Short written reports by employees may be just the tool tire dealers need to keep themselves better informed of potential problem areas within their dealerships.
At the same time, brief reports boost employee morale and loyalty by keeping workers more involved in the store's daily operation.
Regular Tire Business readers know I'm a big believer in keeping all workers as involved in the operation and maintenance of the dealership as practically possible. The bottom line is that the more involved workers are, the more responsible they'll feel for the business as a whole. The more responsible they feel, the more committed they become to the overall health and prosperity of the business.
Meanwhile, good bosses like to keep a finger on the pulse of the business. This enables them to nip problems in the bud before they turn into full-blown calamities.
To fulfill both goals, experiment by requiring workers to file brief work reports at least once a month. Some bosses call these things "monthly updates." Others call them a "5 and 15" because they should be no longer than five pages and take no longer than 15 minutes to write.
Encourage workers to update you on the best and worst that's occurred within the last 30 days. Encourage them to be truthful without being petty or conducting personal attacks on co-workers.
Believe me, as a former manager I know what it's like trying to get people to fill out any kind of paperwork—let alone do creative writing. Technicians in particular are not the most communicative bunch of people on the planet. But like any other group, they can be cajoled and coached into doing what needs to be done.
Look at it this way: The potential gain from a monthly 5 and 15 will likely far outweigh the trouble it takes to implement the plan, which is also a polite way to serve notice to workers who might otherwise slack off whenever possible. When a lazy person's behavior impairs the productivity of good employees, it's bound to show up on the 5 and 15's.
Personally, I would treat these reports as highly confidential material and allow no one else except the store manager or operations manager to see them. In fact, if I'm the owner, I may emphasize to the staff that no one is going to see them but me. Hopefully that will encourage fairness and candor from everyone.
So what kinds of information might appear on a 5 and 15 at a tire dealership?
First, your warehouse or storeroom boss may report that the forklift hydraulics, which cost a fortune to repair six weeks ago, are leaking again. He's mopping up the hydraulic oil as best he can. His phone calls to the forklift service center haven't been returned yet. Ouch!
A service writer tells you that he's kept track of people requesting rides to work or a loaner vehicle. He claims that nine customers have inquired about rides and loaners within that last 30 days. Furthermore, he tells you he's seen a competitor's logo and "Shuttle Vehicle" lettered on a minivan that period- ically passes your store. Time to finally react?
An entry-level technician reports that the service manager didn't sign him up for a training class because the manager concluded the material would be too advanced for him. Shouldn't he be allowed to decide for himself if something's too advanced? Could he refund the class fee to the business if he can't keep up with the class? he asks. Wow, this kid's an up-and-comer! You realize he really wants to learn if he's willing to do that.
Another tech has found two instances in the last month in which he couldn't find the proper brake lathe adapter with which to turn some drums or rotors. He sounds uncertain when he asks if those adapters were supposed to be standard equipment with the lathe package.
"Didn't we agree at a team meeting that we weren't going to send these out anymore and that the next lathe we bought would accommodate them?" he writes. Investigate this one because it's impacting both productivity and efficiency.
It's a foregone conclusion that owners and bosses are very busy people. All bosses like to be kept informed. Some might call the examples I've cited here minutiae. But I believe these are the daily kinds of issues we should resolve to remain productive, competitive and happy.
Look at the alternative. How would sweeping these things under that carpet improve your dealership?