Monday, December 16, 2013

How Do I Get My People to Work as a Team? by Robert Spitz

Bob Spitz
Senior VP Business Dev
Management Success!

Recently this question came up while I was having lunch with a friend of mine who owns a nice shop but is struggling with some production problems.  We were talking about increasing production by improving how employees dealt with each other within the business.  One of the problems he was running into was a lack of communication between the front and the back in his shop.  “I don’t get it, it seems so obvious to me, and yet my guys seem to be on different pages sometimes.”

“Did you ever play any team sports?” I asked.  “What makes a good team good?  Is it simply a matter of recruiting superstars, or is there more too it than that?”  He had played team sports and was still a member of a softball team in a league in his town.  We started to examine what made great teams great and how that could relate to his current situation.

All the good teams he had ever been on had the following attributes in common:

1. They had a common goal.
2. Each person knew his position in the game.
3. Each person understood how his actions and performance affected everyone else.
4. Each person knew all the other players positions.
5. They drilled and practiced all the time.
6. They had a good manager who knew how to motivate.
7. They looked at key statistics in their game.
8. They reviewed good and bad plays.
9. They got along great.

We then took the list and compared these points with his shop.  And I asked him the following questions:

1. “Do you have a goal for the business?  Have you shared this vision with your people?” 

Just like sports teams, any group needs to have an agreed upon goal or objective to perform well.  In sports it is usually to win the division or something even higher like a state championship.  Then that big goal is broken down into smaller goals, then right down to individual players’ goals. I worked with a shop years ago up in Minnesota who had similar problems.  We got his people together and asked them what would they really like to have that would improve their working conditions?  They unanimously announced they wanted a better building. This answer surprised the owner.  He had heard grumbling about the lack of work space but never saw this as an opportunity to unite his people toward a common purpose.  We set about a plan to accomplish this goal and gave it a two-year target.  This was presented to the crew with the sales and production numbers it would take to attain this goal.  Monthly and weekly targets were set with smaller short team bonuses for the crew to earn and within a year they were in a new building! So I asked my friend again, “Do you have a goal for the business and have you broken that goal down into lesser goals with a shorter time interval where everyone involved could experience the joy of winning?”

2. “Does each of your people really understand their job, what’s expected of them and how to measure their own performance?” 

A team only performs as well as the individual players are proficient at their individual jobs. There has to be a way of measuring the production and performance of each position in a shop, a certain statistic to keep track of for that position.

3. “Do your people completely understand how their actions and how their performance affects the performance of the others in the group and the overall performance of the shop?” 

Nobody in a group lives on an island.  Each member has to understand how their actions and performance effects the actions and performance of the other members in the group.

4.  “Do your people completely understand everyone else’s job and what it is they do and how that affects them?”

When individuals in a group do not have a good understanding of the jobs others around them perform it greatly decreases that group’s ability to perform at peak levels. Complete job descriptions for every position in the business must be available and completely understood by each person for their own position. 

5. “Do you take the time to train your people in their positions and drill people on the shop’s procedures?” 

A business that does not invest resources toward training is killing itself.  A shop has got to have a system and schedule for on-going training of each member of the group.  A shop also needs to hold training drills on the various administrative procedures in the shop.

6. “How do you compare with the good managers you have played under in those sports teams? Are you lacking any skills or knowledge to be a competent leader of your people?”

The owner of a business has many hats to wear but the primary ones are planning and the execution of plans.  This is easy to say but takes a very exact skill set to accomplish.  Top professional sports figures all have coaches.  An owner of a business would be wise to hire a competent business coach. 

7. “Like sports, a business must have Key Performance Indicators to gauge its effectiveness and progress toward a stated goal.  What stats or KPI’s are you managing with?” 

Understanding the sales-production-profit pipeline of a business and what the key statistics are to measure the success of an executive’s decisions and actions is vital to the achievement of the goals.

8. “It is a smart operator who videos their people in action and then review their performance with them. This gives management and staff a chance to reinforce positive actions and correct mistakes before incorrect actions become bad habits.” 

All pro sports players use video to enhance performance and it is something that should be done in the workplace.

9. “You had teams you were on where everyone got along great. That was because they were winning teams”. 

Keeping people winning on their jobs is an important part of managing and leadership.  Knowing how to set up bonus plans and quickly handling upsets with employees is all part of knowing how to win the game.

My friend sat back and looked at me and said, “I never looked at my business this way.  There is a lot of room for improvement, but now I have a direction to go in.” 

We hammered out a step-by-step plan to start implementing the changes that needed to be made to create a truly winning team, and I am happy to report the business now operates at a much higher level of sales and production and yes, they are getting along great!

If you would like to improve the performance of your business, give us a call, we would be happy to give you a free business analysis and get you pointed in the right direction.

Wishing you nothing but success!

Management Success!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Management Success! Partners with the California Autobody Association to Support the Collision Repair Industry

LOS ANGELES, CA – December 2, 2013 – Management Success!, provider of the United States’ leading automotive consulting services for independent auto shops, announced today that it has become a corporate sponsor of the California Auto Body Association (CAA). The CAA is a non-profit trade association that aims to help independent auto body shops thrive.

“Management Success! has been working with the collision industry since 1998, helping to solve the multitude of management problems the modern-day collision center faces. In that time, Management Success! has helped train more collision shop owners and managers than any other independent consulting group in the U.S.,” said Robert Spitz, Senior Vice President of Business Development.

“We believe in the CAA’s mission and want to support them in any way we can,” Spitz affirmed.

The CAA sponsors periodic training, speakers, and presentations from a state level and through regional chapters.  The organization also supports many educational and training programs that its corporate sponsors and other industry groups provide to members. With over 1,000 members statewide, the CAA is well-positioned to deliver a relationship with Management Success! that takes members of both enterprises to the next level of training and management.

The sponsorship came about when members of the CAA who were Management Success! clients suggested the two companies partner to further each other’s goals.

“The CAA and Management Success! will be promoting the many benefits of educating shops owners and personnel to assist in making the shop a successful business,” said David McClune, Executive Director of the CAA.

For more information about Management Success’ training and consulting services, please visit For more information about the CAA, visit

About Management Success!
Management Success! is an auto industry consulting firm that specializes in elevating the quality of life of shop owners all over the US and Canada. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Glendale, CA, Management Success! helps shop owners become effective managers in order to increase profits. The Management Success! team believes shop owners deserve to be well-compensated for their hard work. Management Success! fully arms shop owners with every executive ability needed to win.

About CAA
The California Autobody Association (CAA) is a non-profit trade association comprised of over 1000 individual and independent businesses within the automobile collision repair industry. The mission of the California Autobody Association is to enable the auto body industry to survive and prosper by helping its members produce a quality repair for the consumer at a fair price for a fair profit.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Keeping Employees Happy (The Basics of Employee Management) By Robert Spitz

Robert Spitz
Sr VP of Business Development
Management Success!
Dealing with employees can be one of the toughest challenges for a shop owner. By learning some basic strategies of employee management, an owner can reduce stress level, minimize personnel problems, and better ensure the success of the shop. 

Let’s start by going over some basic concepts. Employees are people you hire to work with you and assist you in achieving your business goals. An owner needs to have well-defined goals and be able to communicate them to employees to get their support. Good employees want to know what you are trying to accomplish, how they fit into the picture, and how they can benefit by helping you succeed.

To find and hire good people, you need to know what good people are looking for - what motivates them to get up in the morning and go to work. Of course people want money, but good people are also looking for a group to be part of, and they want to know that their work is contributing to something of importance. People always want to get compensated well for the work they do - but it is not the only thing they want. Many people also want stability, a well-organized, working environment with high morale and growth potential. Some look for an employer who can communicate clearly and who stays relatively calm even during times of high stress.

Take the time to sit down with your employees (or potential employees) one-on-one; find out what they want in life and what their goals and ambitions are. Make sure they understand what you expect from them, the level of production you demand, what their compensation will be if they achieve this level, and how this will help them get what they want out of life.

Your employee pay plan should reward high levels of production. It can even be tailored for each individual. One technician might work extra hard for a cash bonus while another might prefer paid vacation days for a reward. Just make sure you do not pay high wages or bonuses without also demanding high production. Many pay systems are based on hours on the job. These systems pay people who do not produce much the same wages as those who produce a lot. In companies with these systems, employees learn that if they just show up and look like they are working, they will get paid. It is up to the owner to demand high production and to reward it. Do not reward the underachiever.

Make sure you have a system for tracking and monitoring production, and graph and post these statistics weekly. Your best employees will feel acknowledged and, hopefully, the worst will feel the need to improve. Each employee should be responsible for at least one statistic that measures the main thing he or she is producing on his job. For example, each technician’s billable hours should be calculated weekly and depicted on a sheet of graph paper. Post these graphs so that each employee knows where he or she stands. Employees need to know that their employment and pay is based on their level of production and its value to the company - not on whom they know, their personality, or other arbitrary factors. An employer who does not enforce this kind of accountability from employees is likely to make personnel decisions based on guesswork rather than facts.

An interesting question to ask any employee is, “Where does your pay check come from?” Many will respond, “My boss.” Some are closer to the mark when they say, “The customer.” The truth of the matter is that employees' pay comes from their own hard work and their ability to produce quality products and services that the business can sell to customers for income and support.

The executive of a business must be able to organize the activities of the business and train employees so that they will be able to produce valuable products. Most people want to achieve results they can be proud of and, to a great extent, it is up to the owner to make sure they can be proud of their products. It is an owner’s responsibility to make sure that all employees who come on board are given a clearly delineated job and adequately trained so that they understand how to do their job. They also need to be shown what their job means to the rest of the crew, and they need to know about the overall product the company produces. Unless every employee is aware of how his or her job relates to the final product of the company, you will never really have an efficient team working together to achieve your goals.

Mandatory weekly meetings with your crew will strengthen the concept of a team - that you are not just a bunch of individuals running around frantically trying to get something done - and will give you a chance, as a team, to review how the shop did during the previous week. It is vital to stay positive in these meetings, to accentuate and focus on the production and improvements that were made in the previous week, and to set targets for the upcoming week. Stay upbeat, and do not let the meeting drag on. If a particular employee did something above and beyond the norm, acknowledge him or her in front of the group. If there are any corrections or improvements you want to see, go over those, too. However, never single someone out for correction in front of the group. If you are unhappy with someone, always address this with him or her privately.

Help each of your employees see the priorities of the business correctly: first, to make sure the customer wins because without customers there is no purpose for the shop; and second, to make sure the shop is winning (viable) because without the shop, there is no purpose (or paycheck) for the employees. Finally, the employees have to win because if they can’t win, they won’t stay. Review these priorities at your team meetings and make sure everyone understands them.

Managing employees is a primary responsibility of an owner. Your success at it will be a reflection of your attitude toward the business. You set the tempo and the pace for your crew. If your standards are high and you demonstrate your commitment to meeting these standards, employees will follow. If you show genuine care for your people, they will respond.

Management Success Employee Questionnaire

Monday, October 14, 2013

Management Success! Debuts Shop Management Innovations at Fall Convention

Management Success!
2013 Fall Convention
LOS ANGELES, CA – October 4th, 2013 – Premier auto industry consulting firm Management Success! introduced several new, more efficient tools for shop organization and flow at its Fall Convention—the company’s largest convention ever at nearly 200 people. The convention took place at the Glendale Hilton from September 20th to September 22nd. Attendees included auto shops from all over the country and Canada as well as representatives from DemandForce, the leader in small business emarketing solutions, and 10 Missions Media, which publishes Fender Bender and Ratchet & Wrench.

The theme of the Fall Convention was Cutting-Edge Solutions for Today’s Shop, and the company’s dynamic partnership announcements certainly fit the bill. Management Success’ statistics system now auto populates with statistics from the NAPATracs interface to save shop owners time and to eliminate human error. While this partnership was originally announced at the Spring Convention in Destin, FL, the stats system is now in place and available for all Management Success! clients.

“A business cannot make correct management decisions without accurate and timely data. These new interfaces will provide our clients with this kind of information,” said Robert Spitz, Vice President of Production at Management Success!

Management Success! also announced its new partnership with DemandForce, with more details to emerge at the next convention.

The theme of innovative solutions extended to the two new courses offered at the convention—The Art of Diagnosing Your Shop, taught by Senior Consultant Wency Severi, and Hiring in the New Age, taught by Consultant Ari Cohen. The Art of Diagnosing Your Shop showed clients how to determine the real problem and find real solutions, while Hiring in the New Age explained how to employ online techniques to recruit a new generation of employees.

Though the convention played stage to Management Success’ new developments, it was also a time to recognize the hard work put in by clients who had gone above and beyond.

During the Awards Dinner on Friday, September 20th, Dino Di Giulio of Body Best of Sonoma became the third person ever in Management Success’ 20-year history to receive the Master Elite of Shop Management Award. Coming to the stage to accept his award, Di Giulio gave a rousing speech about his journey, which was met with a standing ovation.

“Twice a year Management Success! awards shops that have done the necessary training and have demonstrated competence at the various levels of shop management. They have passed through a rigorous battery of performance benchmarks and shop inspections,” Spitz affirmed. “The Master Elite of Shop Management is the highest honor an owner of an auto repair facility can achieve. We are all very proud of Dino,” Spitz added.

Other highlights of the night included the Master of Shop Management Award, given to Brian Small of Doc’s Auto Clinic; Competent Shop Owner was awarded to Joe & Lori Fenski of Fenski Automotive Center; the Effective Shop Management Award, given to Amanda Pederson of B & D Industrial Service and Curtis & Tracy D’Addario of D’Addario’s Auto Service Inc.; and the new Sustaining the Masters of Shop Management Award, given to David Saline & Lynnetta Rogers of 2nd-to-None Service and PJ & Jackie Robert of Roberts Automotive.

Saturday night took a turn for the jubilant, with a roaring ‘20s-themed dinner. Clients went undercover as zoot suit-clad mobsters and flashy flappers, competing for fun costume prizes, playing table games, and dancing into the night to ‘20s and ‘80s tunes.

The sparkle and glamour of the event alluded to the ritzy location of the next convention—Las Vegas. The Spring 2014 convention will be called Stable, Profitable, and Loving It! and will take place over the course of five days. Clients can expect a convention filled with hard work and a brand of fun only Las Vegas can offer.

About Management Success!
Management Success! is an auto industry training and consulting firm that specializes in elevating the quality of life of shop owners all over the US and Canada. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Glendale, CA, Management Success! helps shop owners become effective managers in order to increase profits. The Management Success! team believes shop owners deserve to be well-compensated for their hard work. Management Success! fully arms shop owners with every executive ability needed to win.


Please contact Management Success’ Marketing Department at or (818) 500-9631 for more information regarding Management Success! conventions and training programs.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Why You Need Management Training By Bob Spitz Management Success!

Bob Spitz
Snr VP Business Dev
Management Success
There was a time when having good mechanical skills, some common sense and a dose of good luck was enough to have a successful auto repair business.  That time is gone forever.  To have a successful business today requires strong management skills, and these skills can only be obtained through solid training in the area of management.  

What Does Management Mean?
First off let’s clarify what is meant by Management Training.  The dictionary definition of manage is: organize; regulate; be in charge of something. A good technician needs to be able to organize and regulate their tools, equipment, time, and work space in order to successfully get the job of servicing and repairing vehicles done.  This ability is different from the ability to actually perform the repair or service, but no less important.

Technicians go to school for years and continue their technical training to keep up with the ever changing modern vehicle. The management skills needed to be a professional technician is fairly easy to learn and does not take a long time. But these skills do not translate easily to the task of managing a business. Yet it is only these management skills that most owners are relying on to manage their businesses. 

Managing employees, finances, customers, flow lines, advertising takes a much higher level of education in order to be successful as a business person.  To have a successful business, business management skills are needed.

Goals and Planning
Before anything can be managed there has to be an overall plan of attack.  Planning a business requires having a know goal or objective that is trying to be achieved.  What is the purpose of the business?  Where does the owner want the business to go?
Once this is known then planning can occur.  There are three basic areas that require planning: Organization, Finance and Marketing.  By far organization planning is the most complicated as this involves the proper use of space and employees. 

To be successful a true team needs to be developed yet employee management is one of the trickiest areas.  Knowing how to recruit and hire good people, how to compensate them correctly, train them to do their jobs and when they don’t how to correct, discipline and motive them? There is a tremendous amount an owner needs to learn about people. 

In order to get the most out of the employees in a business the business has got to be organized.  But what does that really mean.  Organizing is the act of lining things up in a logical sequence so that at the end we have something done, and done in a smooth and efficient manner.  Twenty-five percent of an owners day needs to be spent on this process and this includes training.  To get the maximum production out of an area the people in the area must be trained in the jobs they are doing.

Financial planning is more than having an accountant that can be trusted.  Financial planning requires that the owner of the business knows how to set up the finance area of the business in order to get accurate information quickly, know what the numbers mean and then steer the business into good financial condition.  That means the owner has to know how to read the reports, control expenses, create solvency and invest wisely.  An owner of an auto service facility needs to have the same level of training and skill in this area as in any area of the business.  It can not be left to someone else to do.

There are many theories and opinions regarding marketing and advertising an automotive service facility.  What works in one part of the country does not mean it will work in another.  In fact, you can have a successful campaign in one part of a town, and have it do nothing in another part of the same town!  Understanding the principals behind why this is is critical for any business owner to understand.  The people in our industry tend to copy what someone else is doing without any knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t.  It gets to be a bad case of the blind-leading-the-blind.  Advertising is not cheap, and an owner needs to know what will and will not work in his or her market.

Marketing planning has to be thought through completely with true information at hand, and it needs to be done well out into the future.  The success of any business relies on knowing and having the knowledge of marketing basics.

I have touch on three key elements in this article.  They are by no means the only areas that an owner has to be skilled in handling.  So when we look at the modern day automotive facility and the emotional and financial investment most people make in their businesses it becomes clear that knowing how to diagnose and repair vehicles, although important, is not where the money is for the owner.  Get trained in the techniques that will help you be successful: Get Management Training!

Management Success!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Are You Operating Your Business for the Problem Customer? by Mike Lee Management Success!

Mike Lee
Management Success!
One of the most commonly asked questions at any type of sales or management seminar is "How do I handle problem customers?"  The problem customer tends to drive most automotive shop owners crazy. What is a problem customer? A problem customer is someone who demands special handling and unusual solutions. Here are ten indicators that you probably have a problem customer in front of you. Problem customers say (and do) things like this:

• “I have my own parts, but can you put them on for me?”

• “I called the dealer and found out that I could have bought the exhaust output muffler bearing for less than what you charged me.”

• “Can you tell me what the firing order is for my 1989 Chevrolet?”

• “Don't worry about the fact that the brakes won't stop the car, just do that ‘special’.”

• “Since you worked on my car, I can't seem to tune in to Radio Moscow anymore.”

• “You opened the door and my engine fan flew off and destroyed my radiator. What are you going to do about it?”

• “Can you put an Allison Transmission in my Toyota?”

• A customer calls you from Outer Mongolia about his failed fan clutch that you once worked on. He insists that you give him $800, the amount it cost him to tow his car to the nearest shop. He also says that he wants $1500 for his hotel bill from his three-day stay at the if-you-got-to-ask-the-rate-you-can't-afford-it hotel. He also mentions that he intends to collect for his loss of wages and at least $1000 for emotional distress.

• A customer with a name like Mr. Super Critical-Jones, owner of the car from hell, demands that you completely redo the job on his car because it is still not working right. Of course, you can't find anything wrong with it. You have worked on his car six times and he has never once been satisfied.

•  A guy calls you and says that he is the boyfriend of a woman whose car you just fixed. He claims that the car didn't need that much work and that you have ripped her off. He threatens to sue you.

Even dealing with a few of these types of customers a week is enough to increase your blood pressure to well over 400. Unfortunately, the tendency is to start creating unusual company policies to make sure that you NEVER have this kind of problem again. You start running your business to handle the problem customer.  This is a mistake. You tend to remember only the troublesome customers, and not the majority of really nice people that come into your shop, who go along with the way that you do business, and refer their friends to you. The right way to run a successful operation that makes you lots of money is to pay attention to those quiet, non-troublesome customers that are fairly easy to deal with and who are the real reason you are in business.

Quit running your business for the problem customer! You would be better off if you would refer all of them to some other shop in town. When you recognize that you have a problem customer in front of you, be polite and indicate that, unfortunately, you are probably not the one that can best handle the customer's car problems. You can, however, recommend a shop down the street that would be better qualified to service his/her needs.
Management Success! Auto Shop Analysis

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ATTITUDE by Mike Lee Management Success!

Mike Lee
Management Success
It is amazing how much your attitude affects the results you get in business. In an auto repair shop, the owner’s attitude directly affects sales, gets mirrored in the attitude of the employees, and attracts or repels customers. A good attitude can carry you over even the worst setbacks. But a bad attitude also tends to gain momentum. When business gets bad, it has a tendency to get worse if your attitude goes bad with it, which causes the business to get worse, which causes your attitude to get worse.

A few years ago I was called to consult with the owner of a transmission shop that wasn’t doing well. The owner was depressed. He blamed the economy for his troubles and believed that nobody had any money. He was doing about half the business that he had been doing a couple of years earlier. He didn’t know what to do to improve things.

I got right to work attacking his attitude. “With your lousy attitude, it’s no wonder business is so bad!”

I asked how much business he was currently doing each month. He said that he was doing about $20,000 a month. I asked him how many other transmission shops there were in his area. He told me that there were six other shops that did nothing but transmission work. After some rough calculations, we figured that there was about $200,000 a month in transmission work being done in his area, which was down from about $400,000 two years earlier.

Then I pointed out that his REAL problem was that he wasn’t getting enough of the business that was there.

I asked what his “break-even point” was. He said that if he made about $21,000 a month he’d be able to pay all the bills. I asked how much business it would take to really make money. He said about $27,000 a month. We figured out that all he needed was to get about two more big jobs a week to be really profitable.

Then I gave him my four-question Attitude Test:

1.  Do you come in to work later than you used to? Do you want to go home earlier because it is slow?
2.  Do you assume the customer is not going to buy or doesn’t have the money instead of taking the attitude that he is going to buy and you are not going to let him out of there until he does?
3.  Have you stopped doing a full road check on each car and stopped using a diagnostic road check form and a complete checkout on the rack because you know he doesn’t have any money?
4.  Do you set your daily target and weekly target and go after it?

He gave all the Bad Attitude answers (“Yes” on #1, #2 and #3, and “No” on #4) and, with a bad attitude, proceeded to tell me it was all impossible and nothing could be done about it. Then I broke the news to him.

I told him that it was easy to get two more jobs a week if he had the right attitude. I set a target for him to sell a certain dollar amount, enough to be profitable, for each day of the next week and gave him several other things that I wanted him to do.

The following week, he did about double the business of his average week. I asked him how much of the business was due to the difference in his attitude. He admitted that he got three jobs that he wouldn’t normally have gotten, ALL BECAUSE OF AN IMPROVED ATTITUDE! (By the way, he is currently averaging about $27,000 a month.)

But there is another, perhaps even more common way in which the owner’s attitude affects his income. Your attitude directly affects how your employees respond to you and the amount and quality of work they produce.

I used to start each morning in the shop by having a small meeting with the employees. I would go over what we had to accomplish for the day and what I expected. If we were busy, I’d tell them, “I don’t want anyone standing around–I expect things to happen!” If things were slow, I would say, “When everything is done and the shop is cleaned up, then you can relax.” If I needed extra effort from them that day, I would tell them this so they knew what I needed. If it was going to be a just a normal-flow day, I would take a few minutes to make them laugh and then tell them to get to work. No matter what, I made sure to set a positive tone for the day.

If it wasn’t too hectic, I would also make a point of going out into the shop once in the morning and once in the afternoon to talk to each guy and see how it was going, to make him laugh and to keep him pointed in the right direction. The effect that this creates is amazing. Some owners don’t realize how many employees are willing to work hard simply to get an “ATTA-BOY” from the boss.

When your attitude is good, you’ll remember to communicate with your employees and acknowledge the good work they do. When your attitude is bad and you only complain, it drags everyone and everything down.

Attitude is a big factor in success. If you’re tired of feeling bad or if you’re not accomplishing what you want to, maybe it’s just an attitude problem. If so, go ahead and give yourself an ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT–a “check-up from the neck up.”

Management Success! How to Increase Your Profits Seminar

Monday, August 12, 2013

Business is Slow, and I Need More Leads! - by Mike Lee, Management Success!

Mike Lee
Management Success!
My service writer says, "Business is slow, and I need more leads!"

It is not unusual for some of our good clients to occasionally say they were doing okay, but it has slowed down. This is one of the areas which drives shop owners crazy. Just when they thought they were going to make some real money, the business slows down. 

There are several possible sources for this problem, but the one we are going to discuss in this article is: If business is slow, it is always the service writer. 

I can't tell you the number of times I have heard about shops having problems, and suddenly they change their service writer and - boom! - the business takes off.

Shops do not become busy by luck or accident. Oftentimes, successful businesses have a service writer who is good at selling, while the shops not doing well try to figure out where all the customers went. Let's look at some service writer basics which determine whether a shop will be busy or not.

Selling is a Necessary Evil!

A service writer needs people. It is amazing how many service writers really do not like to deal with or talk to customers. A good service writer likes people and enjoys talking to them. 

Oftentimes, when we interview service writers from shops around the country, they will indicate that selling is a necessary evil. This is a sure-fire indicator the service writer does not like dealing with people.

I Don't Want to Make Them Mad!

A service writer has to be willing to handle customers, even the tough ones. A good service writer is not afraid of the customer! 

A service writer has to have the ability to tell customers things they do not want to hear - upsetting things, such as it is going to cost more to get their car fixed. Unfortunately, some service writers are afraid to handle customers and tell them the truth - it costs money to fix cars! 

Some service writers are so afraid of upsetting customers and not willing to risk it, so they resort to not telling customers the full story on their car. They try to sell only what they think customers will pay for the job, instead of asking for the money on the full job. 

They suffer from the "Tricky Lower-Jaw Disease." This is the disease that afflicts service writers when they need to tell customers the repairs are going to cost $750.00. Their lower jaw goes into stutter mode, and $450.00 comes out of their mouth!

I Never Want to Rip a Customer Off!

Some service writers have high personal integrity and are careful to make sure they never rip customers off, especially by not overcharging for the work that needs to be done.

Again, this decision leads to service writers becoming rip-off artists. They end up ripping off the business, the employees, the employees' families, the owner, and the owner's family.

It is the responsibility of service writers to sell the work profitably, so all employees and the owner(s) of the business make enough money to live comfortably.

This comes from not knowing what is a fair price to both the customers and the business.  Most shops set their prices based on the "Grand Fake 'Em Method." Their prices are not based on their own costs, but on what their competition is charging. Of course, their competition is going broke, but they have to be competitive.

Can't You Give Me a Ballpark?

Price jobbers! This is the area which drives a lot of service writers nuts. Many service writers are not good at handling potential customers over the phone! Some shops quote prices for major work over the phone to new retail customers. 

This comes from not knowing how to handle price shoppers and, in some cases, the belief a shop must give prices over the phone for major work. 

The truth is that good service writers will normally be able to get 20-30% more business if they learn how to handle price shoppers and do not quote prices for major work over the phone. There is a technology to effectively selling. Most service writers have not had any professional training.

The result is a loss of income for the business and a lot of frustration.

I Need to Speak to a Technician!

A lot of women are involved in the automotive business and many let the lack of training stop them from becoming service writers. They are afraid that male customers will not be willing to listen to a woman because she is not a technician.  

At Management Success!, we have found a lot of women have the ability to be very effective service writers. Some of the most effective service writers in the industry are women who have learned to handle customers. One of the main reasons they are so effective is that most women do not have the technical knowledge for cars - and the less technical knowledge a person knows, the better they are able to sell the work.

In addition, women generally tend to be better at listening and have better communication skills. As a result, they do a better job of handling customers because they listen and do not overwhelm customers with a bunch of technical jargon that the customers do not understand.

I Want to Think it Over!

What the customers are saying with the famous "I want to think it over" statement is they are in confusion and are not sure that what their service writer is telling them is true. This is an indicator that the service writer is not in communication with the customer.  

Customers who are in confusion will not buy! They will go somewhere else. Trained service writers should know whether or not their customer is tracking with them and what they are thinking - this should happen before they get to the end of the sale only to find out the customer wants to think it over. 

When the customer says...

1. "I have to talk it over with my spouse."
2. "I want to think it over."
3. "I will have to wait."

...they are really saying, "The service writer hasn't sold me yet!" A lot of service writers spew out their sales procedure unaware of what the customer is really thinking. The service writer is not in good communication with the customer, but is really just talking to the customer.  The customer is wondering if the car really needs the work and the service writer is telling him or her how much. 

The customer is in confusion and the service writer does not know it. This is because the service writer has not been trained. Most service writers lack the technique of selling and are not in good communication with the customer. When this happens, the shop loses sales and customers.

The Phones Are Not Ringing!

"The phones are not ringing!" This is a favorite statement made by service writers when sales are down. It is normal for a shop to have one or two slow weeks; but overall, if one shop's sales are down, but other shops in town are doing well, then the problem lies in that one shop - and the problem is the service writer.

It takes a person who is motivated, likes people, and does not have his or her attention on other things to be good at sales. One problem of owners being service writers is they are splitting their attention among lots of things which need to be handled. If they have something pressing which needs to be handled, sales will drop. It does not take much for a shop to lose two or three jobs a week when the service writer is not focused. This is why it is best to have someone whose sole function is sales. When you have a service writer, the key point in sales is the rule: It is always the service writer.

I can recall numerous occasions when a client indicated the sales were down, and I gave them the rule. When they got in communication with their service writers, they found that he or she was having marital problems, had a sick child, or had another personal issue, which was diverting their attention from the job and affecting their customer service.

When a job has been growing, sales have been good, and suddenly it starts to go down, the first thing is to pull in the service writer and find out what is going on. Service writers will say it is slow and the phones are not ringing. That is a sure-fire indicator that they have something going on which is preventing them from doing their best.

Being a service writer requires a person's full attention. Service writers must like people and must be willing to tell customers things they do not want to hear. They must know how to do it and need to have good communication skills to know what the customer is thinking.

The Solution to the Above Problems

Just as you would not put someone with no training and knowledge on a tough computer diagnostic problem on a car, you would not allow an untrained person to be your service writer, correct? The sharp businessperson will make sure the service writer in his or her shop is knowledgeable in the technique of sales and has all the tools necessary to do a good job.

I recommend all of our clients who have started their training in business management to come to the five-day service writer course and bring their service writers to learn sales techniques and good communication skills. This is a challenging course that demands a lot out of the attendees. In the end, attendees leave the class with improved communication and sales skills. But, it is only money - yours!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

The Home Of The Unknown Shop Owner by Mike Lee Management Success!

Mike Lee
Management Success
Unfortunately, there a many unknown shop owners in America.  There are several in your town.  Drive down the business section of town, or the industrial area or even on the main drag at night and you will see shop owners still working on cars. 

Most of the rest of working people in town have been at home.  They got there in time to have dinner with their wife and kids or maybe went out to a restaurant.  So have played baseball with their son or have helped their daughter with her school work.

But the unknown shop owner toils away trying to stay ahead of the bill collectors.  It is not unusual for the unknown shop owner to work 60 to 80 hours a week.  When they get home, their kids are in bed. 

They are tired and don’t have anything left for their families.

Vacation is for other people.  Some unknown shop owners have never taken any time off for their families. 

One of the benefits of working long hours at their shops is it makes them healthy.  Most unknown shop owners almost never get sick.  Of course, this is because they can’t afford to get sick.  So rain or shine, feeling good or not, they head every day for real home, their shops.

Unfortunately, the unknown shop owners have a very high divorce rate.  Women are so picky.  They get married and silly them, they expect you to go home once and a while.  So it usually takes 2 or 3 divorces before the unknown shop owners come up with a solution to this being married problem.  They talk their spouses into coming to work for them.  That way they get to spend all their time together at the their real home the shop.

One of the major attributes of the unknown shop owner is that he is persistent.   He has been working 60 to 80 hours a week for 5 to 15 years and things aren’t getting better, but he keeps on working.  Of course, his spouse begins to think that he is crazy because any sane person would have tried to fix it and do something else.  

Obviously, he is not on the road to success! He is on the road to burn out, depression, divorce, no money, no satisfaction of accomplishment and the worst punishment of all, not being able to spend time with his wife and kids.  You only have one chance to watch your kids grown up.  So who are the unknown shop owners.  They are the shop owners who spend most of their lives at their shops and who are not known by their families and kids.

Management Success!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball By Mike Lee Management Success!

Mike Lee
Management Success
In the typical automotive shop, you will find that the owner has red hair and the nickname of ‘MOCK TWO’.  This is because he is going Mach Two with his hair on fire.

A good observer would notice that a high percentage of the time, while appearing to be in rapid motion, he is really on a treadmill, trying to do 12 things at the same time.

Most shops grow to a level of volume just above the level of confusion that the shop owner can handle.  Once the shop has reached this level, it quits growing because the owner lacks management and organizational skills.  The shop will tend to stay at this level for years unable to burst through to the next level.  It never seems to get better, only worse, because gradually the owner takes home less and less money.

MOCK TWO is suffering from lack of focus and lack of a simple game plan.  The shop owner comes to work with the intention to make things better but it never seems to happen.  He then wonders why he is unhappy and why he doesn't have a sense of accomplishment.

The problem is focus.  He is trying to do too many things at once.  When he hits the door of the shop, all of the problems seem to come directly to him and stick to him.  He tries to handle them all and usually doesn't get any of them done.

Most shops didn't get to this level of confusion overnight.  The shop owners have worked for years to get to this level of overwhelm.  Unfortunately, MOCK TWO never seems to have enough time to start fixing the problem.

The key thing here is that it is never going to get better unless MOCK TWO decides to fix it permanently.  While in a coping condition, he (and you) MUST start organizing or it is only going to get worse.

The solution to the problem is to sit down after work and list some of the things that you need to accomplish that will make you more money.  Decide which one you can do with the least amount of effort (and/or money).  You want to choose the project that will give you the best results and get it done first.  Do not focus on any other projects until you have this one done. It might take you three weeks to finish it, but it doesn't matter.  You have taken the first step of getting rid of overwhelm and confusion.

We call this KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE BALL.  Focus every day on the one thing that you are trying to get done.  Keep your focus on it.  You should try to do the project you can accomplish the quickest and with the least amount of effort.  When you finally finish the project, you will feel good about yourself and have a little more time for other projects.  This will allow you to pick up the next thing on your list and focus on it.  The things that needed to be done in the shop will start to get done and gradually you will improve your whole operation.

Eventually, you will be renamed MOCK ONE and hopefully even renamed SANE in a very short period of time.

Management Success! Seminar

Monday, July 22, 2013

Marketing To Women: A Female Shop Owner’s Perspective By Nancy Knight Management Success!

Nancy Knight
co-owner of Knight’s Automotive
Ledgewood, NJ
As a wife, mother and major decision maker in my family when it comes to purchases of goods and services, I have lots of experience as a consumer.   My past experiences as a female consumer, both good and bad, have helped influence the way I market and manage my own auto repair business.  I make sure that our shop gives the same friendly service and high quality products that I expect from the people I do business with.    In particular, I pay special attention to meeting the needs of my female clients.  

Why do I have so much attention on female clients?  It turns out that I am not alone as the major decision maker on purchases for my family.   Even in what is perceived as a male domain, women request 65% of the service work done on cars (in our shop it’s closer to 75%)  Women spend over $200 billion on new cars and servicing of vehicles each year.  We buy more than half of the new cars in the US and influence up to 80% of all car purchases.  There is power in the female demographic indeed.  It pays to find out what your women customers want and need then deliver it.   To do this successfully you must first understand that men and women—for the most part—communicate and make decisions differently. 

Besides trust, which is important to both male and female consumers, women want a “relationship.”   We all know that being in a relationship requires a higher level of care and communication to nurture and sustain it in the long term.  Women want more information about what is being done to their vehicle and why.  They want you to listen to them, educate them and not talk down to them.   I call this the C.A.R.E. factor:  Completely And Respectfully Explain their car care needs to them in language they can understand.  We like to use visual aids at the counter and walk the customer out to the car when necessary. 

While men tend to communicate less and want a brief explanation of price and function of the repair or service, women want more details.  Female clients also prefer you to take a personal interest in them, their families, jobs and hobbies.  Ask a woman about her kids, her business accomplishments or her hobbies and watch her brighten up immediately.  This increased familiarity, sincere care and concern goes a long way in building long term relationships with your female customers.  Since, happy, long-time female customers are more inclined to refer business to your shop than male customers (in my experience); they are the best customers to have.

Acknowledging birthdays, anniversaries or writing personal thank you cards are successful marketing actions to consider in building relationships with your female client base as well as personal follow-up phone calls after service is performed. Some additional points to ponder when marketing your repair shop to women are:

• Make sure that your shop is clean and neat both on the inside and the outside. Do not confuse this with fancy. The reception area should be scrubbed and fresh smelling.  Include comfortable seating where possible. Female-friendly magazines, coffee, bottled water and fresh baked cookies are nice touches. 
• Pleasant music playing is preferred over a television blaring bad news.
• Insure that your bathroom is sparkling clean and smells good. 
• Just as your physical location should be scrubbed, so should your online reputation.  Women are more likely to engage in social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as well as check review sites such as Google, Yelp or Insiderpages before deciding who to do business with. Respond to your reviews and engage your customers on these sites.  Happy customers will share your information with their friends and family members online.
• Make certain that your website is fresh and attractive. Including personal information about yourself and your employees makes you real to potential customers. Pictures and education points are also helpful.
• Set up regular maintenance schedules and send reminders. Utilize all the current technologies such as text messaging and email as well as direct mail according to the individual preferences of your customers. 
• Leave your customer’s cars clean and smudge-free. Besides making a good first impression, making a good last impression is also important especially to the more discerning female customer. Use floor mats, seat covers or steering wheel covers to prevent any dirt or grease from damaging the interior. Do not change the radio station. Offering a complimentary car wash or interior vacuum for large jobs are also welcome treatments.


These are just a few female friendly ideas to get you started.  Of course the best way to find out what your female customers want and need is ask them!  Survey your female customers.  They will love that you care enough to ask their opinion.  This is another action which builds long term relationships. 

At the very least, ask your wife, mother, girlfriend or daughter her opinion of your shop.  They will tell you like it is, both the good and the bad.  Adjust accordingly.  It is helpful to ask yourself: how would I want my wife, mother, girlfriend or daughter to be treated? Go over this viewpoint with everyone at your shop from service writers, managers to technicians.

Though I have addressed the female customer base, many of these points are good practice when dealing with your male customers as well.   Make the women happy and the men will certainly follow.    It takes a little effort, but it will pay off in the long run, with repeat business, future referrals and an increased viable customer base.  That is a huge return for just “making Mama happy.”

I learned ALL this and so much more with Management Success’s amazing and knowledgeable staff. I very highly recommend that you attend the How To Increase Your Profits seminar—don’t wait! Let their staff show you just how successful your shop can be!

Get help with your marketing and other management tools—join us at a Seminar near you!