Auto Shop Coaching Blog

What Are You Tolerating?

“What you allow is what will continue.”

Are you holding your people accountable? When I was a district manager for a national automotive chain back in 2001, I would have answered this question with a definite “YES!” After all, I always “preached” the right things.

During team meetings, I preached about the habit of filling out a courtesy check for every customer. I preached about the importance of wearing safety glasses and safety-toed boots while working in the shop. I would preach to the writers about doing a vehicle walk around at the car with each customer.

“Mike,” the National Vice President of Operations, was scheduled to visit my shops and audit the previously mentioned processes. Since I had given my people specific directions on what to do, I was looking forward to the upcoming visit.

We visited three locations, and I watched with growing despair as my people failed to fill out the courtesy checks, wear the safety equipment, or do the vehicle walkarounds! I found myself repeating the following phrase throughout the day: “Mike, I told them to do it!” 

After this visit, I wondered what I could have done to make the message clearer. I now realize my problem was best summed up by the former Navy Seal and author Jocko Willink when he said: “It’s not what you preach; it’s what you tolerate.”

I may have preached about doing courtesy checks, but my failure to confront the technician who handed me a blank form sent a different message. I was tolerating non-compliance.

What are you tolerating? This is an important question because your silence is your acceptance. How you respond to non-compliance is where the rubber meets the road.

A one-hour meeting without follow-up and follow-through is an hour of your life that you just wasted! Keep reading to learn two simple strategies to help you hold your people accountable. 

Ideas to grow your businessAre you having trouble managing your staff and holding them accountable? Discover tips and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events that will help you improve your management processes and grow your business! Register today at


When I worked for the national automotive chain, we had something we called “the flavor of the month.” This was when the corporate leadership would communicate what they believed was a game-changing directive. For thirty days, this initiative was preached during conference calls and store visits.

Employees were told that compliance was mandatory and that the failure to comply was a career-limiting move. An example of this was the directive to place the work orders in special plastic pouches and to hang the pouches on the customer’s driver side mirror once the vehicle was in the bays.

After about forty days, however, things changed. The initiative was no longer enforced, and the leader would walk past a technician failing to hang the pouch, with no reaction.

The experienced employees knew that eventually, the focus would change because the directive was just “the flavor of the month.” Since there was no consistency, there was no accountability.

Holding your weekly one-on-one meetings on the same day and time is a great way to leverage the power of consistency.

Pick two or three standards that you always preach about, but struggle to get compliance on. Make a point to keep those three items on your agenda every week.

For example, if exit appointments are your struggle, get in the habit of asking your writer how many appointments he has scheduled since the last meeting. He will get the message that the exit appointment isn’t just the flavor of the month and will dread having to tell you he’s non-compliant every week.


I was talking with a shop owner named “Laura” recently who was blaming her people for the shop falling short of its benchmarks. She said she has regular team meetings, but her technicians are still failing to arrive at work on time.

I asked her what the consequence was for those who failed to do what she asked. There was silence on the other end of the phone! Before laughing at Laura, consider the following scenario: If I work for you and am not doing what you ask, what are the consequences? 

The progressive disciplinary process is the best place to start. Let’s say the issue is that, as your employee, I am late to work every day.

The first step of the process is the verbal warning. Acknowledging that you noticed I was late, reminding me of the importance of timeliness, and asking if you can count on me to be punctual, will certainly get my attention.

If I continue to come in late, the next step in the process is the write-up. With the first write up, it’s important to notate the day and time of the verbal warning. This shows a pattern of poor performance.

Once you have a verbal warning and three write-ups, you will have provided consequences for non-compliance, and have the necessary documentation to terminate the employee. For additional information on the progressive disciplinary process, contact SESCO at 423-764-4127.


So, there you have it. Leveraging the power of consistency and providing consequences for non-compliance will enhance your ability to hold people accountable.

My visit with Mike would have gone better if I had embraced these strategies. What do you need to stop tolerating?

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.