This article is for operators who are tired of being necessary.
If you’re tired of feeling like you have to micromanage every decision, fix every mistake, and fight every fire, I have extremely good news. You can build something so much better.
You can create a culture where your team works just as hard as you to grow and protect the business, where you don’t have to dread going on vacation and where everyone in your operation can see a future where they retire with you someday.
But, it won’t happen accidentally. You can’t luck into it.
By the time you read to the end of this article, you’ll be able to get started building a team, a culture, and an operation that will grow more sustainably, scale more effectively, and last far longer than where you could take things by yourself. But, it’s going to take some work.
You will have to build this brick by brick, and I promise that it will be worth every ounce of effort. You’ll be able to create something so powerful and magnetic and enduring and incredible that your team will want to retire together with you.
It can’t start until you’re ready, though. If you’re happy being average and comfortable, it’ll never work. If the words “we’re good” describes your operation, this is a non-starter. You need that spark, that white-hot fire inside you that makes you say, “there has to be a better way!”
If your team sees you making the same mistake over and over, if they see you accepting less than excellence, if they see that you’re not doing everything in your power to create this place where they know they can grow old and retire from someday, then they’ll have only one foot in. True, lasting change can’t take hold if you won’t let it.
But, if you’re ready, then let’s get started.
Be Honest With Yourself
The first step to creating this lasting, winning culture is to get honest with yourself about what’s broken.
Toxic employees will need to go, no matter how bad it might hurt. Maybe it’s an A-Tech who can fix anything but who refuses to follow the rules. Or a family member who is working against you. Until you rip these poisonous elements out of the business, you’ll never be able to create lasting change.
Once the barriers to change are gone, you need to get serious about creating processes for how the operation should run. How will the team answer the phone? What happens during every inspection and writeup? How do you contact customers about their estimates, by what time, and in what order will things be advised? Every process needs to be documented and trained in so that your team knows exactly what you expect of them and why.
If this seems like a doozy of a first couple of steps, I know. It takes hard work.
But, let’s get deadly straight on this: was 2022 everything you hoped it would be? Did you double sales (a $730,461 increase to be exact) the past two years without adding any new employees? Did you grow the shops in your operation by 143.9%, 89.4%, 29.1% and 28.7%?
These are real numbers from two real operations! I worked with these two owners as they took the hard steps to finally identify problems and fix them.
In other words, I’m not proposing that you make hard changes for incremental growth. I’m proposing that you do this hard work because it will change your life and the lives of everyone who works for you for the better.
Once you’ve built the brand, the systems, and the processes that your team needs, the next job is to allow your leaders to take ownership of the things they can control. Your job, far from being a micromanager or firefighter, will now be to guide them as they handle the day-to-day operations.
The goal is to help them understand what your operation does, how it does it, and why it does those things. You want them to see that they’re not just fixing cars, but helping the elderly, protecting their neighbors, and giving back to their community. By giving them the “why,” you let them in on that wonderful feeling that your operation stands for so much more than how much you can upsell on a ticket – you’re giving families the best chance to take care of that family car they depend on.
As you’re doing this, something incredible will happen. You won’t have to ask your team to come in early, or stay late, or straighten up. They’ll do a better job than you did because they know what they’re doing is having an exponential effect on everyone’s life that is associated with or in contact with your organization.
In turn, that means you can now focus on measurement, management, teaching, and training. Your responsibility will be to shine a light on more parts of the business so that your leaders can take ownership and identify solutions.
A perfect diamond reflects light in every direction, which is an amazing metaphor for how the most successful operations are run. Where there’s light, darkness cannot exist, so our job as owner is to polish that diamond until every corner of every life in and around that shop is filled with light.
Ultimately, these first few steps of creating a successful operation and these grand metaphors all boil down to a very concrete truth: our team members are the most important asset in our business. We need to provide for them, create a place where they understand their role – personal, family, professional – and give them a way to develop their skills in leadership, repair, life.
The Beatles Had It Right
In short, what the very best organizations need is love.
They need you to love yourself enough to want something greater. They need you to love your customers enough to build something that cares for your community. They need you to love your employees enough to invest in them and empower them to build something that they love.
Today, as you look up from this article and consider how to apply it, think about shining a light onto one area of your business. What corner of the shop (literal or figurative) is the darkest? When you shine a flashlight there, what will you see?
Then, as you get to work scrubbing that corner of its toxic and poisonous elements, document the procedure for keeping it clean.
If this is too scary – if you’re terrified of what happens when you remove that toxic employee or change that broken process – that’s okay. This is why strong business coaches exist – to give you the tools and confidence to make hard changes that lead to lasting success.
I believe in you, just as I believed in those two shop owners whose growth I shared above, and just as I have believed in thousands of other owners like them to make the hard changes that dramatically improved their lives and the lives of everyone in those operations.
Make today the day you stop saying “we’re good” and start saying “we can be great.” When you do that, you’ll start to radiate a love into the world that changes the lives of everyone it touches.