Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Winning the Game of Inches at Your Shop

"No step forward is too small. Just be sure it's taking you to the right dream, then take more of those tiny steps.”Israelmore Ayivor

The story is told of a man who walked across the entire US continent from coast to coast. Afterwards, he was swamped by news reporters. One of them asked him to recap what the most difficult part of his journey was.

“Was it dealing with the desert heat? Was it rambling through the Rocky Mountains? Was it commuting through the crowded cities?”

His response took everyone by surprise: “It was none of those things. The most difficult part of my trip was dealing with the sand in my shoes.”

This man’s story proves the following point: It’s the minor details that lead to major problems. Have you dealt with the sand in your shoes? The following scenarios may help you to answer:

A customer leaving your shop unhappy is a minor detail. When she shares the experience with her ten thousand twitter followers, it’s a major problem.

Ignoring the suggestion of “always be hiring,” is a minor detail. Losing your best technician, without having a replacement in mind, is a major problem.

Not implementing the parts matrix is a minor detail. Not having enough cash flow to make payroll is a major problem.

If you have overlooked any of these minor details, you have sand in your shoes. Most people are looking for that one magical idea that will change everything in their business.

The Top Shops, on the other hand, consistently win because of their disciplined dedication to the details. In other words, they win the game of inches.

Are you like most people, but want to become a Top Shop? Stay with me to learn two strategies that will help you win the game of inches.

Do the Math

Fear-based emotion is the root cause of your desire to ignore the details. For example, the detail of making the exit appointment is ignored because of a fear of rejection.  The detail of “always be hiring” is overlooked because of a fear of failure.

Some shop leaders have a fear of conflict, so they allow their technicians to avoid the detail of documenting the digital inspections.

The problem is that your bill collector isn’t afraid. From your collector’s perspective, either your account is current, or it is past due. Either the funds are available or they’re not. You may be dealing with emotion, but your vendor is dealing with simple math.

The key is for you to replace your fear-based emotion with math. Start by calculating your average cost per car.

Go to the four-week average column in your portal and add up your total fixed costs, sublet costs, your total service manager wages loaded, and total technician wages loaded. Take that total and divide by your weekly car count average and you will get your average cost per car.

So, let’s say you have calculated your average cost per car to be $300.00. Knowing this makes it easier to explain to your service writer with a $250 average repair order (ARO) how his failure to follow the process is hurting the business.

You can also use the Win # Drill (desired net profit + weekly fixed costs / weekly GP % / avg ARO) to calculate the number of cars needed to achieve your net profit goals. This can help to take the emotion out of improving your car count via the exit appointment.

It’s ok, you can get mad at me, but you can’t get mad at math! Doing the math removes the emotion from the equation, so you can focus on the details.

Look for the 1%

I was watching an online documentary titled Tom VS. Time.  This documentary chronicles how New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can play at an elite level despite being 40 years of age.

It shows Brady working with a performance coach who specializes in helping quarterbacks improve their football throwing mechanics.

During the interview segment, the coach was explaining the difference between the average and the elite quarterbacks who request his services.

Here’s what he said: “The elite quarterbacks aren’t looking to get 5% better, they come to me to get 1% better!”  Finding the 1% will help you to win the game of inches.

The average shop owner evaluates the quality of the training based on the quantity of the takeaways. The elite shop owners are just looking for the 1%.

One hallway conversation at SuperConference can make you 1% better. One sentence from that book your 20 Group is reading can make you 1% better. Changing one word you use to present the estimate based on what you learned in class can make you 1% better.

If you’re getting 1% better every day, in time you can win the game of inches and become the best of the best!


So, there you have it. If you do the math and look for the 1%, you can win the game of inches. When you become the best of the best, you will have more time to vacation at the beach, the place where having sand in your shoes is a good thing!

Looking to get 1% better at presenting the estimate? Email  to receive your Minor Details Checklist.

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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.