Working Smarter Instead of Harder

Working Smarter Instead of Harder

Imperfect people can perform at or near perfection when they have perfect processes.

Each new year brings the promise things will be better. It’s a fresh start, after all, and a chance to finally do things differently so this year will be your best year ever.

But will it?

Creating real improvement isn’t a matter of willpower. You can’t strongarm your way to sustainable success. That can lead to short-term gains, but those will disappear as soon as your effort burns out, and you’ll be right back where you started.

Now, if you want 2024 to be your best year ever, the only way to get there is by working smarter rather than harder.

Don’t worry, though. This article isn’t just about buzzwords and hope. Let’s unpack why hard work won’t get you there, what it actually means to work smarter, and how this all applies to making 2024 the start of long-term sustainable success.

What do I mean when I talk about working harder?

I mean coming in early and staying late to ensure everything gets done. I mean never taking a vacation because you can’t trust things not to blow up while you’re away. I mean spending most of your day working as a technician or service advisor – not because you want to, but because it’s the only way to get everything done.

If these things describe you, it’s probably also true that despite working your guts out, things still always feel busy and chaotic, like they’re always one bad day away from spinning out of control.

You probably don’t see a way forward because even though you want things to be different, you don’t have any free time to try to figure out what needs to change.

I heard a shop owner lament one time that you can find guides for everything on the internet except for running a successful shop. This is almost certainly why so many shop owners see the pile of work that needs to be done, and respond by putting their heads down and working through the night to try and get ahead. I’ve seen it over and over in thousands of shops across North America – shop owners who try to create success through incredible effort.

In pretty much every case, though, when the owner tries to grow the shop by working harder, the only thing they do is make themselves the special sauce. Things only run smoothly, profits are only sustainable and sales are only increasing as long as the owner is there. When the owner tries to step away, things fall apart and all of the gains are lost.

When I say that hard work alone won’t make 2024 your best year ever, this is why. Even if you skipped vacations and sacrificed time with your family and your hobbies and made this whole year a sprint – even if sales were up and you grew by a significant amount over the next 12 months – you’d be missing the team, the processes, the systems and the tools that would help you sustain that success. 

When your shop’s success depends on your effort, it will always depend on you maintaining that effort. Even if your hard work right now helps the shop get caught up on a backlog of work, beyond the horizon is the next backlog of cars. You’re locked into working hard as a lifestyle, like rolling a boulder up a hill and then watching it fall back down forever.

If you’re in this situation, you’re probably like most folks in this position: you want a way out, but you never feel like you have the time to try something different.

In this instance, working smarter instead of harder is the only way out.

How Do We Do It?

I promised more than buzzwords, though, so how do we turn this into concrete action?

First things first – you need a team that understands how to act in every situation. Imperfect people can perform at or near perfection when they have perfect processes.

The long and hard path here is for you to document how your team is expected to do everything: how to answer the phone, how to check in a customer at the front counter, how to communicate with technicians, how your shop does inspections, what you expect from your writeups, how to advise the customer, and your expectations for check out and follow-up. 

This also goes beyond production. How should your team manage vendors? What’s the procedure for dealing with a comeback? How do you handle labor claims? What is your procedure for handling core and part returns?

Before you look at the daunting amount of work in front of you, get frustrated, and walk away, remember what I said: that’s the long and hard path. It’s not the only path.

It is a fact your team needs better processes if you’re ever going to create a situation where you are not the secret sauce for the shop’s success. But you only need to go down this long hard road if you choose it.

When you purchase tools, training, marketing or coaching support for your business, you always have this choice. 

On one side, you can choose comfort. You will not have to change your management style or work on your leadership. You will not have to spend more money. You will not have to fire anybody or make any uncomfortable choices like terminating a contract with somebody you call your friend. By avoiding any hard decisions, though, you will remain the secret sauce for your shop’s success. Your shop will only go as far as you can carry it. You must work harder because you aren’t working smarter.

On the other side, you’ll face hard choices, but they’ll lead to sustainable long-term success and a future where you can manage remotely without worrying whether your team will perform to your expectations. You’ll have to ask your team to work differently, but this will also empower them to help grow your shop. This is working smarter instead of harder.

The choice between these two ideologies is everywhere.

If you’re paying a coach because you like them rather than because they hold you accountable to make changes that benefit your business (and give you the systems, pay plans and processes to make those changes), you’re choosing to work harder. 

If you choose your shop management system based on how little it costs or how comfortable and familiar you are with it rather than how it helps you create a more efficient and profitable business by implementing proven processes and procedures, you choose to spend your time micromanaging every detail, never quite sure if you can take your hands off the wheel for a vacation.

If you choose your marketing budget based on how busy the shop is rather than based on a strategy designed to constantly upgrade your customer base, you’re choosing a future filled with whatever customers and jobs you can get rather than one where your customers trust your recommendations and your pipeline is filled with jobs you enjoy.

These are all choices. You choose to remain the secret sauce because you choose a coach or a shop management system that makes you the secret sauce. You must choose to pay a coach who doesn’t hold you accountable. You must choose software and marketing that cost less because they’re less effective.

Which means you can choose a better way.

How To Achieve Long-Term Success

You already know what you get when you work harder: temporary success and a guarantee of more hard work to maintain that success.

But what if you went a different way this year? What if you chose to create long-term success? How different would your life look in a year if you chose to empower your team with the processes, pay plans, software, marketing and support they need to help you grow the shop even when you’re away?

All of 2024 is in front of you right now, and you have two clear paths to choose from. Will you grind it out and see where another year of back-breaking effort gets you? Or will this be the year when you choose to work smarter so your shop can grow sustainably even if you’re not working at all hours?

The time is right to evaluate the choices from years past. The coaching, the software, the marketing you chose that are forcing you to be the secret sauce…this is the time to upgrade your relationships and create real, sustainable growth all year long.

I’m excited to see what you can accomplish when you choose to work smarter instead of harder!

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