Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Power of Transparency in Your Auto Repair Shop

In our industry, and life in general, there have been times when we couldn’t get the results we were looking for from our team. If we hit the goal we set out to, but only do so by the skin of our teeth, we can’t go about our next task the same way. There could be a few reasons we barely hit goals if at all:

  • We are using outdated tactics from the times of dictatorships.
  • We’re not enabling our team to function independently.
  • We haven’t given the team enough information to draw their own conclusions and assist us in getting a goal to completion.

Whatever the reasons, let’s take the leap and change for a better tomorrow.

The Problem With Dictating

Before the current era of hiring hardships, it was an employer’s world which meant we may have gone by the mantra “what I say goes.” If our staff didn’t follow our instructions to a “T,” their replacements were ready to come off the bench. The problem with dictating the path we’re taking is that employees performed tasks out of compliance, not out of commitment. This created a poor culture, staff that peered at the timeclock too often, and other downsides that all equated to a less-than-stellar output from them.

All of this was caused by the team not understanding the “why.” They weren’t in our seats, didn’t understand our position, and maybe thought there was a better way to do things. In this recently-gone era, their input wasn’t valued. But now, leaders have chosen to arm their staff with much-needed information, while also listening to opinions that may differ from their own. Now the best path to take isn’t representative of a singular mind, but many.

Be Honest About Your Finances

Transparency gives our staff the much-needed information into why a directive was put in place, why we are in pursuit of a certain goal, the ability to think up tactics or viewpoints we didn’t come up with, and much more. In exchange for your transparency of financial information, short and long-term goals, or anything else, this also shows our respect for an individual or team to trust them with assisting us in our pursuits.

An example would be a profit and loss statement that used to be shielded from employees, but now we’re letting them know the ins and outs of how the business works. We can take the conversation as far as we see fit. Teach them how to calculate margin, the true costs of goods, or how much we spend on advertising. Explain why we negotiate between monitoring gross profit dollars and net profits at different times. When we advise the true cost of labor includes everything labor-producing staff uses, what a great catch it’ll be when they find out we mistakenly classified the subscriptions they use to function under the wrong chart of accounts heading.

Let Your Staff Draw Their Own Conclusions

After some newly constructed meetings, staff will start drawing their own conclusions – which equates to their own improvements and the “why” coming from them. Engagement is driven forward since they’re vested in seeing their (not our) plan succeed. With ATI members I’ve spoken to this past year, the feedback from their staff has been overwhelmingly positive, with many teams asking for more.

Imagine what this exposure of new information would do with non-engaged employees. Those we perceived as doing the bare minimum, functioned in that manner due to being shielded from why we conduct business in the way we do. A recent hire to a low-level position didn’t know why we carried oil in drums vs his prior employer who used bay boxes. But when we show the COGs we’re trying to outrun, they cite prior sales staff bought oil locally from vendor x, drove up their margin, and now the business is more profitable. “I see your uniform costs are really high,” the recent hire said. “We used to buy the shirts on the internet, emblazon them with the company logo, and left the laundering to someone local.” This begs the question – how often have we resourced our staff on procedures used during their prior work experiences that would be advantageous to us?

We can’t get better without input from those who make our team.

This can start as early as an interview. Given the position we’re hiring for, we can ask “Name a way you have or could put together to increase margins given revenue is flat. I ask due to this is a problem we’re currently having.” A fitting question for top-tier service advisors and a must for management material. Not to mention we’ve made it understood that transparency of our hurdles is how we go about business.

Want to make employees understand that continuous training is beneficial to them and company? Clue them in. Technician’s pay plans can increase reflective of ASE testing completed with a passing score. Advisors who take x amount of hours trained in a year yields them a floating holiday to be used. Why is it important? Growth. They won’t know that unless we advise them. Use what we learned from leadership and mentor classes we have taken to influence them in this powerful motivator – ongoing training keeps us from getting stale.

Transparency Fosters Growth

We can tie the trust we give someone with additional information to a promotion, a new pay plan, or being titled a leader of a task or group of people. The possibilities are endless. At a minimum, we can set an expectation that if you do well, there’s more where that came from. Depending on the culture owners have built, some complain that their time to “work on the business” is limited to constant interruptions, performing remedial tasks, and more. But if we permit individuals or the entire team to head an issue and regulate themselves, now our own time management issues have been helped and possibly resolved altogether.

ATI has a portal that points out important KPIs that are updated weekly. Everything from top-line sales, wages, and margins, down to bottom line operating profit. If we gave a second in command exposed to some or all of this information, including stats from internal management software and accounting, we’re arming them with data to make changes. The days of shielding this information under a cloak are gone, unless our misplaced motivation is to be the hero of a successful year, or the sole person to blame for shortcomings that impact employee benefits, customer perks, pay plans, and anything else.

Data Transparency Will Help Hit Goals

Transparency of the data staff needs to achieve a goal is also more likely to get us to that goal quicker and with the right plan updates at the right time. More minds contributing to where we are and where we’re going gives us the ability to be notified about things that fall outside of our viewpoint. The team will be comprised of those who are strong in math, team leading, practical solution creation, and other character traits, some of which owners may not have. We may lean on mentors, family members, and friends, but why not involve those we spend the most time with to give much-needed input into where their most time is spent too?

Don’t Limit The Needs Of Your Business

Now, we can still choose to go about business like we always have – hoarding any information just for our eyes to see. But if we’re going to do this, recognize that we’ve limited the needs of the business out of fear and inability to change, when the right thing to do was inform and ask for input from those around us. We didn’t save staff from leaving since they started looking elsewhere for employment due to perceiving us as “just another place that’s constantly changing the flavor of the week, but still limiting me to do just basic grunt work.” We didn’t hit our stretch budget for the year since the only path to hitting the budget was provided by us and no one else. Do you hate losing so much that you are willing to change, or do you hate change so much you are willing to lose?

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Koole Bolina is a Performance Coach at ATI and has been in the automotive industry since 1998. Starting with a personal interest in automotive repairs, he continues to be part of car clubs, drag racing and keeping up with industry trends. Koole loves to positively influence those who want to do better, be better. If the industry we happen to do business in is the automotive field, that makes it all the better.