by David Rogers
Let’s talk resolutions.
We’re faced with the same choice each January: will this brand-new year be different – better even – than the one we just left?
In some ways it’s inescapable. I saw the first “New Year’s Resolution” commercials for losing weight and quitting smoking before Thanksgiving this year. By the time the calendar flips over, $10,000 exercise bike and nicotine gum ads will be inescapable.
But I’m a firm believer that the best time for change is immediately after trauma. And so, while I won’t begrudge anybody using the new year for self-improvement, I’d like to suggest a new kind of resolution this year for repair shop owners.
After all, many shops just experienced a roller coaster ride in 2021. After a year and a half of being cooped up at home, drivers finally got back to driving…and back to maintenance for their vehicles. Over the space of a summer, shops essentially crammed in 18 months of backlogged vehicle maintenance, and it was all some owners could do to just hang on for dear life and hope that they made it to the holidays in one piece.
Yes, it was an incredible summer for sales. But underneath the surface?
In the best of times, owning a shop can often mean putting out fires daily. But when car count is turned to eleven, and processes break down, owning a shop can turn into non-stop crisis mitigation, as you fix a never-ending stream of problems from customers, employees, and vendors.
And if your whole focus is on keeping things together, there’s no focus at all on improvement.
This year, I propose making a new kind of resolution. Make 2022 the year you consolidate.
It’s natural to think about processes and systems one at a time. If there’s pile of accounts payable and receivable to log and track and invoice and pay each month, hiring somebody to manage AP and AR seems like a problem solved.
But when every problem is handled in isolation like this, it creates unsustainable systems that eventually lead to the kind of chaos many shops saw this summer.
Because in addition to the AP and AR clerk, there are also parts and core returns, inventory management, ticket dispatching, and even quality control. I’ve seen shops hire all these as individual positions! And the larger the operation, the greater the tendency is to split all of these systems and processes into different employees, each with their own potential bottlenecks and breakdowns and costs.
Whether your operation has hired all or none of these individual positions isn’t the point, because it’s the motivation behind them that we need to get at. This kind of scattershot problem solving is how shop owners end up spending tens of thousands of dollars buying computers with multiple monitors for every counter person so that they can run the half-dozen programs they now “need” to do their jobs.
This line of thinking doesn’t stop at escalating payroll or equipment costs, either. In our shop, we used to measure 74 different metrics so that we felt comfortable knowing we had all of the data we needed in every decision-making process.
No matter how competent a team is, or an owner is, no one will review the documents necessary to read up on all 74 numbers we’ve convinced ourselves we need to know about every day or week or month. In fact, the more we split our attention into different systems and processes and employees and numbers, the less likely we are to look at any of it until it becomes a problem.
This comes from direct, personal, and painful experience!
Back when we cared about all of those different daily metrics, we demanded that our managers did too. When they were overwhelmed by the enormity (and uselessness) of paying attention to all of those numbers and tried to consolidate down to what they knew in their hearts was necessary, we fired that person and demanded that their replacement swear a blood oath to pay attention to all of these numbers.
Nothing improved, of course. Demanding to know all of these numbers meant endless waffling about decisions, ridiculously long meetings without progress, and an unsustainable hiring loop because we blew through so many managers
I know I’m sliding effortlessly back and forth between people and processes, but it’s because the underlying problem is identical. Whether your business is paralyzed because it’s trying to pay attention to too many departments or processes or systems or numbers, the end result is still a paralyzed shop.
And in a summer like the one we just had, a paralyzed shop is one that puts off critical business decisions until too late. How many shops put off marketing decisions until car count had already slowed? How many put off adjusting their parts matrix until they had enough time to dig through their numbers?
As we head into 2022, the resolution we should all make is this: we must consolidate everything we can so that we can be successful.
What KPIs are actionable, and who is in the best position to take action? Everything else is noise.
What processes are being split among multiple employees unnecessarily? Everything else is wasted time and payroll.
What systems and processes can be combined to eliminate unproductivity? Everything you can remove is time your techs are billing hours and advisors are growing sales.
Whether it’s managers who are finally able to laser focus on creating immediate and impactful results, or a team who doesn’t have to depend on multiple unnecessary programs and employees to complete tasks, this is the key to making sure that being busy doesn’t always lead to chaos.
As you set your goals for 2022, make this the year that you stop accepting that things will always be this way!
There will always be vendors and manufacturers and business gurus and other so-called experts who will want you to make your processes more complicated, because they stand to gain from things being more complicated than they need to be.
Stop settling for the way they want things to be! There are better programs and processes out there! But you’ll never find or adopt them if your approach is always focused around solving each problem in front of you one at a time with a cheap easy button. You have to resolve to find greater returns on your investment. You have to choose to seek out the best outcomes and most profitable opportunities for your shop.
Make 2022 the year you consolidate. Find the numbers, the systems, the processes, and even the personnel that are keeping you from enjoying your success. It will mean a 2022 where your shop grows, your stress decreases, and you get to enjoy owning your shop again!
David Rogers is the President of Auto Profit Masters, the parent company of Shop4D®, which is the industry’s first and leading shop management system that allows shops to consolidate ALL of their software, procedures, and personnel so that they can grow sales with fewer employees and less payroll. Top Shop4D® clients grew by 30% on their first year on the program, and by an incredible 50% their second year, all while reducing costs and chaos. Learn more about Shop4D® at https://explore2.shop4d.com/consolidate.