Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Become a World-Class Shop Owner

“The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome.”Geoff Colvin

Are you a mediocre shop owner? What really separates the best owners in the world from everyone else? I came across some information from the world of Olympic figure skating that may help you answer these questions.

In his book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin outlines the differences between the elite figure skaters and those who are mediocre.

Through his research, he found that the ordinary skaters spend most of their time practicing the jumps they can already do. The jumps they have always done. The jumps that are in their comfort zone.

The problem with continuing to do what you have always done is that you will continue to get what you have always gotten. The mediocre skaters continue to experience the result of not winning an Olympic medal.

The elite skaters, on the other hand, spend more time practicing the jumps they can’t already do. The jumps that are outside of their comfort zone. The jumps that ultimately win Olympic medals.

Mastering the more difficult jumps requires the elite skaters to fall more during their training sessions than the average performer. But in the end, they get up on the medal stand because they aren’t afraid to fall down in practice.

Every year we have a select group of shop owners who consistently make it to the ATI Top 12 “medal stand.” In speaking with these leaders over the years, I’ve discovered the following trend: They tend to embrace new ideas that are outside of their current comfort zone.

For example, the idea of using digital tablets feels uncomfortable, but they embrace it. (BTW, all 12 of last year’s winners have a tablet-based courtesy check system!) The idea of always hiring even when fully staffed feels uncomfortable, but they embrace it.

The idea of offering a 3-year 36,000-mile warranty feels uncomfortable, but they embrace it. These ideas are the equivalent of a figure skater practicing the triple axel!

The mediocre performers, on the other hand, are unwilling to do what’s uncomfortable. This is like the skater who’s only great at doing figure 8s!

If after reading this, you feel like a mediocre shop owner, I have the following good news: yesterday ended last night! Your new path to becoming world-class can begin today! Keep reading to learn two strategies to become a world-class shop owner:

Use Discomfort As Confirmation

Several years ago, I moved to a new town and was looking for a Karate school to join. I was referred to two different dojos and was able to test drive both by attending classes for free.

I attended the first school’s session which was similar to the styles I had studied before. I was comfortable with the format, familiar with the techniques, and I even worked up a mild sweat. The instructor seemed like a great guy.

The second school was a different experience. The techniques were new to me, the drills were exhausting, and I wondered why anyone would pay for such abuse, as I cursed the instructor under my breath!

I ended up choosing the second school because I knew that the pain would push me to get better faster. I used discomfort as confirmation that I was on the right track!

Remember when your ATI coach first suggested implementing the pricing matrix, and you immediately felt a pang of discomfort in the pit of your stomach? The first thought that came to your mind was “I can’t do that!”

The reason you reacted this way was that your comfort zone was being challenged.  Today, using the pricing matrix isn’t as stressful for you. Since you pressed through the initial feeling, you’ve grown to a different level. That feeling of discomfort was the starting point of your progress.

The next time your coach suggests something that makes you uncomfortable, and you feel that pang in the pit of your stomach, try thinking, “I must do that” instead of “I can’t do that.” The uneasy feeling is just confirmation that what you’re about to do is critical to your success.

Find a World-Class Environment

Back in the early 90s, I heard a motivational message from Tony Robbins that changed my life. I was watching one of his motivational infomercials and heard him make the following statement: “Success leaves clues.”

He went on to stress the importance of finding people who had already achieved the results that you aspire to, and asking them what they did to get there. After hearing this, I was inspired into action!

If my goal was to run a double-digit sales increase, I found someone who was already doing it and met with them.

If someone was having success hiring technicians, I picked up the phone and asked what they were doing to find them. If another manager always had high customer satisfaction scores, I would reach out to him and eventually model his process.

What I learned was the following truth: You can’t achieve greatness in isolation. Finding a world-class environment is critical!

Every gold medal-winning Olympic skater has the following things in common

  1. They had a qualified coach.
  2. They had access to a more advanced skater who could mentor them.
  3. They were surrounded by others who had a goal of winning  “the gold.”   

As an ATI member, I know you have a qualified coach. But are you being mentored by another shop owner who has the results you aspire to? Do you consistently associate with other like-minded shop owners who want to become the best of the best?

If you answered yes to these questions, then congratulations! You are on your way to becoming a world-class shop owner.


So, there you have it. If you use discomfort as confirmation and find a world-class environment, you can become a world-class shop owner. I hope I have inspired you into action so that you practice the triple axel instead of figure 8!

Email to receive a three-step process that will help you find a world-class environment, so you can model world-class behaviors.

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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.