There’s only so much of a shop owner to go around.
If you have to keep an eye on the service writing and the techs and the inspections and the bookkeeping …
If you have to make sure parts are arriving on time and being paid for and that you’re getting reimbursed for your returns …
If you have to keep an eye on all of that – and everything else in the business – how much of you is left to make sure your team is following your processes and procedures and hitting their goals?
And how much of you is left to ensure your shop is growing?
It can be done, of course. If you sacrifice all of your free time and family time and your health and well-being, you can oversee every aspect of your shop, and grow your business.
But the more sustainable solution is to empower your service writers to grow the business. When your service writers are empowered by having the right tools, and they share the same goal to have the entire team succeed, you can grow your shop far better and more sustainably than you could do on your own – without having to sacrifice your own happiness to get there.
So, how do you get your service writers to want you to succeed?
Job 1 is making sure your service writers have clear, attainable goals that will enable your shop to succeed. Trying to outline all of those needs in a column like this would be crazy. Your shop has unique needs and targets, and a unique starting place. Recommending goals for your employees without understanding your unique situation would cause more problems than it solves.
The critical first step in empowering your service writers to grow your shop is to measure your business and your team, so you know where you stand today.
Once you know where you stand now, the next critical part is to track every day by continuing to measure.
In other words, your team can’t help you grow until they know what their goals are, and they can’t know their progress toward those goals unless you measure them.
Empower Your Service Writers
Now that you’re measuring daily, and your service writers know their goals (and progress toward them), they must be empowered to hit them.
If you’re going to target your parts gross profit, for instance, and commit your service writers to helping you improve your shop’s parts gross profit margin, it’s no use if they’re not able to change anything. If your service writer is responsible for the parts-margin number, but they can’t edit your markup matrix or adjust the price of parts, it’s going to lead to resentment – not improvement.
This doesn’t start and stop with parts margin. Your service writers can oversee a lot of the production pipeline, but only if they’re empowered to actually fix things.
Consider your inspection process – a point of contention in many shops. When technicians do a thorough inspection, they fill your work pipeline. Even if jobs don’t close today, that thorough inspection leads to future sales when the service writer educates the customer to make the right decision.
But what happens when the tech pencil-whips the inspection? Is the service writer authorized to send it back to be redone? Or powerless to change anything? If they’re stuck with all of the responsibility if things don’t improve – but unable to take control of their success – all that happens is the employee gets discouraged and leaves.
Empowering them means giving them the tools they need, not just the authority.
Part of that means the service writer needs to know how they’re performing throughout the day so they can make adjustments as they go. Our service writers have up-to-the-minute dashboards, so they know exactly what they’ve produced, how the shop is doing and what needs to be done today to grow the shop today.
It also means having the tools to help the service writer get ahead in their job. If your service writers are still stuck doing busy work – calling vendors for part availability, transcribing tech inspections, copying data from one system to another to complete an estimate – they’re wasting valuable time. If that time was spent doing customer follow-up, providing excellent customer service and doing top-notch customer education, the shop and the writer would be better off for it.
Once you’re measuring, and your service writers are empowered, the last step to making sure they (and your whole team, really) are helping you pull your shop forward is to incentivize them.
Pay plans are not one-size-fits-all and have to be based on where your shop is and where it needs to go. Anybody who offers a pay plan not based on your history and goals is giving you a load of malarkey. But when a pay plan is built for your unique situation and your unique goals, an incentive-based pay plan is worth its weight in gold.
If you measure it, it improves.
If you measure and track it daily, it improves exponentially.
If you compensate your team to improve it and track it daily, it improves without you having to micromanage.
Automate in 2020
When you’re ready to put rockets on your roller skates, the really exciting development lies in automation.
In our shop, we developed Shop4D to automate everything I’ve been talking about so far: removing the busy work, holding techs accountable, managing profit margins, ordering parts, customer follow-up. Shop4D isn’t the only tool that can automate these tasks – and if you’re ready to take your shop to the next level, automation is the way to go – but it is built on patent-pending artificial intelligence (AI), and it integrates and automates every aspect of the production pipeline.
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to empowering your service writers to grow your business, or taking it to the next level with automating, remember to measure and track daily, and back up responsibility with empowerment. You can do this, and our shop is living proof!
If you want to make 2020 the year you change your future for the best, first decide to do it, and then get busy putting the plan together and the tools in place. YOU’VE GOT THIS!