Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Moving From Good to Great as a Shop Owner

“Don’t expect victory or defeat. Plan for victory, learn from defeat.”Gary John Bishop

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins communicates the concept of The Stockdale Paradox. It’s based on the experience of James Stockdale, a high-ranking naval officer who was held captive as a POW for seven years during the Vietnam war.

He was tortured repeatedly and had no rational reason to remain positive. The dates on the calendar would change, but his situation remained the same.

Every Christmas, he would expect to be released, only to be disappointed. Each New Year’s Day, he would expect to go home, but for seven years nothing changed. How did he make it through? He had to shift his mindset. 

Here’s how he described it in the book: “You must never confuse the faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

In other words, you must face your challenges with the right balance of optimism and realism. When he had overly optimistic expectations of going home, he would sink into deep despair when his expectation wasn’t met.

He was able to persevere, once he learned to strike the right balance. Striking the right balance between optimism and realism is a critical step to moving from good to great as a shop owner.

The ATI fundamental # 17 says to set and ask for expectations. Failing to do this, will cause you to be overly optimistic, and set you up for disappointment.

Keep reading to discover two additional keys to moving from good to great as a shop owner.

Communicate With Yourself

A key step in moving from good to great is setting the right expectation with yourself.

For example, let’s say you hire “Ted” the “A” technician to replace yourself in the shop with the overly optimistic expectation that Ted will never decide to leave.

When he does, you sink into despair, vowing to never hire your replacement again! (Sound familiar?)

If you approach this situation with the right balance, you will hire the next “A” tech while continuing to advertise the position. (Always be Hiring!)

You’re optimistic that he will stay while understanding he may stray.

When it comes to the ATI program, you must remain optimistic to the possibility of becoming a Top Shop, but realistic to the reality that it may take longer than 21 days to change 21 years of bad habits!

Approach this situation by prioritizing progress over perfection while working the program. You may not become a top shop overnight, but you can get better every day! 

Communicate With Your Team

I have a confession to make. My days as a district manager were filled with disappointment. When I took the job, I expected my team of managers to approach leadership the way I would.

For example, I expected them to resolve their customer complaints at the shop level and fight to ensure that issues never reached me.

I was disappointed when a customer wanted to use her $20 coupon, that expired the previous day, and my manager said, “I’m sorry, but you need to call Eric Twiggs for that!”

Initially, I blamed my managers for this problem.  After digging deeper, my perspective changed. Here’s what I learned: Hidden expectation is the root cause of disappointment.

I never set expectations as it related to handling customer complaints! Things changed for the better once I told them that they were empowered to resolve all complaints at the shop level and to provide refunds of up to $2,000, without getting me involved.

I faced this challenge with the right balance of optimism and realism. I was optimistic that communicating the expectation at my managers’ meeting would change behaviors.

I was also realistic to the fact that within an hour, people forget an average of 50% of the information presented at a meeting, so just telling them wasn’t enough. I had them sign a document that verified they understood the policy.

Are you upset with your writer for failing to execute an expectation that you never told her about? (like exit appointments?) If you don’t communicate with your team, your days will be filled with disappointment!


So, there you have it. James Stockdale’s shift in expectation got him mentioned in the book, Good To Great.”

If you communicate the right expectations with yourself and your team, you can move from good to great as a shop owner!  

P.S. Email me to receive a checklist of the 7 Expectations of a highly successful shop owner!


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Eric Twiggs
Eric, the Accountability Coach, is a Performance Coach at ATI and has been coaching for over 10 years. 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 for them and seeing members 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.