As owners, most started out in the business learning the ropes from either their mom and dad, granddad, or a larger tire industry corporation. Then they bought the business from family or struck out on their own. It is usually a small shop, and the owner spends the first few months being CEO, janitor, part time mechanic, head of HR, and every other job there is to do.
After a few years of not collecting a paycheck, the business starts to make some money. And then it starts to grow. Hire a few techs, a few sales people, and some office personnel. The thing is, the owner many times still continues to dabble in all the work instead of managing it. This presents a problem. The owner becomes the de facto source for solving all the shop’s problems. And once the store hits about a million in sales, this puts an ungodly amount of pressure on the owner to be everywhere, at all times. It’s an impossible scenario. Can’t take a day off, can’t take a vacation, can’t catch a break.
What’s missing? Well, for a short column, we can boil it down to two major areas.
The only way an owner can trust their people to do a good job is to allow them to do the work while they are there and truly be a supervisor. Delegate the business to other employees and follow up with them on a regular basis to ensure that not only the work is being completed, but being completed in a manner that aligns with the business’ values. This takes time.
Once trust is established, it psychologically allows the owner to back off a bit and start focusing on the things an owner should be focused on: the future, not the present. Without trust, the owner will continue to be at the store 24/7/365. A recipe for disaster.
How does an owner learn to trust? By becoming near militant on process. “Back in the day” the owner developed their process on how to run the store, many times by trial and error and what made sense in their own head. But what was intuitive to the owner doesn’t necessarily relate to the employees.
A process is a system of organized actions to achieve a particular end. In essence, it’s guardrails to follow in the shop from write-up to close-out. The key is, it needs to be followed no matter what.
This creates a psychological problem for some owners. They can take shortcuts (and they work). They know things about customers and cars that other employees don’t. The owner thinks it’s saving time. And it is, but in the short term. Shortcuts, or deviations, from the process have the allure of saving time, but in the long run create much more time-consuming corrections for employees overall. And if the employees see the owner taking shortcuts, they will likely decide that they can take short cuts, too. Many times, the employee shortcuts don’t follow the logic of why the owner took them.
So what’s your process? Is it written down? Can employees intelligently recite what the necessary steps are to completing a sale from write-up to check-out? If you don’t have one, my suggestion is don’t lock yourself in a room for a couple hours coming up with steps on your own. What happens in that scenario, is the owner presents the team with a “fail proof” method and there is little buy-in from the team, so they initially do what they are told, but after a week go back to doing things the old way. Instead, set aside some time for a meeting (and it may take a few meetings to get this completed) and ask the team to develop what the steps need to be. Your input should only be for critical areas. Let them figure out the basics on their own. The team will be much more likely to adopt the process and try to stick to it if they created it.
Your job then is to support and redirect. Employees are likely to repeat behaviors they get complimented on, so thanking them for sticking to the process and not skipping steps when things get dicey is critical in helping them begin to trust the process.
Redirecting takes place when you see a deviation in the process and step in not to correct the employee, but to question why they are changing the rules: Get them to think through why they made the decision. In doing this step, you will allow for them to receive feedback from you explaining why they have to adhere to the process, and occasionally, they might bring a valid reason up that the team should review to see if it’s an improvement on, and should change, the process.
Dennis McCarron is executive director of Dealer Strategic Planning Inc., a company that manages multiple tire dealer 20 Groups in the U.S. (www.dsp-20group.com). To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].