Auto Shop Coaching Blog

What Top Shops Never Say and What They Do Instead

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.Mark Twain

“Jack” owns a shop on the east coast and has two service advisors. The first advisor “Ray” is an automotive industry veteran with over 15 years of experience. He’s been there, done that, and has the tee shirt and coffee mug to prove it!

The second writer “Craig” knows nothing about cars and couldn’t change his own oil if his life depended on it! Which one would you hire? Before you answer, allow me to continue the story.

Jack scheduled them both to ATI service advisor class. Since Craig was brand new to the shop, he decided to send Ray first. When Ray returned, Jack asked him what he learned and what he planned to implement.

To which Ray replied: “Nothing new to report Jack. I already knew all of that stuff.  Honestly, it was a waste of time.” Jack looked at Ray’s workbook from class and noticed that the notes pages were blank. 

A month later, Craig attended the same class. He returned to the shop with a workbook full of notes and a list of ten takeaways.  When Jack asked Craig what he thought about the class he replied: “I really have a lot to learn.”

Several weeks later, Jack sent me a spreadsheet comparing Ray & Craig’s monthly sales and Gross Profit performance. I noticed there was a major difference between the two. One writer was averaging $9,400 per week in sales with a 46% gross profit while the other averaged $3800 and 39%.

As I kept scrolling through the report, I was shocked to discover that Craig, the new guy, was the top performer, while Ray was living proof of the following truth:  It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know that produces results.

Here’s the one thing you never hear in a Top Shop: “I already knew that!”  In eight years of coaching shops, I can’t think of one shop leader who went on to become successful after making this statement.

Those individuals who have told me: “I already knew that” do have this in common:  They either failed to produce profits or were fired for performance.  Why is this the case?  Stay with me to learn the two reasons why what you think you know can hurt you.

You Get Blindsided By Change

Back in 2010, I was responsible for teaching a breakout session in the marketing class on how to set up The Facebook Business page.  Before my initial sessions, I would prepare beforehand by reviewing Facebook and practicing the process of setting up the page.

After getting several classes under my belt, I knew what I was doing.  One particular week, I didn’t bother to practice beforehand.  Why practice when I already knew that?

Well, I confidently approached the computer in class, only to discover that Facebook had completely reorganized their site!  The process for setting up the business page had changed from what I had practiced before.

Sadly, the students and I stumbled through the new Facebook set up together!  Because I believed “I already knew that,” I was blindsided by change.

In business, change is the only constant that you can count on.   Technology, consumer, and employee demands are always evolving.  If you’re always learning, you’ll be less likely to get blindsided.

Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster Video, and Blackberry, are examples of organizations who “already knew that.”  How did this mindset workout for them?

Everyone Is Getting Better

In the world of distance running, it was believed to be impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes. Over the years many tried to accomplish this feat and failed. An unheralded runner named Roger Bannister announced to the local media that he would run a sub-four-minute mile.

All of “the experts” laughed at him, until one day in 1954, Roger shocked the world by doing it! Over the next twelve months, the feat that was once believed to be impossible was accomplished by thirty different people! Today, runners at the high school level have run a sub-four-minute mile. Everyone got better.

The business environment is like the running world in that everyone is getting better.  In past years, having a website for your shop was like running a four-minute mile, and it put you ahead of your competition.

Today, all of your competitors have one.  Back in the day, the informed customer who had researched your location before their visit was like the four-minute miler.  Today, thanks to Google, every customer is an informed customer.

If you think you already know everything, you won’t feel the need to improve.  The race for Top Shop is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s hard to win if everyone in the race has gotten better except for you.


Unfortunately, Ray’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Jack ended up firing him for performance. Ray’s belief that he already knew, caused him to get blindsided by change, and to fall behind Craig who was getting better. This explains why you never hear the Top Shop Leader Say “I already knew that.”

P.S.  Is Your Service Advisor getting better or going backward? Email receive a Service Advisor observation kit to ensure that your writer is doing the right things.

Print Friendly
Related Articles:
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.