AKRON (April 15, 2002)-They say the difference be-tween men and boys is the price of their toys.
If that's true, then some bosses should keep their toys away from the tire dealership or service shop. I'm convinced that these things are anything but morale builders. Here's why.
The people I've met in the automotive service industry all have gasoline in their veins to one extent or another. This shows in our unbridled affection for vehicles that go fast and/or look great. For many of us, speed—boats, bikes, cars or trucks—is the best therapy we've found for soothing the weary soul. Others among us love cars as art forms. We dig colors, shapes, styles—the “statement” of everything from a red Barchetta to a flamed '49 Mercury.
If you've worked hard to earn that special boat, bike or car, that's fabulous. But that said, never let your hobby pieces interfere with morale and productivity in the workplace. The older I get, the more fervently I believe that keeping toys at work never improves its atmosphere.
You have probably heard business management coaches say, “If it isn't adding to the business, then it must be subtracting from it.” Considering how difficult it is to recruit and keep help today, you shouldn't be subtracting from your dealership's overall appeal to workers.
Too often I've seen bosses clogging valuable bays with various toys. Every day, workers suffer the indignity of having to move these toys in order to open up a bay for real business. Worse yet, the clueless boss seems to think his crew gets a vicarious thrill out of moving his toys in and out daily. If only he knew what they were really thinking about this thankless ritual.
From what I've observed, some bosses keep their go-fast toys around because it's the only ego-builder they've got at this point in their lives. When you get to know these characters well, you discover they believe these toys are their most valuable symbols of success.
Certainly, there's nothing wrong with enjoying your hard-earned bucks. But as often as not, the bosses who keep toys at work do so because they're too cheap to store them properly at home or at some secure, off-site location when they've got those bays at the dealership.
It only goes downhill from here. Besides being too cheap to create a private storage site for their toys, they're often too cheap to pay their help decently. Worse yet, they aren't giving their staffs a decent environment in which to earn a living. Sometimes the roof leaks and the exhaust fan in the locker room quits. Permanently fix the floor drains in the bays? That would cost too much money.
Tour the facility and you find many things that need immediate attention. But from one side of his mouth, the boss cries poverty every time workers make reasonable requests for fixes, upgrades and new equipment. Yet he brags to anyone within earshot about the money he's already spent—and plans to spend—on his toys.
This all-too-common scenario has to be the biggest morale-killer I know. Flaunting these expenditures in front of employees who're making legitimate requests for better working conditions is unconscionably ignorant. It's even more ignorant for a boss to try justifying his actions by saying that his hobbies are none of the workers' business.
Just poll your workers, Mr. Boss. They'll respond that you made it their business by flaunting your choices—your toys—in front of them! When I look at the best-run, healthiest auto service businesses I know, I never see adult toys afoot. A place of business is just that: all business.
Even if you are running a pretty good operation, human nature should still dissuade you from keeping toys at work. For many workers, it's only natural to be somewhat jealous of things the boss has. But when something at the dealership goes wrong, it's entirely too tempting for a worker to think, “We'd have enough money for more equipment if he wasn't throwing it away on his street rods all the time!”
Remember, if it's not adding to the atmosphere, it's probably detracting from it. If you want to impress people (employees or customers), leave the toys at home.
Instead, impress folks with prompt, professional, courteous service. Im-press and retain workers by showing them you'll spend money when and where it really counts. Avoid second-guessing by keeping your hobbies where they belong—at home!