AKRON — Reasonable business adjustments and prudent health precautions will help tire dealers and service shop operators weather the coronavirus storm.
These steps include smarter scheduling, a clearer cost consciousness and a finer focus on worker well-being.
In my last column, I emphasized that the pandemic has been the single most-stressful, fearsome challenge many people have faced. If you, your crew and your family are feeling this, rest assured you're not alone.
Simply recognizing the seriousness of the situation may be the healthiest coping strategy you can take. Then breathe deeply and visualize practical ways you can address the pandemic's impact.
First of all, tire dealers and service shop operators should monitor the additional time that sensible safety steps are consuming throughout their businesses. Then factor that time into their cost of doing business.
For example, sources have told me about their efforts to minimize the virus risk by cleaning key parts of customers' vehicles — cleaning steering wheels, shift levers, interior and exterior door handles, etc., with a disinfectant of some kind.
To me, these disinfecting measures are a prudent part of the new normal in automotive service. But that said, the steps still take a certain amount of time, and you don't want to short-cut the process.
When in doubt, track the average cleaning time your service personnel spend on each vehicle.
Once you have measured the actual, average time per vehicle, you can make an informed decision: Either eat the cost or adjust your labor charges accordingly.
Second, track the cost per vehicle of disinfecting wipes, spray cleaners, etc., and monitor the additional daily cost of "personal" cleaning products your crew consumes. To me, these are new but legitimate costs of doing business.
Third, adjust your schedule — not to mention overall labor charge — when your crew picks up and delivers vehicles to customers. Some sources emphasized that they've added this feature because competitors offered it.
To me, keeping your service business competitive makes sense, but this courtesy consumes time and therefore costs money.
For all I know, shuttling customers' vehicles around may impact the cost of your insurance. Ultimately, it could reduce the number of maintenance and repair jobs you're able to schedule each day.
So, measure the impact on your business and react appropriately. We aren't operating in the "old days" anymore.
Fourth, focus more on worker well-being with some sensible precautions. This approach makes dollars and sense because you're already heavily invested in your present staff. Protect that investment accordingly.
In previous columns, I repeatedly emphasized that replacing a good employee successfully consumes more time, money and aggravation than an owner or manager anticipated. Considering the current business climate, do you want that aggravation?
Working in a safe environment is a reasonable expectation for your employees. In this era of the pandemic, I believe that realistic virus protections are part of those realistic expectations.
For example, I think it's time to lay down the law regarding sick workers.
Notify your team members via email and written notices: A manager may bar them from the building if they appear to be sick.
Anyone who is running a temperature, sneezing, wheezing, coughing or showing any disconcerting symptoms should go to a doctor — pronto! The sooner a doctor checks this employee, the sooner he or she gets on the mend.
The sooner the employee is healthy again, the sooner he or she begins making money for the business again.
Preventing that sick person from hurting the rest of the crew may save your business untold time, money and aggravation. For instance, we all have endured the misery of a sick co-worker who refused to go home and/or get medical help.
Worse yet, the sick one spreads illness among other crew members, then the entire business suffers due to their carelessness and stubbornness.
The coronavirus has raised the stakes of this person's carelessness much higher than ever before. Health experts agree that a robust immune system is the first line of defense against any infection — especially against this virus.
Sick workers have compromised immune systems that make them more vulnerable to this potentially crippling, deadly virus. (One of the scariest aspects of coronavirus is the number of seemingly healthy people it has killed.)