During my days as a district manager, I had the opportunity to witness the building of several new locations. The builders would arrive on-site and we would review the drawings. I could see how many bays we would have, the layout of the customer waiting area, and total facility square footage. As I observed, I noticed an interesting trend. The actual building process began the same way every time.
They never started with the exterior lighting. They didn’t begin by building the roof. They didn’t list plumbing as the priority. The building process always began by establishing the foundation. I often wondered why they began this way.
And then it hit me: You can’t expect to have a strong location if it’s built on a weak foundation.
You may be thinking: “Nice story Eric, but I don’t need a foundation. What I need are new customers!” OK, I get it. Starting with the foundation isn’t as sexy as the latest car count changing “silver bullet.”
I challenge you to consider the following trend: During the tough times, those who cry the most about low car count are those with the least amount of focus on their foundation. Meanwhile, the owners who’ve built the right way are experiencing success even though it’s an election year and all the vendors say it’s slow!
So what foundational focus items should you consider? Stay with me because I’m building towards the answer.
Want tips for how to build your strong foundation, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business? Discover valuable, easy-to-implement ideas and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events. Register today at atievent.com.
While conducting research for his book Good To Great, Jim Collins examined the performance of over fourteen hundred companies over a forty-year time span and found eleven that produced great results on a consistent basis. The CEOs of these organizations had one trait in common: They began the building process by focusing on the people.
Collins uses the “the bus” metaphor to describe their step by step process. Their first priority was getting the right people on the bus. Next, they focused on getting the wrong people off the bus. Lastly, they made sure the right people were sitting in the right seats. Great leaders don’t focus on where “the bus” is going until they address getting the right people on it and in the right seats.
Take a hard look at your service writers, technicians, and support staff. If you could turn back the hands of time, would you enthusiastically rehire everyone based on what you know today? If you answered “no” for 50% or more of your staff, it’s an indication of a fragile foundation.
So once you get the right people in the right seats and get rid of the wrong ones, your foundation is set, right? Wrong! It’s hard to drive your shop forward if the right people don’t know what to do. This is why having written processes is a critical part of your foundation.
Your processes are solid if you have the following three items in place:
- An updated employee handbook with detailed policies.
- Current job descriptions for every position.
- Written operating procedures for every task.
The more routines you have in writing, the less dependent the business will be on your presence. Your routines will set you free.
The key is to work on finding the right people while you’re establishing the right processes. Don’t make the mistake of allowing “perfect” to become the enemy of “progress.” Getting the right people in each key position takes time.
If you delay your search until you’ve perfected your processes, you won’t be prepared if you lose a current employee unexpectedly, or if you suddenly become unavailable. As mentioned in a previous blog, betting that you’ll always be available is much riskier than recruiting for your replacement.
As anyone with a beachfront property will tell you, the best time to establish a strong foundation is BEFORE the storm comes. Building your business with strong people and processes will allow you to prosper while your competitors and vendors complain about the economic storms. What are you building?
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.