Auto Shop Coaching Blog

What’s the Biggest Threat to Your Progress?

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”Seth Godin

Join me as we journey through a typical morning in my life. I make my first call to a new client named “Richard.” I notice he’s had the same labor rate for the past three years. “Richard, it’s time to increase your labor rate,” I suggest. “I can’t do that, coach. My customers are on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay more.”

My next call is with “Susan,” who has been in the program for nine months. “Susan, what are you doing to find the ‘A’ technician to replace yourself in the shop?” “Eric, I can’t advertise for technicians now because we’re going into our slow season and I won’t have the work to support him. Besides, what if my other techs find out that I’m looking?”

Moments later, I call “Larry,” who has been on board for one year. “Larry, have you located the service manager to free you up from working the counter?” To which he replied, “My customers ask for me by name. Besides, that service manager I hired four years ago didn’t work out!

What do Richard, Susan, and Larry have in common? They have each become a victim of “the oppressor.”

Who’s the Oppressor?

The oppressor is the voice in your head that talks you out of progressing beyond your current level. In the animated movie world, whenever the lead character is facing a difficult decision, little angels appear on each shoulder offering advice.

The red angel offers guidance that would keep the hero from achieving his goal. The oppressor is like the red angel on your shoulder that talks you out of taking risks.

The oppressor is your biggest threat because you can’t make progress without taking risks. 

So what can you do to defeat that voice of doubt? Keep reading to learn two strategies to overcome the voice of the oppressor.

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Name Your Oppressor

We are always having internal conversations with ourselves. In his book What To Say When You Talk to Yourself,  Dr. Shad Helmstetter describes this mental dialog as “self-talk.” He goes on to say that because of our programming since birth, 75% or more of our self-talk is negative.

We’re programmed to avoid pain, so we tend to talk ourselves out of activities that force us to stretch and leave our comfort zone.

Remember sitting through shop owner’s class when Randy mentioned using the pricing matrixes, and you thought to yourself, “This won’t work in my area!” That, my friend, was the little red angel doing the talking.

You can’t overcome an oppressor if you don’t know it’s there. Giving this voice a name will make you aware of when it shows up. For example, let’s say you named your oppressor “Oliver.”

When you start hearing the following statements: “My shop is different”; “I’ll look for my replacement once business picks up”; “I don’t have $50 to spend on a visit frequency report”; and “going up to an $80 labor rate will put me out of business,” you’ll know that Oliver is doing the talking.

Consider the Consequences

There’s a story of a man and his dog sitting on the porch. The dog is whining, whimpering, and groaning.  The neighbor walks by and asks, “Hey, what’s with your dog?” To which the man replied, “Oh, that’s just Fido, he’s lying on a nail.” To which the neighbor replied, “Well, why doesn’t Fido get off the nail?” The man on the porch had the classic response: “He’s not moving because it doesn’t hurt enough yet!”

Like Fido, we aren’t motivated to move until the pain of staying the same, exceeds the pain of making the change. When you hear the oppressor talking, ask yourself the following question: What are the consequences of staying the same?

Implementing the parts matrix may be painful, but not having the finances to retire in style, will hurt more. It hurts to look for your replacement, but being at the shop while your son plays his football games will cause more pain.

Asking for the exit appointment can be painful. Losing good customers to the competitor you despise will hurt as well.

Considering the consequences will motivate you to move when the voice of doubt starts talking to you.


So, there you have it. Naming your oppressor and considering the consequences will help you to drown out the voice of doubt. I challenge you to overcome the biggest threat to your progress.

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.