By Chubby Frederick
Working with shop owners for more than four decades has taught me a lot about running a business. In the past 10 years, I have seen more change in our industry than in the previous 30 years, requiring us to establish more engaged workers in the business plan.
I recall a good friend whose son is an airline pilot telling her about “situational awareness” – the ability to see objects in time and space through multiple perspectives and interpretations – who then said, “even though we have all these wonderful instruments that tell us how fast we are going, how high we are flying and how well things are running, it is still important to look out the window once in a while and see for ourselves just how things are looking.”
So how does all this apply to your shop? We, like the airplane pilot, definitely have a lot of “wonderful instruments” to monitor our business. At ATI we call them Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). We can see average repair order, parts margins, labor margins, car count, gross profit and many other indicators of how fast we are going, how high we are flying and how much fuel we have
Situational awareness applies not only to high-tech equipment, but also to people. We must apply this to our staff as well as to our equipment. It is important for us, as pilots of our businesses, to take a look around, not to focus only on the instruments or KPIs, but to become aware of our environments as well.
Don’t Forget to Take Time
In today’s fast-paced Service Department and high-tech world, it is pretty easy to forget that we are working with some of the most important equipment in our shops – our employees. Taking time to meet with them has almost become a forgotten skill in most shops.
A great way to do this is to set up one-on-one meetings weekly with each employee. Take time to set up a notebook and list the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Give them honest feedback on the things that are going well, and to celebrate with them when a weakness becomes a strength!
Interacting in this way can help ensure that the business runs smoothly, and that most crashes can be averted. I have talked to a lot of techs who say that they feel like they are no more than a cog in the wheel and their opinions do not matter.
Nothing can ground a flight faster than one or two key members of the crew leaving and then having to be replaced. We have all heard that attitude controls our altitude. And I believe that with constant and methodical situational awareness, we can all reach new heights with our businesses.
Chris Frederick is CEO of the Automotive Training Institute. Read the here.