Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Elephants Don’t Bite

When was the last time you heard of someone getting bitten by an elephant? As I reflect on this question, I am reminded of my former clients Mike and Larry who owned two different shops in 2010. At the time, they both had been with ATI for eighteen months and averaged three thousand dollars per week in net profit.

Work on the Business, Not in It

Both had what they believed to be a good crew consisting of a service manager and three technicians. Mike and Larry were working on the business and could leave their shops for extended periods of time without the results changing.

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They were both in good health because they left the shop to go to the gym three days per week. They both updated the portals, were current on their classes, and were available for their weekly coaching call.

The Difference One Hour Can Make

The only difference between Mike and Larry was that Mike invested one hour per week in hiring activities. Every Friday morning at nine o’clock, Mike would refresh his Craigslist ads, review his applicant Rolodex, and interview at least one qualified candidate. Larry didn’t see the need to advertise his openings because he was already fully staffed.

I told Larry what Mike was doing, but he resisted, reminding me of how loyal his people were to him. After all, “his shop was different, and I didn’t understand.” Three months later, there weren’t any noticeable differences in performance between Mike and Larry. At the six-month mark, they were still experiencing the same results.

However, twelve months later, the differences between Mike and Larry were staggering. Mike had lost ten pounds, increased his net profit to four thousand dollars per week, and was spending more time away from his shop pursuing his race car passion.

Larry, on the other hand, was no longer available for my calls because he was working at the service counter and turning wrenches. He went from averaging three thousand dollars per week in net profit, to fifteen hundred dollars. Larry was experiencing health issues related to stress and the additional twenty pounds he gained.

Why did one hour per week of invested time make such a difference in their results? It’s because elephants don’t bite! It’s not the elephants, it’s the little things that will come back to bite you. The decision to do or ignore these little things creates a ripple effect.

For Larry, his failure to spend one hour per week recruiting led to him being caught off guard when his service manager resigned to work for his competitor. The service manager leaving had a ripple effect on his lead technician, who left to go work with the service manager.

Create a Strong Staffing Plan

Larry being in the business affected his profit results because he couldn’t sell like the service manager. His health declined because he didn’t have the time to go to the gym like he used to. The failure to invest one hour per week in hiring was the root cause of his problems. He couldn’t blame “the economy elephant” for his failures!

Mike also lost his lead tech during the same twelve-month time span. Since he had been interviewing anyway, he was able to hire a qualified replacement within two weeks. As it turned out, the new tech was more productive and had a following of customers from the old shop that followed him to Mike’s location. His strong staffing levels gave him the free time to hire a personal trainer, which improved his health and led to his weight loss.

The economy, your area, and “the lack of good people out there” are just elephants. Please stop reading right now, grab a mirror, and ask yourself the following question, “Have I been consistently doing the little things that lead to long-term success?”

How you answer this question can determine where you will be one year from today! Don’t blame the elephants because they don’t bite!

Non-ATI Members: At ATI, we focus on teaching and coaching shop owners on best practices to get the most out of your automotive repair business. Want to learn more? Find an ATI shop owner event near you.

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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.