Tire dealers who offer automotive services would probably agree that mature leadership is essential for long-term growth and health in their service departments.
``Mature'' describes a boss who chooses his or her own customers rather than the other way around. Here's why.
There's no question that the quest for good customers is more competitive than ever. A typical tire dealer or service shop operator need only look around the neighborhood to see the various retailers and niche-marketing specialists who are fighting for their slice of the service pie. What's more, the only realistic way for many service departments to grow is to literally steal some of their competitor's pie.
But that said, who's in charge of your operation, Mr. Tire Dealer or Service Shop Operator? In case you'd forgotten, YOU-and no one else-is in charge. So if you're in charge, you are still entitled to choose your customers. As I have emphasized many times before, you should seek motorists who understand value as opposed to the lowest price.
Furthermore, when talented service sales people at the front counter team up with competent technicians back in the bays, there's a good chance they'll convert some of those price-shoppers out there into value-conscious, regular customers. Yes, you'll convert a percentage of them, but not all of them. Personally, I think ``converts'' make the most loyal customers.
The bottom line is that the sharpest tire dealers and service shop owners I know don't want any or all of the motorists passing through their businesses. They pick and choose, working on the philosophy that they typically make more money per vehicle more often by concentrating on value-conscious motorists. To me, this approach spells mature with a capital M.
A fellow I'll call ``Joe'' is a second-generation manager in a family-run business. I've gotten to know the entire family pretty well over the years and respect them for their overall integrity and straightforwardness with customers. Although Joe's only in his early thirties, he impresses other colleagues and me with his maturity at the service desk. At the same time, his style contrasts sharply with that of his father, a boss of the old school.
The best and worst things about Joe's dad is that he never saw a vehicle he couldn't fix or didn't want to fix.
Too often, I'd see ``project vehicles'' clogging the shop's bays when there was easy and very profitable maintenance work waiting to be done. But instead of turning, for instance, three maintenance jobs (timing belt/water pump/cooling service/oil change), the old man had a bay committed to a labor-hungry job for some referred motorist who simply didn't want to spend any money.
If this motorist was willing to pay the going rate for professional work, the car wouldn't even be there. Instead, he or she pleaded poverty to one of Dad's regulars, who then convinced Dad that he ``had to do something about this car.''
Unlike Dad, Joe keeps a sharp eye on turning work over regularly. Rightly, Joe believes if the shop's tying up a bay on an involved job, the customer's going to pay accordingly because Joe listens to his techs, learns what it takes to solve a problem and quotes work accordingly.
Most of all, Joe knows that if the motorist really wants the vehicle fixed, he or she is going to pay, no matter where the vehicle's taken. His maturity is reflected in the confidence with which he chooses customers and then communicates what it really costs to fix the vehicle the first time.
Another sign of Joe's blossoming maturity is his focus on motorists who are willing to pay for value-work done correctly the first time at competitive prices. Joe flatly refuses to let any motorist dictate the content of a repair job or maintenance recommendation. He realizes the motorist isn't qualified to ``define'' any repair or service and he politely communicates that.
Last but not least, Joe won't accept a motorist's ploy that the repairman must shoulder some of the blame for the cost of the repair. Joe understands that he didn't build, buy or break the vehicle. It's not his fault that the motorist is driving a vehicle that's expensive to repair.
Based on the way I see him choose customers, I'd say Joe will enjoy a prosperous career in the auto repair industry. Learn from his example.