fleet manager who says he’s loyal to another shop, a $100 credit as a trial gift? If you answered yes to all three, you are positioned to bounce back, and you may prevent a setback from happening!


To this day, I wonder what happened to Steve. I’ll bet he’s working for a shop owner who rebounded from a surprise resignation by hiring him. If you embrace the “always mindset,” you can bounce back from your setback as well.

For more tips on how to turn that setback into a comeback and run a productive shop, check out our free webinar.

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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.