Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Top 3 Factors That Lead to Failure

"Nothing external to you has any power over you."Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was August of 2009, and I was the new guy. As a rookie coach, I was curious as to why some shop owners experience great success, while others lose money on the bottom line each week. As I would get new clients, I would ask:” What’s your biggest challenge?”

The most common responses were the economy, customers not having enough money, and being in a small town.

Several months later, my heart sank as a client was transferred to me that fit this description. He had a four-bay shop in a rural part of the country that had a low median income with a high unemployment rate. The local economy was bad because of massive layoffs.

His location was four blocks from the main road and on a dead-end street. If you were to Google the phrase “my shop is different,” a picture of his building would come up! We were in big trouble, right?

Before you answer, let’s fast forward six years. This “unlucky shop owner” averaged $41,000 in sales, 82 cars, and $15,000 of Gross Profit Improvement per week. His name is Bryan, and his shop BG Automotive consistently ranked in the top 25 out of 1200 locations in the ATI Top shop rankings! His story teaches us that the factors leading to failure are not external.

The reasons for both success and failure can be found within your four walls. So, what are the real reasons that shops miss the mark? Based on my experience, there are seven factors that lead to failure. Let’s start by reviewing the top three.

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1. Unclear Standards

Standards are the minimum acceptable levels of performance in a particular area. Do your technicians know what the standard is for productivity? Do your writers know how much they need to do in gross sales every day? Do you and your team know what your WIN # is?

Having a consistent meeting routine is a great way to communicate your standards. A daily huddle, weekly one-on-ones, and monthly team meetings give you a platform to keep everyone on the same page.

2. Lack of Training

Demanding results without verifying know-how leads to frustration. I recall a time when I coached a service manager who struggled to sell maintenance. Each week, he promised to do better, but the results never changed. Out of frustration, I put him on the spot by asking him to sell me a brake flush as if I were a customer. After an awkward silence, he admitted that he didn’t know what to say!

If I had role-played with him from the beginning, we could have implemented the training plan and gotten the desired results much sooner. Have you been struggling to get your writers to exit-schedule, overcome objections, or answer the phones correctly? Conduct role-play sessions with them this week to see where they really stand.

3. Missing Motivation

Training and motivation are often confused. To resolve this confusion, I use the “gun to the head test.” Here’s how it works: if an armed criminal broke into your location demanding your writer to execute the phone script, could she do it?

The “gun to the head” would motivate her to use her know-how. If she has the know-how but is still failing on the phones, a lack of training isn’t the reason!

Do you have a performance-based compensation plan to provide monetary incentives? Are there consequences in place for any employee who fails to follow through? Do you have a recognition program to provide public praise to your top performers?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you may have a missing motivation problem!


If the economy, the customer’s wallet, and being in a small town determined success, Bryan and the other Top Shops would never make the list!

If you commit to clarifying your standards, investing in training, and providing motivation, you will overcome the factors that lead to failure!

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.