Cynics who haven't witnessed the impact of leading by example need, for a change, to work with Ron Lischeid, whose resume includes successful stints as a restaurant manager. The owner of Maple Grove Auto Service, Maple Grove, Minn., also is president of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) of Minnesota. In recent columns I've emphasized the importance of keeping a clean shop to impress today's demanding, image-conscious consumers. The best way to spur the troops to win that ongoing battle is by rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in the program.
Naysayer owners and managers claim to understand the value of a spit-shine appearance. Yet some openly admit they won't participate in any store or shop cleanup.
Their comments suggest they go out in the shop as little as possible. After spending years working their way into ``clean'' jobs, going back into the shop is clearly beneath the status of their positions. They'd rather scream at the crew, throw their hands up in disgust and complain that today's workers aren't as conscientious as the previous generation's!
Mr. Lischeid has had blue-collar and white-collar positions, clean jobs and dirty ones. Anyone who knows him knows he doesn't stand on ceremony. But although he doesn't take himself too seriously, he's dead serious about image-building and setting a good example. Two examples come to mind.
I heard a strange announcement at the ASA-Minnesota state convention several years ago. Turns out that a local uniform supply company would present a fashion show during the association's luncheon. Corny? Perhaps. But it was also a low-key way to reinforce the importance of a professional look for the entire service staff.
As the uniform supplier narrated in the style of a true runway announcer, local service personnel modeled uniforms on an improvised runway. Although attendees hooted and roared laughter, everyone I talked to afterward appreciated seeing the variety of attire available for managers and technicians. They left the luncheon thinking ``image improvement.''
While his colleagues walked the runway demurely, bear-like Mr. Lischeid brought the house down by accenting his stroll with burlesque-like bumps and grinds. He even ``flashed'' the lapel of the service manager's jacket he was modeling and twirled the orange shop towel he carried!
Recently, Mr. Lischeid raised more image-consciousness and caused a few laughs recounting his floor scrubber story. He bought a well-used but excellent condition Studebaker-built commercial floor scrubber from a local rental store.
He says rental facilities are often overlooked sources of good used maintenance gear. They have to turn over their inventory periodically, and you can buy equipment right if you know what you're looking for.
Every few months, Mr. Lischeid watches for a lightly scheduled afternoon and fetches the cleaning materials. Then he wheels out his trusty Studebaker and begins scrubbing a ``common'' area of the shop floor. Gradually, he works his way into the service bays. His techs get the hint and willingly begin moving tool boxes and lifting workbenches out of his way. By day's end, the entire shop floor is spotless. The effort has earned Maple Grove Auto Service countless compliments from customers.
Mr. Lischeid's initiative also focused the shop's staff on the benefits of good housekeeping. ``When I started doing this and they saw how good the floor could look, I didn't have to coax anyone to help. They wanted to move things so I could do the entire floor!'' he said.
Moving boxes and benches forced them to remove the flotsam and jetsam that always accumulate there-including techs' expensive sockets that had rolled out of sight. They've realized tidying up saves them money, he added.
Plus, clean floors inspire better daily housekeeping. ``They've become used to and proud of a clean floor,'' he said. ``Now when something is spilled. . . , it doesn't sit there. Someone seems to be right on top of it, wiping it up.''
Don't expect the troops to do what you wouldn't do yourself, Mr. Lischeid emphasized. And if actions speak louder than words, the best way to communicate the cleanliness message may be to wield the broom yourself, he said.