Some people call the approach “present and accounted for,” or “aboard and aware.” Still others describe it as “present and informed.”
Regardless what you call this philosophy, successful bosses make it a point to be on site as well as aware of what's going on around them. At first, this may sound so trite that readers may take the statement for granted. However, there's a world of difference between being present and knowing what's actually happening in a tire dealership and/or service shop.
What you don't know about your business could easily cost you that business. Or, what you don't know about your dealership or service shop eventually could catch up with you and put you in the nearest hospital.
Sometimes, the actual owner runs the business operation day in, day out. Other times, a hired manager or managers open up in the morning, make all the decisions and lock up again at night. But typically, businesses that are successful over the long haul are helmed by people who know what employees are doing—good and bad.
Beyond a certain point, there are no excuses for not knowing about employees who steal or engage in shady repair practices. There's no reason to be ignorant of salespersons who may be giving the proverbial store away or are beating up customers with every imaginable parts charge or labor fee.
It's not a matter of whether or not these practices catch up with the business. Rather, it's only a matter of when they catch up with you.
This challenge reminds me of parenting. Those of you who are parents appreciate that it's not nearly good enough to just be home every evening. No, you also have to be as alert and aware as practically possible.
For instance, who are the child's friends and what does he or she do with spare time? Was that outburst from the kid just an occasional occurrence or perhaps an indicator of deeper emotional difficulties—perhaps outside pressures from their peers.
Suffice it to say, being an alert, aware parent is difficult work. The same holds true at the work place.
For example, I've seen determined owners devote themselves to either the service department or the sales department—and still fail. The reason they fail is that they become so engrossed in one aspect of the business they failed to keep up with the other end of the business. In one memorable instance, the owner was a former technician who grew tired of techs taking advantage of him. So he appointed himself to the shop foreman position. Indeed, there were no shenanigans in that service department.
However, the man hired a supposedly solid, experienced sales manager to run the front end of the business. Unfortunately, he incentivized the man with substantial commissions and delegated the “front end” of the business to him. He didn't supervise this sales manager nearly as closely as he should have. Eventually, this sales manager drove off customers, in part by charging for everything under the sun in order to boost the numbers on which his commissions were based.
Customers who had spent a legitimate $1,000 to $2,000 on repairs and maintenance found themselves paying big labor charges for items such as replacing wiper blades and easy-to-replace light bulbs. They caught on, complained, then went to competitors. The negative word-of-mouth reports really hurt the business, and it took the owner a while to realize the sales person was driving customers away.
Mind you, this is just one example of an owner who was on site but unaware. What's important is that you create the kinds of practical checks and balances in your business that enable you to review activities in the service and sales sides.
For example, some bosses hire a capable “outsider” who routinely pulls work orders at random and performs a telephone follow up with customers. No one at the business knows who this person is or who he or she might phone to review their service experience. In other cases, the owner himself or herself randomly phones customers for reactions and comments.
Sometimes the boss, or perhaps a retired service manager, randomly reviews work orders every few weeks to look for questionable billings, questionable service practices. The bottom line is that ultimately you must inspect what you expect from people.
Failing to inspect products and services your staff produces and how they treat customers amounts to being blissfully unaware of your surroundings. You don't have to put programs and policies in place to keep you aware. That said, don't complain when the business suffers.