Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Your Front Working For You or Against You? - by Lisa Shomo, Management Success!

We spoke with three different shop owners to find out the troubles they were having in the front of their shop before they attended the How to Increase Your Profits seminar. Here’s what they told us:

Q: How was the front of your shop doing with sales and customer service before the How to Increase Your Profits seminar?

Mark Probst - Probst Auto Body
Deterich, IL:

Before I went to the seminar, our front office consisted of just me and my sister who had started with me part-time. She was doing some bookkeeping, paying bills, answering phones, and basically greeting customers.

I was doing everything else, including writing estimates. I thought the key to making the front work was simply treating everyone nice. I thought it was working for us. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.

Then, when I went to the seminar, I realized there were a lot of things that I wasn’t doing in the front. And I was losing sales left and right.

When I handled the estimates at the front counter, this is how it would go: a customer would walk in and ask for an estimate. I would write the estimate and give it to the customer and that was the end of my sale. The extent of my closing was that I would hope they would get their car fixed with us! I wasn’t aggressive with my closing. There wasn’t a whole lot of communication between me and the customers; I didn’t know what they really wanted. I would write the estimate and would hope they wanted me to fix it. That was my sale!

What I realized at the seminar is that we had no real system in place to handle customers and sell to customers at the front. I hadn’t even really trained my sister and just let her figure things out by herself. We handled stuff as it came at us and flew by the seat of our pants. Actually, we were constantly “putting out fires.”

I realized I wasn’t really being a salesperson at all. I needed to close the job and if it didn’t close, I needed to follow up with them the next day and really communicate with the customer.

Now, the front is doing awesome! We have a full system in place in the front to handle customers from the beginning of the estimate to the end. We’re closing anywhere from 80-90% of our estimates that we write! Going to the seminar really turned it around for my shop.

Steve Hixson - Art’s Automotive
Longview, WA:

In my case, before the seminar, we actually had a pretty fair sales group up front. We’ve got very large shops and we’ve been around a long time. However, at that point I couldn’t do better than I was doing. I was simply out of ideas on how to get to the next level.

The biggest thing I got from the seminar was learning about statistics. That was the first time I ever came across anything like that. I learned how to get all my weekly shop numbers down on paper and how to map them out over a period of time to really see the trends in the statistics for the shop. Then I actually had the ability to do something about the amount of sales I was getting in the front. I could come up with ideas and solutions on how to make those stats go up, and of course that’s what we’re all trying to do.

Six months after the seminar, it was like night and day. We actually were able to put in a plan to improve the statistics. Everyone in the front had their own task list to get done to achieve this. Because we now tracked the stats each week, we knew right away the things that were working and the things that weren’t. We kept what worked and got rid of what didn’t work!

Our close rate now is nearly 100%. Very rarely do we get an estimate that is not sold. After the seminar we knew how to improve the front and close more sales, schedule appointments, and get the workflow really going!

Dave Bloom - Pine Aire Truck Svc
Bay Shore, NY:

Before the How to Increase Your Profits seminar, I did most of the sales myself, and closing the sales wasn’t really a problem for me. But while I was up there making and closing those sales, I was losing other opportunities to move the business forward and expand. So, what the seminar made me see is that there are other people that are capable of closing sales the way that I was able to close sales. With the proper training, you can have another person do it which will allows you to be the owner, which makes the business move in the direction that’s more profitable for you. That’s the most important thing that I learned.

I found I was missing out on actually running my business. If you’re working in the business as a service writer, but you’re not running your business the way an owner should be running a business, you’re severely limiting the amount of growth that you’re capable of having in your shop.

The seminar showed me what holes I had in my business and where my inefficiencies were. I realized I wasn’t capable of being an owner and a service writer at the same time really well. Obviously, you can do customer service and service writing, but in order to make your company grow to where you want it to be, you have to hire the right person and properly train them to do that job up in the front for you.

And that’s where the Management Success! seminar comes in. These are the tools you can learn and use to expand your business like I did!

Management Success! How to Increase Your Profits Seminar

Monday, April 22, 2013

Is There a Tiger in Your Shop? By Bob Spitz Management Success!

Bob Spitz
Snr VP Business Development
Management Success!
Several years ago a shop owner from New York, a personal friend of mine, called me and began telling me about some tough employee issues, poor production, and stagnant sales.  He was working some crazy hours, said he could not take time away from the shop fearing that all would go wrong if he left.  I asked him why he felt that way.  He said the last time he took a week off the shop sales plummeted and he found himself putting out fires the first days back from his vacation.  He had gotten to the point that if he was to take another vacation he would just close down for the week and give all his employees a paid vacation.  From the way things were going it would cost him less and he would not have to deal with the aggravation. 

I told him not to make any drastic changes because I was already planning to come to New York and I would pay him a visit. 

I did not tell him when the visit was going to be so that I would get a truer picture of what was really going on.  The day I arrived I stood outside of the shop and just observed for a while; my friend did not know I was there.  Within a short period of time one of the employees stood out.  His actions were about as far away as you could get from being called “good for the business”.

I walked up to the counter where my friend was working – he was writing his own service at the time – and I asked him to introduce me to his techs.  The first two guys where personable and social.  The third one (the one I had observed) was a tiger.  I had my friend turn the shop over to his lead tech, the tiger for a while so we could go up to his house and talk.  We sat down and I rattled off a list of things this guy was doing and how he was behaving in the business.  When I was done my friend looked at me as said, “that is exactly what this guy (the tiger) is like, how did you get that out of a handshake?!”  I told my friend that even though I had never met this guy his personality traits are not new to me.  I’ve seen them in other shops I’ve worked with.  I asked him if he wanted some help straightening out this problem.  Since it seemed insurmountable to him he eagerly agreed.
It took a couple of weeks to work out a careful plan to remove this tiger from his shop because my friend was convinced he needed this guy!  The day my friend let him go he called me sounding like a schoolboy who finally got his first date.  “HE’S GONE, HE’S GONE!  I feel 10 years younger and I feel like 100 lbs has been lifted off my head!  The lights actually look brighter in the shop and the other techs are smiling and having a great time throwing out all of his junk!” The very next month the shop did more production with just two techs than it had ever done with three.

I have always found it amazing how one person in a business can hold down the whole shop.  And it always seems to be that key guy the owner feels he must have!  He’s the guy who knows his stuff, he can tackle the hard jobs, the ones that other techs shy away from, but he does it at a price. This is the guy that puts owners between a rock and a hard place.

One of the responsibilities of an owner is to create a safe and friendly work space.  People need to get along with each other and they usually do.  But you have no chance of creating a good team if you have a tiger in the mix.

Another problem with a guy like this is it makes it hard to recruit new team members.  Word gets around and techs know who is working where.  A shop also loses good, hard-working, personable guys with a tiger around.  No one wants to work with him except maybe other tigers --- Great!  Now you have two of them.

Long ago I worked in a dealership and we had two of these characters.  They tore up the production lines and made everyone’s life miserable.  The service manager did not know how to handle them and the owner ignored the problem.  Ultimately they drove off all the other good techs and then left together leaving the service department woefully undermanned.

Knowing how to read people and hire the right people the first time is a skill owners must have.  It is just too painful and costly not to know.  Having trouble in the production area?  Too many upsets and noise?  Look for the tiger—he’s the one in the bushes with fangs and claws ready to pounce on the next unsuspecting victim.

MANAGEMENT SUCCESS! How to Increase Your Profits Seminar

Monday, April 15, 2013

Basics of Employee Management By Bob Spitz Management Success!

Bob Spitz
Snr VP 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 his stress level, minimize his personnel problems, and better ensure the success of the business. 

Define Your Goals

Employees are people you employ (hire) to work with you and assist you in achieving your business goals. An owner needs to have well-defined goals and he must be able to communicate them to his 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.

What do They Want?

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, don’t you?  But it’s not the only thing they want. Many people also want stability, a well-organized, high-morale working environment and growth potential. Some look for an employer who can communicate clearly and who stays relatively calm even during times of high stress.

Talk to Your People

Take the time to sit down with each member, or potential member, of your crew and find out what he wants in life, what his goals and ambitions are. Make sure he understands what you expect from him, the level of production you expect, and what his compensation will be if he achieves this level, and how this will help him get the things he wants 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 don’t 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 don’t produce a lot the same wages as those who do produce a lot. In companies with these systems, employees learn that if they just show up and look like they are working, they’ll get paid. It is up to the owner to demand high production and to reward it. Don’t reward the underachiever.

Monitor Production

Make sure you have a system for tracking and monitoring production and let each employee know where they stand. 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 is producing on his job. Employees need to know that their employment and pay is based on their level of production and its value to the company, and not on who they know or their personality or other arbitrary factors. An employer who does not enforce this kind of accountability from his employees is likely to make personnel decisions based on guesswork rather than facts.

Where Does Their Pay Come From?

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.”  But the truth of the matter is that an employee’s pay comes from his own hard work, and his ability to produce quality products and services that the business can then sell to customers for income and support.

Creating a Team

The executive of a business must be able to organize the activities of the business and train his 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 each person who comes on board is given a clearly delineated job and is adequately trained so that he understands how to do this job. He also needs to be shown what his job means to the rest of the crew and he needs to know about the overall product the company produces. Unless every employee is aware of how his job relates to the final product of the company, you will never really have an efficient team working together to achieve your goals.

Meetings are Important!

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 don’t 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’re unhappy with someone, ALWAYS address this with him privately.

Make it a Three Win System

Help each of your employees to 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 they are understood by everyone.

Managing employees is a primary responsibility of an owner. Your success at it will be a function 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, they will follow. If you show genuine care for your people, they will respond. Wishing you Success!

MANAGEMENT SUCCESS! Employee Questionnaire

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Join us for the Spring 2013 Management Success! BEACH GETAWAY CONVENTION

Management Success! conventions offer an excellent opportunity for networking with other like–minded shop owners, many of whom run some of the top automotive shops in the US and Canada.

Outdoor Activities
Management Success! holds two conventions yearly (one in Los Angeles and the other at an exotic locale). Join in the fun with the many planned outdoor activities, including golfing, sight–seeing, snorkeling, poolside dinners and much more—depending on the Spring or Fall convention you attend.

Exclusive Workshops
Attend exclusive convention workshops tailored for your auto shop and bring home plans on how to get your shop to the next level of expansion.

Special Recognitions
Awards and prizes are regularly awarded to deserving shop owners and staff for achieving new levels of shop expansion. So, give them a hand—you might just be one of those owners called to the stage.

The Masters' Panel
Sit in and talk with the Masters of Shop Management at the Masters' Panel and learn what actions helped them to achieve success.

New Breakthroughs
You won't want to miss the latest news and advancements for shop expansion being released by Management Success!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Management Success! April 2013 Management Workshops

A key part of the Management Training & Consulting Program is our workshops. Our goal is to give you the knowledge and the skills to DO IT YOURSELF. We will enable you to run your shop the way you want to, without being dependent on us to help you.

One of our Consultants, Ari Cohen, is teaching business management at the April 2013 Management Basics Workshop.

Wes Severi is teaching a workshop on management by statistics and shop flow, among many other things.

Shop owners sit with each other and do the exercises together so that they can help each other out as well.

The purpose of Management Success is to enhance the quality of life and improve the standard of living of shop owners throughout the automotive repair industry. We do this through our highly effective training, paired with consulting from a team of some of the top management consultants in the country with decades of experience. To view our extensive list of training and consulting services, click on the link below.

MANAGEMENT SUCCESS! Training & Consulting

Monday, April 1, 2013

Can Your Shop do a Quality Job in 4 Seconds? By Bob Spitz Management Success!

Bob Spitz
VP Production
Management Success!
When Ayton Senna was still racing Formula 1 for McLaren the pit crew that serviced his cars was truly a marvel to watch.  During the Australian Grand Prix Ayrton raced unexpectedly into the pit because it needed new tires.  The crew was on the ball and serviced that car in under four seconds.

In the world of professional racing especially at the level of Grand Prix “comebacks” carry a fantastic cost (the race or more).  The job has got to be done right the first time and it has to be done efficiently. It’s an activity where errors are not tolerated by anyone on the team.  It’s a tightly organized group with a purpose.  They are trained within an inch of their lives by top notch coaches.  And the best crews have great leadership.

What’s the difference between a pit crew and your shop?

Is it fair to pit your people against a professional race car pit crew?

Someone might argue they are not the same thing.  The professional crew has many guys going over the wall to do the service.  Yes that’s true.  But this valuable comparison can be used, piece by piece, to improve your shop.

Let’s see what makes a professional pit crew tick.

#1 is their PURPOSE.  This is probably the single biggest factor that separates a professional crew from everyone else.  Those guys that jump over the wall live a hard life.  They’re on the road all the time working crazy hours getting paid peanuts.  So why do they do it weekend after weekend from February through November?  What drives them to do it and keep doing it?  The answer is PURPOSE.  What is purpose?  It is the stuff that real living is made of.  It is the reason you and I get out of bed in the morning and do the things we do.  Without purpose life would be extremely boring.  A shop is boring without a purpose.  And bored people don’t produce much and when they do finally produce something it’s low quality.

#2 is their TEAMWORK.  Those pits are a team.  And a great shop operates as a team.  In order to have a team everyone has to know how to play the game.  They have to agree with the rules of the game.  Then they will push (as a unit) along the right path.  The employees on a team share common goals with the owner.  They know what they have to do and how they fit in to the big picture.  It’s a nice feeling.

#3 is their ORANIZATION.  In order to get people to work as a team there has got to be a well-guided flow of organization in place.  This includes people, paper, cars, parts and cash money.  Note: money flows into the hands of a well organized shop owner and out of the hands of a poorly organized one.

#4 is their TRAINING.  In order for the team to be efficient and get the job done each person on the team must know what their position is, how to perform the task expected from that position and how to do it effectively and efficiently.  This requires training and drilling.  One of the first things I like to do when I help an owner to manage their shop is to get them training and drilling their team.  When the right things are drilled, wow what a difference!  And fast!

#5 is their LEADERSHIP.  All good teams have a good leader.  So what makes someone a good leader?  Here are some of the basics:
  • He or she has a clear vision of what they want.  They have a goal. 
  • They have a great attitude toward the business and life.
  • They can communicate their vision clearly.
  • They can gain agreement from others.
  • They know how to handle people.
  • They can easily give and enforce orders.

When people see that what they do makes a difference, they get inspired.  It’s nice for someone to know that what they do is important.  And it’s great to feel that what they do adds up to something larger than what they could accomplish on their own.  A leader lets the team know how valuable they are, because it’s true, they are.
So how about McLaren’s Ayrton Senna 4 second pit stop?  It couldn’t have been done without these five:

1. Purpose
2. Teamwork
3. Organization
4. Training
5. Leadership

This is also the heart and soul of managing a shop.

Fortunately you do not have to have been born with these abilities to succeed; they can be learned!

MANAGEMENT SUCCESS! On-Line Auto Shop Analysis