Local word-of-mouth may have defined your business' reputation more than you realize.
Looking for fallout? Hearsay and gossip may impact your ability to recruit capable new employees.
For several years now, I've been hearing and reading about the impact of social media on the professional reputation of automotive service facilities. In other words, what do fellow professionals think of you, your managers and technicians?
Simply put, do potential new hires within your general market area think your business is a good place to work? This includes everyone from an entry-level tech to a general manager.
The way some bosses talk, you'd think that their tire dealerships or service shops operate in a unique, parallel universe.
In this realm, fellow professionals only learn of your reputation via social media. What's more, the opinion of each media participant is inherently accurate; each notice carries as much weight as the next—or last—one.
Yet, unavoidable human interactions prevent a business from operating in a vacuum.
However much you want to believe that you're working in your own little world, you aren't. Like it or not, your professional reputation began forming the moment one of your workers began talking to another person in the auto service industry.
Back in the late 1960s, I worked in traditional, full-service gas stations. During the course of a work day, one or all of us on the crew might talk to a variety of people in the business. For instance, the fellow from the shop uniform service might repeat the crazy stuff he had seen or heard on his route. Mind you, this route covered a large area around our employer's location.
The people who delivered parts also brought us gossip and hearsay. When time allowed, some of them told tales of the successes and failures, foibles and follies of the auto service facilities to which they delivered parts.
The mobile tool dealers were yet another source of gossip. These guys seemed to have an even greater wealth of observations and opinions than the parts people did.
I suspect that occurred because a “tool man” sells directly to each tech and service manager. So he usually gets to know them very well — well enough to use them as referrals on the value of his tools and equipment.
More than anyone I met, the tool guy usually knew which businesses on his route were hiring or firing. He usually knew which techs were shady vs. those who were reputable and straightforward.
Predictably, he also had a mental catalog of managers, foremen and techs who were looking for new jobs.
In retrospect, maybe I should have made an effort to copy down everything I heard. If even half of it was true, I still would have had plenty of fodder for a book about the auto service industry.
The point is that some people will always love to gossip. What's more, gossip travels faster and farther — in this amped-up, social media-beholden atmosphere—than you may realize.
Everyone I talk to agrees that finding capable help is challenging and stressful. OK, think of the geographic area around your business as a well of potential new hires. Have rumors and hearsay about you poisoned this well?
I read a revealing piece of advice on rumor and hearsay from Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars. He explained that he anticipated — assumed — jurors would hear prejudicial bits of rumor and hearsay. The most effective way a prosecutor can combat these influences is to develop the strongest case possible. So strong that it would negate any rumors or hearsay.
The well of potential new hires I just described resembles a jury. That is, they may hear negative gossip about your business at one point or another. Although you can't stop gossips from gossiping, you can ultimately offset the hearsay: Create and maintain a positive, welcoming work atmosphere.
Doing so builds worker loyalty and the overwhelmingly positive “street rep” that helps attract desirable employees to your business.