Auto Shop Coaching Blog

The Secret to Becoming a Top Shop

"There’s greatness inside of you, and it’s on the other side of your excuses."Mel Robbins

Something happened a few weeks ago that knocked me out of my seat. I was speaking with a shop owner named “Rose” who was concerned about the performance of her shop.

She was down in gross profit dollars for the month and suspected that her service manager “Nick” wasn’t fully engaged.

Rose recommended that we schedule a three-way call on the following Tuesday with Nick to get him on the right track.

I agreed and suggested that she ask him the following question: “What three things are getting in the way of you achieving the shop’s goals?”

Before our call, I was bracing myself expecting to hear the typical “reasons” that tend to surface:

  • “You have to be in a big city to make money.”
  • “The vendors say that everybody in town is slow.”
  • And my personal favorite: “We have an older customer base that’s on a fixed income.”

My goal was to get these perceived barriers on the table so we could address them.

Tuesday morning had arrived, and Rose, Nick, and I were on the call. Before I could speak, Nick interrupted with the following statement:

“Eric, I don’t have three things getting in the way. I only have one.” What he said next knocked me out of my seat: It’s me. I am the problem.”

After wiping the spilled coffee off my desk, I realized that this was the first time that a service manager ever told me that he was to blame for the negative performance of the shop.

I had approached the call hoping to share the secret to becoming a top shop.

By taking personal responsibility for his results, he already knew the secret. So, what can personal responsibility do for you?

Ideas to grow your businessNon-ATI Members: Discover more valuable tips and strategies for how to reach goals, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business in ATI’s shop owner events. Register at

You Will Get Motivated

There was an experiment conducted on a group of predatory fish known as the pike. This species has a reputation for being a ruthless hunter that will eat anything you put in its space.

A group of researchers conducted the “pike experiment” by placing the fish on one side of the tank and placing their food on the other. They then put a glass divider between the fish and the food.

The pike repeatedly swam towards the food, banging its nose against the glass. This happened again and again until they sank to the bottom of the tank and stopped trying.

Even when the researchers removed the barrier, the pike made no effort to swim to the food and eventually starved to death. Once the pike lost control of reaching its destination, it lost the motivation to move forward.

Here’s the big takeaway: Blaming factors beyond your control is like placing a barrier in front of your goal.

If the local economy is the problem, you will continue to bang your head against the glass since there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Taking responsibility for your results will motivate you to move forward because once you become the problem, you also become the solution.

You can’t change the economy, but you can change yourself!

You Will Get Results

During my tenure as a district manager, there were occasions when someone working for me would arrive late. I never heard them say: “Sorry I’m late, Eric, I guess I need to leave my house earlier the next time.”

The number one “reason” I received for tardiness was: “Boss, traffic was really bad today.” This caused many of my monthly manager’s meetings to begin ten to fifteen minutes after the stated start time.

This motivated me to take responsibility for the way I communicated the meeting times. Instead of starting at 9 am, I announced an 8:45 am start time, with a fifteen-minute grace period.

I told everyone that after 9 am, the door would be locked, and anyone on the wrong side of the door would not be allowed to enter.

After making this change, I never had a problem with managers arriving late to meetings. Everyone was in place before 8:45 am. Why did this work?

Instead of blaming traffic, the managers began taking responsibility for leaving earlier. Once they took personal responsibility for their punctuality, they arrived on time, every time!

If you desire to change the results at your shop, it’s critical to shift from a complex of blaming to a culture of owning.

Want to improve your margins? Try owning how you communicate the estimate findings instead of blaming the customer’s finances.

Do you need more cars? Try owning how you answer the phones instead of blaming the size of your city.

Once you change your mindset, you can change your results!


In the weeks following our three-way conversation, Nick had doubled the gross profit dollar results compared to the previous weekly average.

Nick is living proof of the following fact: Taking personal responsibility is the secret to becoming a top shop!

Non-ATI Members: For more tips on how to achieve specific results and run a productive, profitable shop, check out our shop owner events at

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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.