Business owners can be pretty tough on themselves. While it’s important to recognize the milestones you’ve hit, it’s also true that the most successful shop owners never have the sense there is “nothing left to achieve.” One of the signs of an outstanding owner is always striving to achieve further successes.
Tony Lynn, owner of Advanced Auto Clinic in Delavan, WI continues to strive for success. “Advanced Auto Clinic will always be a work in progress,” Lynn says. “I have grown to love doing what I’m doing, and I will always be looking for the next game. When one goal is achieved, the next one will be set and achieved. It’s a very rewarding cycle.”
Reaching for that next level of success, looking beyond where he is right now and not just dreaming about goals but putting together real and attainable actions to get there is part of Lynn’s makeup. He has owned his shop since 2003. “I have never felt that the business has reached its full potential and I will always feel there’s more to get done. I have set high goals and achieved things that I never thought possible but even then, I feel I can get more out of it,” he said.
It’s natural to feel frustration about never getting everything done, but a successful owner embraces that “push and pull” of being a bit anxious about always having more to do and achieve. The fact is, you’ll never be completely done. No matter the phase your ownership is, that feeling should be used as a business tool to get more done – but here’s the trick: the plans and goals need to be organized in a way so that they can get done. The last thing you want is to get so frustrated about all the work to be done that you don’t make any progress but just end up being stuck.
“My goals have changed numerous times already and continue to change,” says Lynn. “When I started, my goal was to survive – now my goal is to thrive. In the beginning, I hoped to eventually provide for my family, pay my bills, take some vacations, and hopefully own a few toys. Now my goal is to continue to grow, build a new shop and own multiple locations. When these goals are met? Who knows what is in store for me. I just keep resetting my goals and achieving them.”
Tony says there are some basic phases an owner can experience. Where are you at this moment? Use this assessment to put your plans in place now for getting to the next phase. Accept the fact that there will always be more to do – that’s a sign that you’re a great business owner!
THE “IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME” PHASE
You always wanted to own your own business, and you always were great at fixing cars. Put those two things together and owning a great repair shop is a terrific vision for the future. After all, you can fix anything. Why not open up a shop? So sure, open a shop and tell your friends and family. In your excitement, you imagine the cars will be backed up just waiting for your expertise.
THE “CAN I?” PHASE
This is when it starts to get serious. You found a space for the business and you’re just about to sign on the dotted line when it hits you – “Can I do this? Can I really put everything on the line and open my own business?”
Boldly, you move forward and start your own shop and find there is an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done. From marketing, to production, to profit and loss, to even the signage out front; every day you can’t stop thinking about everything you need to get done. You figure that if you can just get past the first year, everything will settle down and all of these issues will be resolved. It’s THEN that you can step back and enjoy owning a business. Well, not so fast.
THE “PUSH” PHASE
You’re three years in, maybe five, to owning your shop. Things are going OK. There’s a mix of good days and not so good. You know there is more to achieve. You wanted this to be the time where you could settle into the benefits of owning a business, but you’re not there.
Getting comfortable with the issue of not finishing everything on your “list” is important, but don’t forget to celebrate the wins, for both yourself and your team.
THE “YOU’RE THERE. NOW WHAT?” PHASE
Things are going really well. You have a great crew and a great customer base, with new customers coming into the shop every week. It’s even possible to take a vacation with no big issues back at the business. You have all your shop policies and procedures set up and moving forward. The marketing plans you put in place are successful. Also, possibly the most important aspect of a successful business, the training for yourself and team, is on-going and the crew loves that you invest in their future.
ALL GOOD. CONGRATS!
Now you’re starting to think about a second shop. You’re thinking about what more can be done to propel your profits even further. You’re starting to think “what am I not doing?”
Even at this stage of owning a shop, that feeling that there is “more to do” is still there. It’s part of your thought process every day. But here’s the difference between this point of being an owner and where you were at the initial start of your shop: you’ve come to accept that there is more to do.
It’s what has pushed you over the years to get where you are, and it’s what will push you forward to open that second (or third) shop.
“I don’t worry about getting through the weeks, I’ve got staff to handle that. My time is spent on our new project and being involved in the community to help others,” says Lynn. “We are in the process of planning and building a fourteen-bay shop with a day spa attached to it. It’s something unique that allows us to provide even better service to our already pampered customers. Right now, I am spending most of my time planning for our new building and making sure we are prepared for expansion.”
Comparing this phase of his shop to when he opened, Lynn says “If someone would have told me ten years ago that I would be building a new, much larger shop, I would have never believed them. This industry is constantly changing, and it is exciting to keep up with those changes. I love being able to help people, our community and the industry. Providing my staff with great opportunities and watching them thrive in their lives is also very rewarding and important to me. Having the time to focus on success and helping others succeed is priceless.”
IS TONY HAPPY? YES. IS HE SATISFIED? NO.
“I am very happy with the state of our shop, but I’m not content,” he admits. “I’m proud of my staff and the success of this shop but none of us here are content – we all want more and that helps create a great culture.”
Lynn cautions about becoming complacent. “I think it is great and necessary to be happy but being content can be dangerous and unrewarding. If you’re not growing and thriving, you’re dying. To be content, you are just existing, and I feel it’s important for all of us to contribute to life, not just exist in life. In my opinion, being content in business will result in going out of business.”
Lynn believes challenge is a good thing.
“Being a business owner, you need to be a leader and no successful leader will ever be content,” Lynn concludes. “We always need to prepare to win the next game. I really enjoy pushing myself and everyone around me to be better and push hard to achieve the next goal and succeed. After all, success is contagious.”