Earning employees' respect may be the single biggest challenge owners and managers of any business face.
To meet this challenge, it's vitally important to treat workers the way you like to be treated.
Some tire dealers and service shop operators consider this advice to be so basic as to be obvious—a foregone conclusion. But if it was obvious to all, and so easy to execute, then every owner and manager would be bragging about their loyal workers who deliver 110 percent day in, day out.
I meet a lot of owners and managers in my travels. Clearly, some of them are still trying to figure out this respect issue. For example, they complain about how difficult it is to retain workers. It's revealing that the people they do manage to keep on board often seem to be the dregs of the workforce. These same bosses also whine in wonderment at how competitors attract and retain employees who are more desirable, more motivated.
Respect includes so many factors—beginning with the way the boss dresses, acts, etc. However, it also may involve changing some age-old attitudes about how owners and managers treat technicians and other non-managerial staff. Here's one example.
There's a shop owner in a large city whom I've known for years. He had the opportunity to move his auto repair business to a larger building. The down side to the move was that the building probably dated back to the 1920s. Although much of the facility had been professionally modernized, it still required much renovation.
Interestingly enough, one of the very first renovations my friend tackled was replacing the bathroom. He chose a corner of the building that basically amounted to dead space. New, insulated walls were built and a small heater installed. The heater and insulation addressed concerns that this area of the shop might be more difficult to heat as effectively as other areas.
They installed a modern, water-saving toilet as well as a basic sink and vanity purchased from the local home center. My friend had light-colored tile installed on the floor and halfway up the walls of the new bathroom. He figured that the tile would be very durable but also very easy to clean.
The job was finished off with bright lighting, an effective exhaust fan and white paint. Not surprisingly, the technicians and service managed loved the new bathroom. At least, they said, they could do "business" in privacy and comfort.
My buddy's argument was that professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants provide their workers with first-class "digs." The least he could do for his crew of pros, he told me, was to show a similar level of class.
OK, let's move to a different city, different service shop. The owner is friendly and we've helped each other out with problem solving for about 20 years. His bays used to be full all the time. More recently, however, he's been struggling to keep them full.
Yet, two things have been consistent about his service shop. The first is that the floors of the bays are always so dirty that I always have a disposable floor mat ready when I get back into my car. Plus, the floor of the men's room in the shop is always wet—and the place always reeks.
Perhaps mistakenly, I recounted the story of the other gentleman's new shop bathroom to this fellow. He seemed appalled that anyone would, I quote, "waste that kind of money on a shop bathroom." Mind you, this is a guy who has a separate washroom up front for himself and his customers. He doesn't go near the shop's washroom for techs and staff in his own business.
So what's the point, Dan?
The competition's cutting my throat and you're gassing about some guy's indoor outhouse? Yes I am, but I'm also pointing out prime examples of showing respect in the first example, then disrespect in the second. Perhaps it's no surprise that the caliber of employee the second fellow attracts doesn't come close to the quality of guys my friend with the new bathroom recruits.
If you want to earn more respect and loyalty, be more aware and show some more care. Those steps are the beginnings of more respectful, more loyal workers.