Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Avoid a Terrible Shop Visit

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”Wayne Dyer

As a district manager, I hated when my regional manager would visit without notice.

One day, I received a call from “Rick,” my regional manager. He said he was in town and wanted to visit shops with me! The bad news was that this was a complete surprise. The good news was that he allowed me to pick the shops.

In those days, the popular saying was that sales cover a multitude of sins. So, I picked the locations that were running double-digit sales increases!

When we arrived at each shop, Rick pulled out his shop evaluation form and clipboard.

The first area he visited was the customer restroom. It didn’t matter what number was on the bottom line of the shop manager’s P or L statement!

It didn’t matter how well they were doing in sales! If the restrooms were dirty, things didn’t go well.

I learned that failing to maintain the restrooms was a Career Limiting Move (CLM), that led to a terrible shop visit!

The lesson I learned is stated as ATI Fundamental #19: Appearance Counts.

I know what you’re thinking: “Twiggs, I understand that appearance counts, but why were the visits so bad when the results were so good?”

The answer to this question will help you to avoid a terrible shop visit. But first, it’s important to understand the difference between focus and perspective.

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Focus vs Perspective

Do you know who the boss is? This person is more powerful than my regional manager. The scary thing is that you can have a terrible shop visit with them and not even know.

If it’s a good visit, “the boss” may tell three people about the experience. If it’s terrible, he or she can tell three thousand people at one time with one smartphone screen-swipe!

Do you still not know? Well, the following multiple-choice options will help you to determine who the boss really is:

  1. Bruce Springsteen
  2. Diana Ross
  3. your customer!

If you chose option C, we’re singing from the same sheet of music! Since the customer is the boss, it is critical to understand the difference between focus and perspective.

Focus is what you are looking at. Perspective is where you are looking from. Most shop owners are looking at the low hanging fruit. For example:

  • “Do I have more money in the bank?”
  • “Am I up in sales?”
  • “Do I have cars in my bays?”
  • “Did all my employees show up as scheduled?”

If the answer to each question is yes, you feel like things are going well.

The problem is that achieving what you’re focused on can still feel like a terrible shop visit to your customer.

When Rick visited my shops, I was primarily focused on the results. He challenged me to change my perspective.

The key to avoiding a terrible visit is to shift your focus to your boss’s perspective. Keep reading to discover how to accomplish this.

Embrace the Disney Truth

Are you still focused on the idea that sales cover a multitude of sins?

I challenge you to embrace the following truth that was communicated by former Disney executive Dennis Snow:

“Everything Speaks.”

Based on your current focus, you may be doing well, but if your standards are sending the wrong message, the good times won’t last.

For example:

The dirty restroom is asking, “If they can’t do something simple like keeping me clean, how are they going to fix your complex car?”

The dirty shop is saying, “The value of the experience isn’t worth the price they are charging.”

The disorganized counter is asking, “If they can’t keep up with my organization, how will they keep up with the status of your car?”

While you’re looking at sales, your standards are speaking to your customers.

Embracing the Disney Truth can help to shift your focus to their perspective!


So, there you have it. The takeaway from my experience with Rick was that appearance counts. Embracing the Disney Truth can shift your perspective.

Seeing things from your customers’ vantage point will help you avoid a terrible shop visit.

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.