Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Keep a Bad Attitude From Impacting Your Shop

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”Winston Churchill

After several months of searching for a service manager, “John,” a local shop owner had finally found “Mr. Right.”  “Steve,” had over 15 years of experience writing service and was most recently working for another ATI shop owner.

During the interview, he said all the right things and had all the right answers. Steve passed his background check with flying colors.

As a mere formality, John called his old boss named “Bill” for a reference. Here is how the conversation went:

“Bill, I see that Steve worked for you from January of 2017 to February of 2018.” “Yes,” Bill replied. “He says his reason for leaving was that he was relocating because of his wife’s new job.” “Yes,” Said Bill.

“Great. So, knowing what you know today about Steve, would you hire him back?” To which Bill replied: “absolutely not!

Bill went on for the next ten minutes telling John about how Steve was negative, resistant to change and always blaming other people for his failures! Steve’s attitude cost him a career opportunity. How much has a bad attitude at your shop cost you?

I know what you’re thinking: “But Coach, my manager is only negative with me. She says the right things to my customers!”

My response can be best summed up by the following quote from John Maxwell: People hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

This explains why someone with a bad attitude can lower your customer retention rate, even if you never receive a complaint. She seems to say the right things, but your patrons feel her attitude and don’t return.

Here’s the bottom line: If your writer is always negative with you, your customer feels it too.

Negativity at the counter may be costing you more than you realize.  

So, how can you keep a bad attitude from impacting your shop? Keep reading and you will learn.

Consider the Michelin Method

Early in my automotive career, I worked as a service advisor for a major tire retailer. I thought it would be cool to work for the Michelin Tire Corporation as a Michelin Representative.

Based on my research, they spent their time traveling to conferences, conducting training clinics, and hosting plant tours!

Because of my previous tire experience, I considered myself to be a slam dunk to get a position with their organization. I embraced the right attitude as I completed the application.

Apparently, Michelin never got the memo, that I was a slam dunk. They didn’t get the memo, but I got the rejection letter! After speaking with “Mary,” my local Michelin Rep, I discovered that my previous tire experience was the problem!

According to Mary, the company had a strict policy of not hiring anyone with a background in selling tires.

Why would a tire company refuse someone with tire experience? Here’s what Mary said: “We hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”

In other words, on the journey to success, Michelin was looking for people who would bring luggage and not baggage. Stay with me as I unpack these two terms.

Luggage vs Baggage

While traveling, luggage represents the items you bring with you that are essential to your trip. It’s portable and easy to travel with. For example, the Army refers to the portable equipment it travels with as luggage.

Baggage, on the other hand, represents those excess items that limit your freedom, progress, and comfort.  Baggage is so difficult to deal with, the airports have created a baggage claim section to free you up. When was the last time you saw a luggage claim section?

Many of the service managers with automotive experience, bring baggage with them. They are weighed down with bad habits, limiting beliefs, and all the reasons that your idea won’t work.

Since you don’t have a baggage claim area at your shop, the next best thing is to hire for attitude.

Please make note of the following disclaimers:

  1. I have nothing against hiring experienced service managers. Their experience can be valuable if they show up with luggage and not baggage.
  2. When hiring someone with no automotive background, be prepared to invest the time. It may take up to six months to bring them up to speed on the basics of the business.


So, there you have it. When hiring your next service manager, consider the Michelin Method of hiring a qualified person with no industry background. Also, make sure the next industry veteran you hire is carrying luggage instead of baggage.   

Committing to these steps will keep a bad attitude from impacting your shop.

Email to receive a checklist containing The 7 Symptoms of a Bad Attitude.

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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.