AKRON (March 26, 2001) — Tire dealers should follow the example of intelligent athletes: The smart ones know when it´s time to retire and/or recognize they´re better suited for coaching the game than playing it.
Over the years, visiting and observing various service facilities has convinced me there are three basic types of owners. The first is the self-motivated, lust-for-life type of boss who relishes each new day at the store. He or she loves the challenge because they believe no two days or any two customers are exactly the same. They´ll tell you the challenge keeps the adrenaline going.
The second kind of tire dealer or service shop owner is the worn-out one. He or she used to love running a business, but they let the negative aspects of the work consume their enthusiasm. Observing their weary outlooks today, it´s difficult to believe that these people ever had any passion for the businesses they´ve run for so long.
The third kind of owner is the miscast soul who has neither the temperament nor the people skills to run any business. Miraculously, this business has literally survived in spite of its owner. The only thing that has kept it alive is the fact the owner surrounded himself with highly skilled technicians.
When this boss´ rotten personality eventually frightens away a good tech, he manages to recruit another—and then another and yet another. At this dealership, tensions run so high you can cut the atmosphere in the service department with a knife. High turnover is a fact of life, not to mention an inside joke among employees.
Anyway, here are some clues that it´s time for a worn-out or miscast owner to go fishing and turn the business reins over to a competent manager. Certainly, the boss should coach and guide this manager. But otherwise, get out and stay out of the building! Realize the business will run smoother and generate more profits without you!
Clue 1: Average work order totals are higher when you aren´t there. Why? Because your managers and service writers aren´t afraid to charge appropriately for your technicians´ skill and knowledge. These people understand better than you do what the competition´s doing and what proper maintenance and repairs actually cost in your market area.
They aren´t pencil-whipping the bill—they´re just charging realistic fees for good work. Instead of apologizing for the service department´s abilities, they brag about them and charge accordingly.
Another reason the average ticket is higher without you is that, left unencumbered, your staff tries to sell more work per vehicle than you do. They recognize that as long as the vehicle is on the lift, it makes sense to inspect it thoroughly and sell as many legitimate repairs as possible. Ultimately, this approach also builds customer loyalty because it makes better use of the customer´s valuable time, too. Moto-rists who are worth having as customers recognize this.
Clue 2: Stress is lower and everyone seems happier when you aren´t around. For one thing, you´re always overscheduling—trying to cram in as many jobs as possible because you were raised on the tenet that business is all about volume, volume, volume!
Your workers are stressed out trying to keep up with the volume, and that stress breeds mistakes and comebacks. What´s more, the average ticket per vehicle is much lower because techs don´t have time to inspect each vehicle for additional, legitimate service sales.
Clue 3: There are no confrontations with customers and/or techs over jobs you should have never taken in the first place. When you aren´t in the store, your help won´t be suckered in by the sob stories of tightwad motorists who simply won´t pay fair money for proper repairs.
Unlike you, your staff doesn´t oversimplify auto repair (gotta build volume!) for a crybaby motorist who needs either major repairs or a new vehicle. Your workers realize it´s not their fault the vehicle wasn´t maintained properly.
Clue 4: No arguments about the price of parts occur when you´re not around. Your staff understands that quality parts cost money.
If the job is going to go out and stay out, you´ve got to install quality. Good customers will pay for quality because they want it done once. So why gamble on a comeback due to a nonexistent price objection from someone who wants the job done right?