Auto Shop Coaching Blog

It’s Time to Get off the Fence

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”Peter Marshall

Are you on the fence about replacing yourself in the business? This topic reminds me of an encounter I had with a shop owner named “Chuck” back in 2009. After several years of struggle, he had grown his business to where he could finally pay himself without having to invest his own money to pay his people.

His margins were in line, his techs were doing courtesy checks, and his customers didn’t cry when he charged for the shop supply. There was one small problem: He was the only service writer, and when he left the shop for a week, he took the gross profit with him. No Chuck, no cash! 

“Why don’t you post an ad for a service writer?” I asked. “Eric, I’m not ready to bring someone on yet. I have to organize my office. Give me three weeks, then I’ll start looking.”

Three weeks later I checked in with him, and he had completed his office organization project. “So Chuck, when will you be running the ad?” “Eric, I was going to, but it’s been raining every day and my car count has dipped. Let’s wait until business picks up and I can afford to bring someone on. Besides, according to the “tool guy,” everybody is slow!”

A month goes by and his sales have improved. Before I could ask him about recruiting a writer, he interrupted me by saying: “I was going to start looking, but then I realized I needed to have an updated job description to ensure the new person knows what to do. It should take another two weeks, and I’ll be ready.”

Nine weeks after our initial conversation, Chuck was stuck working the counter at a shop with an organized office, strong sales, and updated position descriptions! And then it hit me. These tasks were merely stalling tactics. The real issue was his fear of venturing into the unknown. 

As mentioned in a previous blog, that perfect time when the planets are aligned and all the traffic lights on your morning commute to the shop are green isn’t coming.

It’s time to get off the fence. So what can you do to get off the fence and get on with your life? Stay with me and you will learn two strategies to push yourself forward.

Ideas to grow your businessWant more tips for how to push yourself forward, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business? Discover valuable, easy-to-implement ideas and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events. Register today at

Establish a Deadline

A goal to hire your replacement, without a completion deadline is only a wish. What you’re really saying is “I will replace myself in the business someday.” The Rosetta Stone translation for “someday” is never. Think about a goal from your past where you said you would do it someday. Chances are it never happened.

This makes establishing a deadline critical to your success. Just having a date in mind isn’t enough. The key step is to communicate your timeline to someone who can hold you accountable to your commitment. Your coach, accountability partner, and fellow 20 group members are great resources for accountability.

A 2013 Forbes magazine article reported the following results: A goal that is only thought about succeeds less than 50% of the time, compared to one communicated to a friend while providing progress reports succeeding 75% of the time. The combination of having a deadline and someone to answer to can provide enough motivation to push you off the fence.

Embrace a “While” Mentality

Most people are imprisoned by an “if, then” mindset. This type of shop leader won’t move forward until the circumstances are ideal. Here are two examples:

  1. “If I have the right sales volume, then I will look for a service manager.”
  2. If I can get the shop clean, then I will look for a technician.”

As we saw with Chuck, this mentality can cause you to chase after a finish line that’s always moving out of your reach.

The solution is to change to a “while” way of thinking. While you are organizing the shop, you can look for a technician. You can recruit for your general manager while you are writing your standard operating procedures. “While” works better because hiring the right person can be a time-consuming process.

A recent study of small business hiring found that the average interview process from start to finish takes twenty-three days. It typically takes a week to set up the interview. Next, it would take at least two weeks to complete the interview, background, and reference check process.

Good candidates tend to leave their employers two weeks’notice, so we’re talking five weeks (about twenty-three days not counting weekends) if you become aware of the right candidate tomorrow! The habit of looking while you prepare increases the chances of hiring the right person within the deadline you established.


Chuck’s story has a happy ending. He finally took my advice of looking while he got ready, and today he spends about eight hours a week at his shop. He posted a career opportunities link on his website which attracted his current general manager.

If you commit to establishing a deadline and embracing a “while” mentality, you will get off the fence and on with your life.

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.