Image is everything, they say. It’s about public facing. Retailers, fast food chains, even modern HVAC and plumbing companies know the gravity of the first impression.
Coordinated color schemes, logoed shirts and complementary pants make for a positive first impression. And guess what – it applies in the shop, as well.
Your first impression sets the stage for a whole host of potentially positive (though in some cases, negative) interactions. Your outward appearance is, in many cases, a direct reflection of how you perceive yourself internally.
How you present yourself to your customers and your employees speaks volumes. What message is your appearance communicating? Keep in mind that what is seen speaks louder than what is spoken.
On The Road
Recently, I’ve been considering an on-going complaint I’ve heard in bays, at training events and even on podcasts: Why is our industry not respected like other trades are? We’ve all complained about it, felt frustration and wondered why we aren’t treated as the professionals we are. You’ve no doubt heard (or perhaps even said) “No one respects us! We’ve got the same skillset as doctors and dentists, so why aren’t we treated the same or better?”
Earlier this year, my plumber showed up to my house to provide an estimate for a new water heater. He was better dressed than a good percentage of techs and owners at the trade shows I attend! Given that, it is easy to understand why this image problem still exists.
What will it take to change? Are you ready to ask the hard questions? “What can I do today to elevate my shop?” and “What is available to set me apart from the rest?” Let’s get this!
Appear bigger than you are!
You’d be surprised what a professionally designed logo and image program will do to elevate what people think of you, your team and your shop. In the early days of my shop, I had the good fortune of working on a customer’s car who was a branding and marketing expert. At that time, we all wore the traditional blue shirt and pants nearly every repair shop had. Minor color and style differences aside, the only real differentiator was the shop and technician name on the shirt.
Zed and his team worked with our shop to create a logo and image program to help us stand out among
the sea of blue shirts, pants and block-printed shop names. The design of our logo along with the shirts and pants were color coordinated, so the impression our techs and advisors presented was clean and professional.
Our image and branding conveyed a larger presence than we actually had. This image conveys security and trust, which is one of the purposes of branding.
Even though we were a single-store operation, regular customers and other people in our community often asked how many shops we had.
You set the standard
Shops that fail to look past what the uniform companies offer are limiting their options. Uniform companies often reduce the standard selection available in order to manage their inventory and maximize profits; that’s just good business. But just spend a few minutes online and you’ll find there is really no shortage of choices. The most recognizable uniform manufacturers have hundreds of color combinations with a variety of style options for consideration.
We encourage shops who follow this program to have their shop’s logo embroidered on the shirt before putting the uniforms into service. Uniform companies we have worked with laundered our company-owned shirts and pants. By owning your own uniforms, your shop has the ability to present an image distinct from your competitors.
A good rule of thumb is to have enough on hand to cover two work weeks, plus one day – that way, you’ll have enough uniforms on hand and your tech or advisor won’t run out before the next laundry day.
Accept me as I am!
You might hear the argument that appearance shouldn’t really matter. “The public needs to understand, this is just who I am,” say some. True, customers do understand – and guess what? They also have the choice to do business with someone they perceive to be a respected professional, whether that’s your shop or another shop. You should be consistently reviewing your shop’s image: does it meet what the buying public expects?
Be mindful, this expectation will change depending on the part of the country in which your shop is located. There is no universal rule. After all, tattoos and piercings are more common today than they were 30 years ago. Customers aren’t shocked by what they see on arms (and other body parts) anymore. In addition, beards are making a huge comeback, too. But it still doesn’t mean anything goes: dress sharp and keep your beard trimmed. Looking like you were just pulled out of a ditch after a 3-day bender doesn’t enhance your image.
Is it time for an image overhaul?
How do you conduct a self-review? First, literally look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Remember: that’s what you put out into the public every day. How well do you stack up against successful shops in your immediate area? With the answer to those questions, you’ll get some direction if you need an image overhaul. In almost all cases, there is room for improvement, whether it’s a minor tweak or a full revamp.
Dwayne Myers of Dynamic Automotive, a large multi-store operation in Maryland, has one of the strongest image programs of any shop I have seen. All of his staff dresses in clothing that exudes professionalism no matter the eeelements. Whether they are behind the counter, in the bays or at industry events networking with other industry leaders, Dwayne and his partners, Lee and Jose, dress for the part. It might be in a coat and tie, polo and jeans or dress slacks with a sport coat. Their fashion sense is a good reminder that knowing who your audience is will determine what you put on.
The leadership team at Dynamic is a strong example of how to dress for success in every environment. As leaders, they set the tone as do many of today’s shop owners who comprehend it’s not the work their shops generate that make them known. It’s the whole package, from web presence to customer interaction, and everything in between. “Technicians are like doctors,” explains Myers. “They should dress and act like the professionals that they are. That is what we expect from our team at Dynamic!”
Shops of this caliber are a model of excellence in dress, communication and services performed.
In the bays, at the counter, or when you are out in public, no matter your position, rest assured that a polished image translates to increased respect and fewer doubts. Professionalism in one’s attire and dressing for your own success can never be overstated!