Encourage Bad News

posted on January 28th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

The other day, one of my service advisor’s came to my office to discuss the past week.  We made an agreement that we would meet in private at least once a week to discuss his successes and challenges, and also discuss ways to improve our service. After telling me all the good stuff, he informed me of a situation where he dropped the ball, which resulted in a very upset customer.

My initial thoughts were anger and disappointment. The last thing we need these days are unhappy customers.  But, thankfully the years have taught me a few things about employee behavior and employee management.

I remained calm and thanked him for bringing this up and we discussed ways to correct the situation. I told him that while we need to celebrate the success stories, it is crucial to our long-term success to admit when things have gone wrong. I made a bigger deal about him coming clean than I did about the successes he had that week.

If I would have erupted in anger, he would have shut down.  Also, he would not come to me the next time we had a customer issue.  By thanking him and praising him for being honest, he now knows that people can make mistakes, and that we will work together to correct the problem.

No one wants to hear bad news, but it’s a lot better than not knowing.  What you don’t know, you can’t correct.  And that’s a recipe for disaster.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Tips on Hiring the Superstars in Competitive Times

posted on January 21st, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

One of the single greatest challenges shop owners face today is finding and hiring the superstars. Regardless of whether you are looking to hire technicians or service advisors, here are some tips that will help you hire the stars.

1. Accept the fact that with rare exception, the stars you are looking for are already working, and are reasonably satisfied. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to a conversation with you, because many of them will be. It’s your responsibility to identify those stars, and then reach out to them. Even if there is little or no interest on their part after speaking with you, you still win, because you have started a relationship. Not only may the time come when they reach back out to you, but I have learned over the years that the stars know the stars, so they may be able to provide you with the names of some other good candidates who would be interested in your offer.

2. You should never offer someone a job, but should instead offer them an opportunity to join a company like yours. Beyond just a competitive wage, you will need to provide a compensation and incentive package that includes paid vacations and holidays, paid sick days, uniforms and ongoing training. In addition, you will need to provide the opportunity for growth and income advancement, security, rewards for tenure (such as retirement programs), and of course, leadership. Bear in mind that anyone can offer them a wage; what you need to offer is a package that shows that you really do care about the people who work with you. The rule that I have lived by for decades is that if you put out peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. The stars produce profits, whereas the monkeys produce debt.

3. Whenever there is a shortage of skilled labor, you not only have to make the candidates an attractive offer, but you need to remove as many barriers as possible. Change is scary for most, especially if they have been with the same shop for years, so you need to be well aware of their fears. No matter how good a tech or an advisor is, one of the greatest concerns they’ll have is that you’ll be unable to deliver. A method I’ve used over the years is providing a really attractive guarantee for a number of months. Most shop owners are hesitant to do so because they fear that if the employee doesn’t produce, it will cost them a fortune. What they don’t realize is that if they do a better job of qualifying the candidates, and if they accept the fact that they can always terminate an underperformer, their concerns should diminish dramatically.  As business owners, we need to both set our fears aside and reduce the fears of the candidates. At Elite we are open and upfront with all candidates by telling them that on a predetermined date the hefty guarantee will be reduced to $XXX, and that we have every expectation that by the predetermined date they will be earning well more than the guarantee.

4. We should never forget the rule that says, “When we hire Larry, we get Mary.” Simply put, if the candidate has a significant other in their life, with rare exception, they will be involved in the decision making process. This is why we strongly encourage you (whenever possible) to meet with the significant other as well as with the candidate. If Mary is sold on you and your company, then there is a really good chance that she will sell Larry on joining your team.

5. Last but not least, you should let the candidates know about the culture of your company. The stars you are looking for may have well-paying jobs, but there is a good probability there is a vacuum when it comes to the culture of the company they are working for. If you let them know that you are committed to ethics, and that you and your entire team live by a principle that you will never put money ahead of people, you will discover you are able to hire the superstars you’ve been looking for.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Your Shop’s Success is Often Found in What You Don’t Do

posted on January 14th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

As shop owners, we are often overwhelmed by all the tasks we need to accomplish on a daily basis. We run from morning till night putting out fires and dealing with difficult situations. The days, weeks and years pass us by. And we sometimes end up realizing that all our activity does not always equate to accomplishments.

To be quite honest, too many shop owners are doing too many things that they should not be doing. For example, is it the best use of your time running across town to pick up parts? Or repairing the plumbing in the customer bathroom?

There was a time when I thought that I had to be everything, everyone and everywhere; the lead tech, the service advisor, the manager, the building repairman, the bookkeeper, the receptionist, and even the janitor. And I also thought that every situation had to be handled by me. If not by me, how would things get done?

In order to grow a profitable business, the owner needs to concentrate on what will achieve the greatest amount of return. For one week create a list of all that you do; every activity from answering the phone to helping in the shop. Then, begin to strike the things that could and should be handled by someone else from the list. When you narrow your focus on those tasks you should be doing, you will become more efficient and achieve more. Delegate and help others in your shop grow.

Success is determined not only by how much you achieve, but also by how much you help others achieve.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

 
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The Truth About Stealing Employees

posted on January 7th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

There is an expression that has been around our industry for decades that says if you run a good, ethical business, the one thing you should never do is “steal” employees. If you agree with that philosophy, this is one article you may want to read.

First of all, in order for any of us to steal employees, by definition those employees would need to belong to someone else. Slavery was abolished in America in 1865. None of us “own” other people, and I am sure if you asked any of the employees who are presently in our industry, they too would agree they are not the property of anyone. So putting first things first, we need to accept that the statement itself is flawed when someone says we are trying to steal their employees.

Now let’s look at the argument that it’s not right to solicit employees from another business. The majority of successful companies do this! The world is filled with head hunters, and without question; they’re not looking for people who are unemployed. They are looking for the superstars who are presently employed. So if most people accept that recruiting employees from other businesses is an acceptable practice, you have to wonder why shop owners look at the practice with such disdain. It’s because they are so afraid that someone will recruit their employees that they start living by the code that it’s wrong to solicit employees. It’s their own misdirected way of trying to shelter their employees from hearing about better opportunities.

If you were a superstar technician, and if you were solicited by another shop owner who could provide you with a better opportunity, I sense you would consider the offer a compliment, and not a violation of ethics. I would also sense your family would be happy to hear of the opportunity as well. So when you stand back and look at the bigger picture, as a tech you would be happy that another shop owner is offering you the opportunity, your family would be pleased to hear about it, and the shop owner who reached out to you would be excited to speak with you. The only one who would deem it inappropriate would be your existing employer, who just happens to be the one who runs the risk of losing the most. If you step into the shoes of the employer living in a world of ethics and who cares about each employee as a person, wouldn’t you want that technician to take a job that provided a better opportunity for him and his family?

However, I feel there are a few situations where it would be inappropriate to solicit someone from another shop. If the employee works at a shop that is owned by a good friend, then of course you need to respect the friendship, and assume that your friend is taking proper care of their employees. The other exception is when you know in your heart you would be unable to provide the employee with a better opportunity than what they presently have.

On a personal note, I have never been afraid of someone “stealing” the people who work with me. I have learned over the years that the first thing that leaves your business is the employee’s heart, and once their heart is lost, then their mind will begin to wander, and other opportunities will become attractive. When they find the right opportunity, the toolbox will inevitably follow behind. This is why I always work very hard to keep their hearts, and why I consider it nothing more than a compliment when other business owners attempt to recruit my superstars. It’s much like a marriage, in that there isn’t a person on the planet who can take your spouse from you if you do the things you should be doing. On the other hand, if you don’t, then don’t blame the person who you feel took your spouse away, because in reality, you gave them away. So rather than being outraged when someone tries to steal your employees, I ask that you understand the ethics of recruiting, and that you do what you need to do to properly care for the hearts and minds of your employees.

For additional help building a more profitable, successful auto repair business, learn about how you can join a team of 90 of the top shop owners in the country through Elite Pro Service

 
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When You Match Price, Do You Also Match Value?

posted on December 31st, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Recently one of my service advisors (who is no longer with us, by the way) matched a price on a set of tires to a competitor. I felt the need to share with you the thoughts and comments on pricing I sent to my manager after hearing about this, so you will find them below…

Would anyone walk into a Starbucks and ask to lower or match their price on a cup of coffee? We all know the answer to this. Starbucks doesnt just sell coffee. They sell something special; they sell the experience, the friendly service and the connection they make with you as the customer. The truth is, you can buy coffee anywhere, but you can’t get a Starbucks anywhere. You need to think of your brand in the same way.

There are basically three reasons why people compare price. One: they truly are price shoppers. These are people we will never please and to be honest we don’t need or want them.

Two: the person does not see the value in what you are selling. That’s why you need to promote the benefits of what you are selling to the compared item or service. For example, in the case of tire price matching, tires are often considered a commodity and are easily shopped with a phone call or Internet search. So, how do you position your price and stick by it? You do it with a series of questions that highlights the benefits and reasons why you are the best choice.

Ask the customer what the warranty is, and if the competitor offers lifetime rotations, flats fixed free or roadside assistance. Ask the customer:” Wouldn’t you want to come here for all your needs, rather than jump around? Plus you have trusted us in the past with all your automotive needs, so you know I am going to do the best for you, because the dealer does not have the people that we have here at Osceola Garage.”

Also, ask the customer if the competitor price includes mount and balance, state recycle fees, wheel alignment and all other incidentals. Get the customer to understand that your price comes with value. And let’s be honest, can we really trust the competitor’s price that the customer gave us?

And the third reason why people ask about and compare prices is that they don’t know what else to ask. Again, this is when you need to promote value over price.

I am not a fan of discounting and lowering my prices. We have spent countless hours doing the math. We understand that our price structure is in place to remain profitable. Are we competitive? Well that depends on your perspective. If you are strictly a price shopper, the answer is no. If you are someone that wants to build a solid relationship with a company that values people and has the right ethics, the right morals and offers benefits you can’t get anywhere else; then YES, we are competitive, because there are no other companies like us.

Remember, price is what you pay, value is what you get.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

 
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Happy Holidays!

posted on December 23rd, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

Elite would like to wish all of our blog readers and subscribers a safe and wonderful holiday season!

 
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Earning the Continued Trust of Your Internal Customers

posted on December 17th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

Many years ago I read an article that featured an interview with Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines. In the article he stated that he and his mother (who was a Harvard graduate) would often debate who was more important: He argued that it was the employees of a company, and his mom argued that it was the customers. With all due respect, I would argue; why does it need to be one or the other? From my point of view, this debate is like having two children and being asked which one we love the most, because both your customers and your employees are equally important.  Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire the superstars, I would like to use this article to help you continue earning the trust of your employees, who at Elite we refer to as our internal customers.

Putting first things first, as business owners we need to recognize that our internal customers are much like our external customers. In your case, your external customers come to you with transportation problems that you solve, and they then pay you with their hard-earned money.  Your internal customers come to you with needs as well. They have needs like being able to save enough money to buy a home, or having the funds available that they’ll need to educate their children. Simply put, you provide them with the right opportunities, and you help them fulfill those needs. In return, they pay you with their work efforts, and their contributions towards your success.

So the question is; what can you do to keep the stars you have, not just for a few years, but for the length of their working careers? Although there is no formula that will guarantee results, there are a number of things you can do to keep your stars as your stars.

First and most importantly, never forget this cardinal rule of managing people: We have to keep the hearts of our employees, because once we lose their hearts, their minds will follow. I actually coined this rule long ago, and have lived by it for decades.  Now here is how you can implement it…

With every superstar who works with you, you need to look beyond the employee component of your relationship, and you need to consider them as a person, just like you. This means that you need to truly care about your employees as people, and the things that are important to them need to become important to you. Once they realize that you really do care about them and their families, as well as their goals, they will then care about you, and the goals of your company.  Secondly, you need to be a great listener, you need to pay close attention to their suggestions, and you need to always thank them for their input.

I have also learned that you need to be a shoulder your employees can lean on. By being sympathetic to their personal struggles, you will find that if you have the right people, they will not take your sympathy for granted, but they will go to the ends of the earth for you.  You need to let them know that you recognize their talents and strengths, and you need to give them praise for jobs that are well done. Beyond that, you have to show them the humility that all employees look for. This means you will need to set your pride aside to let them know that they are much more gifted than you in many ways, you’ll need to be able to admit to your mistakes, and you’ll need to be able to give heartfelt apologies at the appropriate times. Lastly, if you plan on keeping their hearts, you will need to constantly share your vision of the future, and paint a clear path to their success in the coming years.

Over the years I have discovered that people don’t leave companies. They never have, and they never will. People leave people, not companies. If you’d like to continue earning the trust and confidence of your employees, then I would encourage you to apply the principles that I have shared with you. If you do, then I will make you a promise: Beyond being a great role model for your employees, the morale of your employees will go up, your shop’s productivity will go up, and any employee turnover problems you have… will disappear.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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It’s December; Are You Prepared for 2015?

posted on December 10th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

I know that there are many things on your mind this time of the year. With the winter here and the holidays upon us, there’s a lot going on these days. But as a business owner, you need to consider that 2015 is right around the corner. The better you prepare now, the more successful you will be in the New Year and beyond. I have put together a short To-Do list to help you prepare.

1. Review all the numbers for the first 11 months of 2014 and compare those numbers with the same 11 months in 2013 and 2012.
2. Based on the numbers, you can now begin to plan out your 2015 budget.
3. If you have not done so yet, have a meeting with your accountant. Review all the numbers for 2014. You want to know now about projected taxes you may owe; don’t wait until April 15. Also, make sure you get a current checklist from your accountant on what is needed for yearend 2014.
4. Review your inventory. This goes hand in hand with your tax strategy. It will also help you identify dead stock that hurts your cash flow.
5. Are there any tools, equipment, improvements to your facility or any other expenses that you can use in 2015 to reduce your tax liability for 2014?
6. Review all your goals for 2014. Did you achieve all your goals? If you did not, don’t worry; that’s to be expected. Reestablish your personal and business goals now, before the end of the year. Also, start thinking about your future training and equipment needs.
7. Contact your financial adviser and discuss any financial issues and retirement plans.
8. Have an end of the year shop meeting. Outline all the accomplishments of 2014 and outline your goals and objectives for 2015 and your vision of the future. Most importantly, thank each and every team member for their efforts, and make sure you convey to everyone that it’s the efforts of the team that determines success.
9. If you have not done so in a while, have one-on-one meetings with your employees. Do not make it a beat up session. Promote the positive attributes of the employee, ask for feedback on how the employee views the business, and ask for ideas and suggestions on ways to improve the business.
10. Lastly, make sure you set aside time to work on self-improvement. As the leader of your company, all eyes are on you. It’s your vision, your leadership qualities and your positive attitude that ultimately determines your success. Remember, you can achieve what you want in life, if you help others achieve what they want.

I hope you had a good year, and best of luck in 2015 and beyond!

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

 
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7 Business Building Tips for the Holiday Season

posted on December 3rd, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

This is an article I’ve posted in the past, but feel I need to share it with you again since these 7 tips are so important to consider during the holiday season.

Now that we are coming into the holiday season, there are a number of things you can do to drive up productivity, sales, customer satisfaction and profits. Each one of the below tips worked wonders for me when I was still in the auto repair business, and they are still effective today for many of our coaching clients, so I know they can work for you as well.

1. End of Year Performance Bonuses – All that you need to do is set a sales goal for the end of the year, and then tell your entire staff that if the goal is reached by December 31st, they will be entitled to a really nice bonus. You can also tell your techs that if they reach certain productivity goals, you will give them a predetermined amount of credit that they can use on their favorite tool truck.

2. Schedule a Holiday Season Charity Drive – Pick a charity (or cause) that is close to your heart, and that will reach the hearts of your ideal customers. Examples would be the US Marine Corps Toy for Tots campaign, food for the homeless, and fundraisers for life-threatening illnesses, local humane societies and the Wounded Warriors Foundation. By raising money for these types of organizations you’ll not only be helping a worthy cause, but you will be connecting with people who may very well be your ideal customers. In my case, we took out full-page ads in local publications notifying our community that we were collecting toys for battered children who were in protected safe houses, and the stream of donors who came through our doors was overwhelming. Nowhere in the ads was there any promotion of our company or services. It was all about the battered children, and how others could help by simply dropping off the much-needed toys.

3. Send the right greeting cards – Identify your top customers, and then rather than sending them one of the typical pre-printed holiday season cards, send them a nice boutique card with a hand-written message inside. All that you will need to do is go to a local card shop that sells really nice cards that are blank inside, and then find the cards that best reflect the holiday season. Then write a short, handwritten message inside that comes from your heart. You have my promise; your cards will be absolute standouts that will send a powerful message to your customers that you really do care about them.

4. Make those phone calls – As we all know, there are certain customers in every business that rise well above all others. You should make a list of those people, and then call them to personally wish them a happy holiday season.

5. Place a ribbon on each computer screen – The reason I did this at the shops I owned was to remind my advisors to wish each and every customer a happy holiday at the point of car delivery. I’m not suggesting a quick “Happy Holidays”, but rather am recommending that your advisors take a minute to pass on a heart-felt message to their customers, and then ask those customers to pass the message on to their families as well.

6. Gifts to key customers – I am not recommending that you give gifts to everyone, but to those customers who are particularly special in many ways. In those cases, you may want to give them a beautiful book that contains images of wildlife, nature, etc. along with a personalized message from you written inside.

7.  Give to those who serve – Whether it be to the police and fire departments, or to the doctors and nurses who work in the hospital ICU’s during the holiday season, by giving those who serve a beautiful gift basket of fruit, candies, etc., you will be rewarding those who have earned it through their service, while sending a powerful message about the type of person you are.

If you apply these tips to your business, you have my promise; not only will your sales, customer satisfaction scores and profits go up, but you will be separating yourself from your competitors in ways that will help you build a more profitable, successful business for years to come.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

 
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Be Careful You’re Not Making a Sale for Your Competition

posted on November 26th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

A few years back, my service advisor was speaking to a customer about the condition of her tires. He explained in detail that the tires on her car were worn to the point that she needed to replace them and recommended that she do this before the winter.   He explained all the safety benefits, the differences between all-season tires, winter tires and standard radials, and also gave her a few top brand choices.  He did a great job.  He did everything but sell the job!

Let’s fast forward. On her next visit, her oil change service, my advisor noticed a brand new set of Bridgestone tires on her car. Perplexed, he asked the customer why she did not buy the tires from us.  She replied, “You told me I needed tires, you never once said you could sell me tires.”

She believed my service advisor and was thrilled he took the time to educate her. But, he forgot one important part of the sales cycle; Asking for the sale.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

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