The old-school way of running your shop is easier and feels better, but it doesn’t lead to meaningful or lasting change.

By David Rogers

There are around 45,000 fewer service bays than there were five years ago, according to a recent report from Lang Aftermarket iReport, even though there are more cars on the road than ever before.

That means that shops are having to deal with more vehicles per bay at a time when the worsening tech shortage is making it harder than ever to hire a team to service all those vehicles.

It’s no wonder that so many shop owners are being forced to work as an employee for the business. If the choice is between turning wrenches or letting customers slip away to your competition because you can’t get to them soon enough, the decision is obvious.

That’s not the choice, though.

More than that, pretending like it’s the only choice to be made is playing the victim card. It’s making yourself, your family, and your happiness a slave to your circumstances instead of finding what you can control and then getting to work to control those things.

You deserve so much better than that. Your family deserves so much better.

The only way forward is to make your business work for you. You must set aside the old way of thinking and take control. Once you do, you’ll be able to get back to enjoying owning your own shop and being your own boss.

Job one is breaking the victim mindset.

The temptation is to say things like “I don’t have time to train these people,” or “I can’t find the help I need; nobody wants to work anymore.”

No, the problem is that nobody wants to work for you. There’s no point in sugarcoating it. If your team isn’t helping you succeed if your employees don’t want to stick with you until you retire if you’re constantly fixing other people’s problems to make sure things get done right… The only solution starts with a long, hard look in the mirror.

And if you hate me for saying as much, that’s okay! Nobody wants to hear that they need to change, I get that.

But I’ve worked with thousands of shops and delivered assessments on hundreds of those shops. I’ll be as honest and open with you as I am with my coaching and consulting clients: there are a lot of shop owners who are stuck on the idea that the old way is the right way, and they refuse to adopt new technology, embrace new processes and ways of thinking that can help them break free.

The times, as the song goes, they are a changin’. Those old ways of measuring shops, of operating, of hiring and paying, of managing, they are rapidly eroding under the weight of today’s standards. They do not work in this new post-COVID world. The sooner you leave them behind, the sooner you can get back to making your business work for you.

Consider training. How many group training sessions are you making mandatory each week?

There’s a reason why I ask. The old way of thinking sees training as a thing you send your employees off to do at a conference or trade show. The new way of thinking understands the power of remote learning — and the whole team learning and growing together. In this one example, we can see the difference between shop owners and managers who want to be successful and those who want to pretend to be successful. Not coincidentally, it’s the same breakdown between shops that are growing and shops that are struggling to keep up.

To put a finer point to what I’m saying: the old-school way of running your shop is easier and feels better but doesn’t lead to any meaningful or lasting change. If training doesn’t disturb your routine and if it makes your employees feel excited but never results in any improvements, then there’s no point to it. It is an exercise in feel-good futility.

From this, we can draw a much larger and more critical point: if you’re trusting your money, time, and attention to experts and gurus who are telling you what you want to hear, nothing will ever change. Do you want to know why so many shop owners are working for their business? Here’s your answer: they surround themselves with solutions and experts who offer an easy way out — which never changes anything.

And shop owners pay for the chance to remain in these shackles!

But not you. You’re ready to stop playing the victim, ready to take control and stop listening to the lie that things have always been like this, and nothing will ever change.

Ready for training that actually leads to improvement? Every time you pick up a wrench, stop and grab everyone who could have been handling that responsibility and bring them with you to learn — the what, how, and why. Doing this every time will help you fix things rapidly.

This applies to everything in your operation! There’s no secret conspiracy preventing some shop owners from being successful while lifting others up. It’s the constant daily choice to see a problem happening (or even approaching) and taking action to train the team, document the process, and hold everyone accountable.

And for goodness’ sake, stop paying people because they make you feel comfortable. Change is uncomfortable! There are times when growth only comes from hard conversations and deep reflection.

But there’s joy and happiness to be found in change, too!

Change is what’s going to allow you to take control of your business so that you solve problems instead of living with them. It’s how you empower your team to help you control sales and profits. It’s how you get back to owning a business that works for you instead of the other way around.

The beautiful thing is, it’s entirely your choice. You can take control of your shop and your destiny the moment you’re ready. There are no prerequisites or subscriptions, just a decision, made confidently, to improve things for good.

Make that day today.

As published in Motor Age Magazine.