Five Essential Roles A Shop Owner Must Play

Five Essential Roles A Shop Owner Must Play

There are seemingly infinite roles you’ll play as a shop owner, but these five are the foundation for success.

El Jefe; Big Kahuna; Mister Big; Chief; Skipper; Top Dog. These are just a few slang terms you may be called as boss.

Of course, there may be OTHER things you’re called, and depending on the setting and context, a slang nickname might be endearing – sometimes, not so much.  Either way, the boss is who you are. The roles and responsibilities of your position are huge. The rewards can be just as big, so long as everyone in your shop executes their responsibilities with the precision of a well-led NASCAR or Formula 1 team.

Just as with a premier racing crew, you want to be sure that everyone knows and performs their duties continuously and consistently. Those duties may be general, or they may be specific to each position – even you as Boss have key roles you must play. You’re probably familiar with them, but sometimes we need a little guidance to stay in our lanes. Here are five jobs you do that are essential to your shop’s success.


The most important job you have is to generate business. How do you bring vehicles into your shop each day with requests for service? Effective marketing is central to continued car count because, as car counts go, so go billable hours today and opportunities for deferred work tomorrow. As rainmaker, you are the lifeblood of the organization with a responsibility for maintaining balance. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities – yet never lose sight of the loyal customer base you have.


Successful teams are all around us, from your local Chick-fil-A serving up 5-star customer service to Christian Horner leading Red Bull Racing to a second consecutive Formula 1 World Championship. Common among high performing teams is shared wisdom, knowledge and a desire to achieve the next goal, whether it’s delivering food to your table with a smile and a “my pleasure,” or completing a Formula 1 pit stop in under two seconds. The team builder knows the skills required for each position, carefully selecting the team member for each role.


The level of your leadership ability will define the type and quality of employees you attract. So, you should be working on improving your leadership skills regularly. Your ability to influence those around you will distinguish you from other bosses. A common thread binding some of today’s more successful shop owners is exemplary leadership abilities and styles. They weren’t necessarily born with them, but their skills as leaders were developed over time, and they reflect on and improve these skills regularly. 

Brian Rex of Fleet Service of Everett, WA, and Casey McGowan of Casey’s Independent in Vancouver, WA, are two successful shop owners and industry leaders. Brian and Casey have similar personalities, quiet and unassuming, yet have the leadership chops to have grown their organizations from sub-million dollar shops to multi-million dollar operations. 

I’ve known Brian and Casey for close to 20 years and have seen their businesses and leadership abilities grow. They are two great bosses and leaders! The secret is recognizing the area of need and addressing it. 


Early 20th-century explorer Earnest Shackleton knew what he needed – his vision was to reach the South Pole and ultimately cross the continent of Antarctica. Recognizing that he needed men with a “certain set of skills” to be successful, he posted a frighteningly honest ad: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”  

Shackleton was able to fully crew his ships and set sail on October 26, 1914 because he clearly communicated his vision. He knew what he needed from his crew and didn’t hesitate to state that need exactly.

Each year, NASCAR teams open their seasons at Daytona. They begin the trek to see which driver and team will be crowned champion in November. Clarity of vision drives each team across the country, participating in a grueling 36-race schedule, each team knowing that there is only one champion.

What is your vision? Is it clear, and have you communicated it to your team? Most employees don’t want just a job…they want to be part of an organization that makes an impact.


The Boss sets the tone in the workplace so it’s crucial that the tone you set for your crew is one full of positivity. There are enough negative things in our world that can sap the energy and morale of those around us. Sure, you will deal with challenges, but HOW you deal with them will define whether you are a shelter in the storm or a dangerous reef people tend to avoid.

A positive work environment breeds cooperation, trust, and support when risks are taken. It also creates accountability and equity among the team. Handing out a compliment and demonstrating appreciation for team members are tone setters. Making yourself available to help out or answer questions has the same effect. 

In conclusion, remember this: There are seemingly infinite roles you’ll play on your journey as a shop owner, but these five are the cornerstone in every highly successful shop owner’s toolbox.

Consistent improvement will ensure your success for years to come.

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