Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Are You a Victim of Your Business?

“99% of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”George Washington Carver

In chapter two of their book Extreme Ownership, former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote about their experience initiating Navy Seal officer candidates. The final week of testing was referred to as “hell week.” They observed an interesting trend during one of the hell week sessions.

As part of their initiation, the candidates were divided into six, seven-man boat crews that competed in a series of races against each other. Out of the six teams, boat crew #2 won every race in the series while crew #6 finished dead last each time. The leader of crew #6 blamed his crew members and his crew members blamed each other.

He believed that the winning leader was lucky because he inherited a better team which gave him an unfair advantage. To resolve this debate, Babin swapped boat leaders sending the leader of crew #2 to boat #6 and vice versa. After making the change they resumed the races. What do you think happened next?

You guessed it, with the new leader in place, the losing boat crews luck suddenly changed! Boat crew #6 went from worst to first by winning the rest of their races, with crew #2 finishing second. Why did such a small change make a big difference? The winning leader took full responsibility for everything that happened on his boat. The leader of the losing boat pointed the finger at his people as the reason for his failure.

Ideas to grow your businessTake responsibility and build accountability! Discover valuable tips and strategies to improve your bottom-line and grow your business. Register for ATI’s free webinar.

Accountability and Responsibility

Here’s the big takeaway: You won’t feel accountable for your results until you become responsible for your reasons.

What “reasons” are holding you back from success? Here are the most common examples that I hear:

“The vendors say that all the shops in my area are slow.”
“There aren’t any good technicians in my market.”
“Eric, you need to visit me, so you can see that my customers are different.”

During my career as a district manager, I would replace a shop manager who made one of these statements with a new leader, and suddenly the losing location would start winning. Since they embraced their reasons, both the boat leader and shop manager were playing the role of the victim.

Are you a victim of your business? Stay with me to learn strategies that can help you move from victim to victor.

Practice “My Fault Management”

I was speaking with a shop owner recently who was complaining about the state of his business. He went on for twenty minutes telling me all about the mild winter, his bad local economy, and the industry shortage of technicians. I asked him to tell me one thing he had done in the past week to improve business and the line went silent!

Before I could hang up and dial 911, he admitted that he hadn’t done anything to improve his business. And, why would he? He didn’t believe he was responsible so he didn’t feel accountable. He was a victim of his business.

The solution is to assume that everything that happens in your business is your fault. This is what’s known as “my fault management.”

Phones not ringing? Your fault! Now that you’re responsible, you will be motivated to adjust your marketing efforts.

Customers declining your estimates? Your fault! Now that you’ve taken the blame, you will be more likely to start practicing the sales process.

Don’t have the right techs? Your fault! Now that it’s your fault, you will be more inclined to post a hiring banner and commit to the minimum number of interviews you will conduct each month.

The sooner you take the blame, the faster you’ll experience the gain.

Establish a Winning Culture

After reading about the boats, I was left with the following question: How was boat crew #2 still able to finish in second place, even after losing their great leader? And then it hit me. It was because the leader had established a winning culture. A sure sign of a winning culture is that people do the right things whether the leader is present or not.

When a winning behavior is ingrained in your culture, it becomes a natural part of what you do. For example, the Les Schwab Tire Company has been a consistent winner in the automotive industry when it comes to customer satisfaction index scores.

The service advisors have been trained to run out to the car to greet the customer in the parking lot. This behavior has been talked about so much during their meetings and training sessions, that it happens whether the boss is watching or not. Everyone understands, that if you want to work for Les Schwab, you run to the car. It’s what they do.

As you attempt to build a winning culture, keep in mind that what you do speaks louder than what you say. The losing boat leader played the blame game and so did his people. This makes practicing my fault management critical to establishing a winning culture.


So, there you have it. Practicing my fault management and establishing a winning culture will help you to move from victim to victor. If you aren’t taking extreme ownership, you’re missing the boat.

For more tips on how to bring customers to your shop and plan your shop’s comeback, 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.