Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Get Recognized on Stage as a Top Shop

“Success leaves clues, and if you sow the same seeds, you’ll reap the same rewards.”Brad Thor

What do the shops who made the Top 12 at the ATI SuperConference have in common? I pondered this question over the weekend as I visited “Joe’s Hardware Store” looking for a special drill to complete a home project.

After several minutes of searching, I approached the counter to ask “Joe” the store owner for help. Joe was the face of the business. Each customer who came in would yell out “Hey, Joe!”

Whenever the phone rang, Joe answered it. When customers had questions, Joe answered them. When the patrons were ready to pay, guess who invoiced them? That’s right, it was Joe!

There was one small problem: He was too busy working in the business to help me with my bother. After about 30 minutes, I decided to leave Joe’s Hardware Store and opted for Home Depot instead.

At Home Depot, a greeter acknowledged me as soon as I walked in. I asked him where the drills were and he directed me to the tools department. When I arrived at the tools department, there was a gentleman in an orange vest sitting at the desk. He handed me the drill I was looking for and I was on my way.

Here’s what’s interesting: I have no idea who the owner of Home Depot is! All I know is that my problem was resolved in a matter of minutes.

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What’s Your Business Model?

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Cute story Coach, but what does this have to do with my goal of making the ATI Top 12?”

Well, Home Depot and the Top 12 Shops have a business model that’s different from Joe’s.

Joe’s Hardware store has a relational business model where the business is built around Joe and his relationships with the customers. Home Depot and ATI’s Top Shops have a franchise business model that’s built around systems and processes that can be duplicated.

Which business model do you have? If you answered “relational” but aspire to become a top shop, this next sentence can be a game-changer for you: Build your business model based on where you want to be, not on where you are today.

If where you want to be, is on stage at the SuperConference getting your plaque, the franchise model is the way to go. So, what can you do to begin your journey to the Top 12? Keep reading to learn two simple steps that can get you recognized on stage.

Search for the Right Service Manager

Once again, I know what you’re thinking: “But Eric, I can’t afford to pay the right service manager.” As you wrestle with this limiting belief, I’m reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with “Sam,” a service manager in South Florida.

He was averaging $12,000 per week in sales and a $384 Average Repair Order(ARO). When the shop owner “Rita” and I agreed to raise his benchmark for ARO to $432, Sam protested: “You don’t understand, it can’t be done! We have an older clientele that’s on a fixed income. My area is different.”

Sam decided to leave the shop to work for a local engine distributor. Rita has a habit of posting employment ads even when she’s was fully staffed, so as Sam was leaving she came across “Jack’s” resume. She hired Jack and you’ll never guess what happened next.

With the same older clientele that’s on a fixed income, Jack has averaged $19,200 per week in sales with a $540 ARO. Here’s the big idea: The right service manager can pay for himself.

Searching for the right service manager, was Rita’s first step towards building her model based on where she wanted to be.

It’s no coincidence that all 12 of the current Top Shops have a strong service manager in place who has freed up the owner to work on instead of in the business. If you find that your results are declining while your time working in the business is increasing, you may have a service manager problem. For more information on this, please re-read my previous blog post on the topic.

Establish Written Processes

On the third episode of the ATI podcast Driving Change, former Top 12 shop owner Dave Erb was being interviewed. I refer to him as a former shop owner because he has successfully sold four shops and currently collects rental income from each building as the landlord.

During the interview, I was surprised to hear that when Dave first joined ATI, he was a struggling shop owner who worked IN and not ON his business. Like Joe from the hardware store, Dave was the face of his business who did everything himself. As I listened to the podcast, I wondered how he could progress to where he is today.

Dave started by searching for the right service manager. While he was searching, he established written processes for everything he did and for each service his technicians performed.

Once he hired and trained the right service manager, he opened the second location and repeated the process. This franchise model worked so well that Dave was no longer needed at his locations for them to be profitable. In other words, the profits were not dependent on his presence.

Do your profits depend on your presence? How long can you leave your location, without the ability to pay the bills going with you? If you didn’t like your answers to my questions, that means it’s time to search for the right service manager and establish written processes.


So, there you have it. When Bryan Stasch evaluates for the Top Shops to decide who makes the cut, working on the business and having written processes are weighted heavily in the scoring criteria.  Bryan recognizes that these items are the nuts and bolts required to run a top shop!

For more tips on how to achieve specific results and run a productive, profitable shop, check out our free webinar.

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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.