Industry leaders share their biggest business management takeaways.
By Domenic Olmeda
Shop ownership is a learning experience, and it can take a while to break those bad habits that might be holding your location back. “Getting [the person in charge] to ask for help on how to diagnose or repair his or her operation is the first obstacle to overcome,” says Jim Anderson, owner of Anderson Automotive Service & Repair in Marion, Iowa.
While no one likes admitting when they’re wrong, identifying the flaws in your facility is essential for growth, according to Anderson. “The biggest thing for me was my resistance to hire my first service advisor, since ‘My gosh, no one takes as good care of my customers as I do,'” says Anderson, who also serves as a certified shop inspector and workshop instructor at Management Success (a firm in Glendale, California, that provides business management training and consulting for owners and employees).
However, once Anderson decided to bring extra
help on board, sales increased by almost 30 percent
in the first month. Plus, he laid the foundation for what has become an autonomous service operation [for more profit-boosting ideas, read 4 Auto Repair Shop Equipment Investments That Pay Off]. “Getting that through my thick skull was the most difficult aspect, because growth in any organization is limited by the person at the top and his or her willingness to delegate responsibilities to others,” Anderson says.
Of course, owners deal with much more than their own stubbornness. From recruitment strategies to leadership tips, our experts share the greatest lessons they’ve learned in business management to improve their bottom lines.
“I need to be a visionary and look ahead — and figure out how to get there. Now that I’m trying to forecast solutions, I don’t feel like I’m putting out fires all the time. I sense I’m trying to build something.” Evan Yankovich, owner of Harbor Brake & Automotive Service in San Pedro, California
“Find out what your employees need. What are their expectations? Where do they want to be in five years? I constantly ask them, because their ideas and goals change as they mature.” Bob Stout, co-owner of Fuerst Automotive in Broadview Heights, Ohio
“Slow and steady growth is the best way to operate. If you change too quickly, you might have to regroup and build everything twice.” Phil Webster, co-owner of Webster Tire & Auto Service in Teutopolis, Illinois
“There are times you have to enforce things, but it’s not going to work if that’s all you’re doing. Nobody wants to be pressured into anything. If you’re a leader, people will follow you.” Wendell Turner, owner of Turner’s Garage &Transmission in Sumter, South Carolina
“The shop is always growing and you’re constantly going to be changing to keep up with things. You must possess a high willingness to adjust and adapt.” Mike Button, owner of Affordable Automotive in Chico, California
“I need to be the owner and make time for my duties rather than trying to be the parts or tech person. I have to steer the ship and let someone else row.” JR Luna, co-owner of Concours Motors Auto Repair and Asian AutoTech of Ventura in Ventura, California
“I try to have a better understanding of where my employees are at and not judge so quickly before I make a decision.” Jim Krell, owner of K-O Auto in Ronan, Montana
“Don’t be so sure that techs know what’s wrong with the car until you can verify it. I’ve had them replace a fuel pump when the vehicle just needed gas in the tank. You can’t assume anything.” Peyton Knight, co-owner of Knight’s Automotive Repair in Ledgewood, New Jersey.