Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My Biggest Regret As An ATI Coach

My Biggest Regret As An ATI Coach


Eric M. Twiggs

“The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining” John F. Kennedy

Imagine me pulling up to your shop in a shiny, black, 2018 Mercedes Benz CLS 550 Coupe.  It’s fully equipped to include the 8 cylinder engine, 18 inch aluminum wheels, leather bucket seats, a sunroof, and the leather upholstered dashboard.  As we begin to discuss the car, our conversation shifts to my warranty coverage.

“So what does your extended warranty cover?” You ask. Imagine if I replied with the following response:   “I decided not to go with any coverage, since I never had any issues with my last car.  As a matter of fact, I plan to call Geico today and cancel my auto insurance plan.  I’ve never been in an accident, so why do I need insurance?”    

If you were to fill out an ATI takeaway worksheet based on our conversation, you would probably write “Coach Twiggs has gone crazy!”  After all, it’s crazy to assume that nothing will ever go wrong with the car. It’s crazy to assume that I will never get into an accident.  

It’s crazy to not have a contingency plan in place for such a significant investment.   Well, you have more invested in your shop than I would have in my Mercedes, so what does YOUR contingency plan look like?     

What is the contingency plan for your shop that would cover you if you were to have an accident?  Do you have the necessary “extended coverage” that would protect you if you were to lose your best employee tomorrow? 

As you ponder these questions, I feel the need to share with you my biggest regret as an ATI coach, so here it is:  It’s that I didn’t push you harder to cover your contingencies.   

It’s Personal 

I take it personally when my suggestion to “always be hiringfalls on deaf ears, only to have the same shop owner who ignored my advice lose a key person and get stuck working IN the business.  It saddens me to see the loss of money and momentum that could have been easily avoided.

I take it personally when I see a shop owner suffer an unexpected medical emergency and have to be away from their shop for six months at a time.  My reaction is never “I told you so!”  Instead it’s “what else could I have told you?” 

My feeling of regret ends TODAY, because I am committed to push harder than ever to ensure that you have the necessary extended coverage.  My goal is to help you to embrace “The Blue Man Philosophy”

The Blue Man Philosophy

In 1987 three close friends decided to paint themselves blue and create music together.    Their show was a combination of rock music and entertainment.  Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton formed The Blue Man Group.

They worked IN their business for 14 hours a day performing over 1200 shows together.  One fateful night, Phil, cut his hand using a power tool and was unable to perform.  They were forced to create a contingency plan by bringing in a backup blue man to take his place.    

This incident gave them the idea to hire their replacements.  Today, The Blue Man Group can perform shows in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Long Island, simultaneously, while the three founding members are relaxing in Long Beach!  

 It took Phil cutting his hand to get the group members to change their philosophy.  What’s it going to take for you to change your philosophy?  What’s it going to take for you to start looking for your replacement? 

What’s it going to take for you to recruit even when you’re fully staffed?  What’s it going to take for you to create contingency plans so that your shop can thrive with our without you being there? 


So, there you have it.   If you commit to the process of covering your contingencies, I won’t have anything to regret, and you will have no reason to feel blue, when you unexpectedly lose a key person from your team.

You can use all the extra money your shop produces to buy yourself a brand-new Mercedes Coupe!


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Email to receive a contingency planning template to help you commit to the process.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

How To Avoid The Biggest Mistake That Shop Owners Make

How To Avoid The Biggest Mistake That Shop Owners Make


Eric M. Twiggs

The root cause of all anxiety is the unmade decision.” Kain Ramsey

“Joe” is a shop owner who works IN instead of ON his business.  His business has him in bondage to the point, that when he needs to consult with his ‘A’ tech, he doesn’t look out in the bays, he looks in the mirror!

I suggested that he contact a certain “head hunter” recruitment company that sources, screens, and selects, technician prospects for the owner to interview and consider for hire. 

He loved the idea of having someone find technicians for him.  He loved the fact that the technicians would be prescreened before he interviewed them.  He lost that loving feeling, when I told him that the total fee for this service was $1,500. 

“But Eric, $1,500 is a lot of money!” Joe said. I responded with the following question: “How much money is your current strategy costing you?”

Suddenly, there was the sound of awkward silence.  As I was reaching for my cell phone to call Verizon to complain about the phone line, he interrupted the silence with the following words: “It’s costing me more than $1500 a day!” 

Joe had made the biggest mistake that shop owners make:  He failed to account for the hidden cost of inaction.  In other words, he didn’t factor in the opportunity cost. defines opportunity cost as the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.  Initially Joe believed that he would save himself $1500 by not taking the recommended alternative of using the head hunter service.

Based on the ATI technician efficiency model, bringing on a good technician to an understaffed shop can add an additional 15 cars a week to that location. 

If Joe maintains a $400 average repair order on the 15 additional cars, he would gross an extra $6,000 per week in sales. ($400 X 15 =$6,000) The alternative of inaction is costing Joe at least $6,000 per week.

The right technician would free him up to attend networking events and build relationships with fleet accounts, so his failure to act could be costing him more than calculated!  

How much is your failure to act costing you?   Keep reading to learn what you can do to avoid the biggest mistake that shop owners make.

Think Like A Master

If I were to go to the park and challenge a chess grand master to a game, I would be at a disadvantage, because he and I would be looking at the same board in a different way. Since I’m a novice, I would be focused on which chess piece to use and what the next move would be.

 The master would win, because he would be thinking two to three moves ahead.   When it comes to playing the game of automotive service, are you a novice or a master?  

The novice in the automotive service game is only focused on fixing the cars in the bay that day.  The master is focused on scheduling the next appointment for 90 days later.

The novice stops recruiting once the position has been filled.  The master is always recruiting regardless of the current staffing levels.

The novice blames low car count on the spring break season.  The master completed a marketing calendar, and has a spring break special that has already launched. 

The master doesn’t have to pay the opportunity cost since she’s anticipated her needs before they became needs.   If you commit to thinking like a master, you can avoid the hidden cost that comes with inaction.  

Ask The Hard Questions

In his book To Sell Is Human, The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel Pink explains the difference between positive & interrogative self-talk.  Pink points out that the purpose of positive self-talk is to encourage yourself.  “You can do it!”, would be an example of a positive statement you could make to yourself.

Interrogative self-talk happens when you ask yourself questions.  An example of this would be, “Can I do it?”  Positive self-talk is good, but interrogative self-talk is better because it helps you to plan and prepare.  The key is to ask yourself the hard questions. 

When you talk to yourself today, ask the following questions: 1. What would happen to my business if I were involved in an accident and suddenly became unavailable to work IN it every day?”  2. How much business would I lose if my best technician quit tomorrow.  3. How much business am I losing because I don’t have enough bays to satisfy the increasing demand for my service? 

Your direction is determined by the answer to the questions you ask yourself.  Asking the hard questions can keep you moving in the direction of becoming the master of avoiding opportunity costs!


So, there you have it.  Joe’s story has a happy ending.  He is taking action by using the head hunter service, and has several promising prospects to choose from.  If you think like a master and ask the hard questions, your story can have a happy ending as well!  


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Email to receive a succession depth chart to help you plan for worst case staffing scenarios.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How To Sell Automotive Repair To A Bottom Feeder

How To Sell Automotive Repair To A Bottom Feeder


Eric M. Twiggs

“How much business is an inaccurate assumption costing you?

A plainly dressed woman wearing a baseball cap walked into an upscale handbag store looking to make a purchase.  She came in carrying a worn-out handbag that appeared to have a lot of miles on it. 

She gestured towards the most expensive bag in the store, but before she could speak, the salesperson gave her the following response:

"Nope, it's too expensive.  Look at these bags instead." The customer asked a second time to see the handbag that was secured behind a screen and was again refused by the salesperson who would only show her the options that she believed were in her price range.

After asking a third time and being refused, she left the store without buying anything.  The plainly dressed customer with the high mileage bag was Oprah Winfrey, who has an estimated net worth of three billion dollars, and a twitter following of 41 million people!

She posted a tweet about her experience mentioning the handbag store by name!   The salesperson had mistakenly profiled Oprah Winfrey to be a bottom feeder.

A “bottom feeder” is a term in the retail industry that describes someone whom a business representative has profiled to be a low potential customer.  

To save their time for “the good customers”, the rep. will short cut the normal sales process, by only presenting the lowest priced offerings to this individual.   

Oprah’s story teaches us that this attempt to save time, can cost you on your bottom line!   How much business is an inaccurate assumption costing you?

Count The Costs

Some of my discussions with a shop owner will begin with him complaining about his low net profit results.  As we review his repair orders from the previous week, he tells me he doesn’t offer the courtesy check to “certain types of customers” who drive older, high mileage, vehicles. 

These conversations have taught me that there’s a direct relationship between the inaccurate profiling of customers and low net profit.  

In other words, if you embrace a profiling philosophy, you’re likely to become unhappy with your profit performance!

Don’t believe me?  Well consider the following questions:

1) Would you refer your family and friends to a shop that treated you like you were a bottom feeder?   2)  What if the customer, whom you’ve profiled to be a bottom feeder, turned out to be a billionaire?  3) How would you feel if she “tweeted” about her experience to millions of people mentioning your shop by name?    

Stay with me to learn about something specific that  you can do, instead of profiling your customers.

Consider The Possibilities

The story is told of a rookie service advisor named “Cindy” who was new to both her shop and to the automotive industry.  There was an elderly customer named “Sarah”, who had a history of never approving the estimates that were recommended on her green Geo Prizm with 180,000 miles on it.

As a practical joke, the service manager along with the lead mechanic decided to give “the newbie” the estimate to present, which totaled four thousand dollars.   The manager and tech listened to the presentation from the office while laughing to themselves. 

They laughed as Cindy approached the counter.  They laughed as she presented the “complete pile”, like she learned from Randy Somers in service advisor class.   The laughs changed to a collective gasp, when Sarah responded with the following statement: “OK, go ahead and do it!”  

This story is filled with possibilities.  It’s possible that Sarah didn’t purchase in the past, because the shop treated her like she was a bottom feeder.  It’s possible that Cindy was too new to know that Sarah wasn’t “the right type of customer. “ 

It’s possible that you can succeed like Cindy, if you focus more on the process than you do the profile!  Consider the possibility that YOU may be creating some of your “bottom feeders”.


So, there you have it.  If you count the costs and consider the possibilities, you can sell automotive repair to customers whom you previously considered to be bottom feeders. 

Unlike Oprah, you can’t give everyone in your “audience” a car.  But, if you focus more on the process than you do the profile, you can leave them feeling like a billion bucks!

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Email to receive an updated checklist of the estimate presentation process!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How To Keep A Bad Attitude From Impacting Your Shop

How To Keep A Bad Attitude From Impacting Your Shop


Eric M. Twiggs

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Winston Churchill.

After several months of searching for a service manager, “John”, a local shop owner had finally found “Mr. Right.”  “Steve”, had over 15 years of experience writing service and was most recently working for another ATI shop owner. 

During the interview he said all the right things and had all the right answers.  Steve passed his background check with flying colors.

As a mere formality, John called his old boss named “Bill” for a reference.  Here is how the conversation went:

“Bill, I see that Steve worked for you from January of 2017 to February of 2018.” “Yes” Bill replied. “He says his reason for leaving was that he was relocating because his wife’s new job." “Yes” Said Bill.  

“Great. So, knowing what you know today about Steve, would you hire him back?” To which Bill Replied: “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”

Bill went on for the next ten minutes telling John about how Steve was negative, resistant to change, and always blaming other people for his failures!  Steve’s attitude cost him a career opportunity.   How much has a bad attitude at your shop cost you?

I know what you’re thinking: “But Coach, my manager is only negative with me.  She says the right things to my customers!”

My response can be best summed up by the following quote from John Maxwell: People hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”  

This explains why someone with a bad attitude can lower your customer retention rate, even if you never receive a complaint.  She seems to say the right things, but your patrons feel her attitude and don’t return. 

Here’s the bottom line:  If your writer is always negative with you, your customer feels it too.   

Negativity at the counter may be costing you more than you realize.  

So, how can you keep a bad attitude from impacting your shop?  Keep reading and you will learn.

Consider The Michelin Method

Early in my automotive career, I worked as a service advisor for a major tire retailer.   I thought it would be cool to work for the Michelin Tire Corporation as a Michelin Representative. 

Based on my research, they spent their time traveling to conferences, conducting training clinics, and hosting plant tours! 

Because of my previous tire experience, I considered myself to be a slam dunk to get a position with their organization.  I embraced the right attitude as I completed the application.

Apparently, Michelin never got the memo, that I was a slam dunk.   They didn’t get the memo, but I got the rejection letter!    After speaking with "Mary" my local Michelin Rep, I discovered that my previous tire experience was the problem! 

According to Mary, the company had a strict policy of not hiring anyone with a background in selling tires.

Why would a tire company refuse someone with tire experience?   Here’s what Mary said: “We hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”  

In other words, on the journey to success, Michelin was looking for people who would bring luggage and not baggage.    Stay with me as I unpack these two terms.

Luggage vs Baggage

While traveling, luggage represents the items you bring with you that are essential to your trip.  It’s portable and easy to travel with.   For example, the army refers to the portable equipment it travels with as luggage. 

Baggage on the other hand, represents those excess items that limit your freedom, progress, and comfort.  Baggage is so difficult to deal with; the airports have created a baggage claim section to free you up.  When was the last time you saw a luggage claim section?

Many of the service managers with automotive experience, bring baggage with them.  They are weighed down with bad habits, limiting beliefs, and all the reasons that your idea won’t work.  

Since you don’t have a baggage claim area at your shop, the next best thing, is to hire for attitude.     

Please make note of the following disclaimers:  1) I have nothing against hiring experienced service managers.  Their experience can be valuable, if they show up with luggage and not baggage. 2) When hiring someone with no automotive background, be prepared to invest the time.  It may take up to six months to bring them up to speed on the basics of the business.


So, there you have it.  When hiring your next service manager, consider the Michelin Method of hiring a qualified person with no industry background.  Also, make sure the next industry veteran you hire is carrying luggage instead of baggage.   

Committing to these steps will keep a bad attitude from impacting your shop.


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Email to receive a checklist containing The 7 Symptoms of a Bad Attitude.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Winning The Game of Inches At Your Shop

Winning The Game of Inches At Your Shop


Eric M. Twiggs

No step forward is too small. Just be sure it's taking you to the right dream, then take more of those tiny steps.” 
Israelmore Ayivor,

The story is told of a man who walked across the entire US continent from coast to coast.  Afterwards he was swamped by news reporters. One of them asked him to recap what the most difficult part of his journey was.

“Was it dealing with the desert heat?  Was it rambling through the Rocky Mountains?  Was it commuting through the crowded cities?”  She asked. 

His response took everyone by surprise: “it was none of those things. The most difficult part of my trip was dealing with the sand in my shoes.”

This man’s story proves the following point:   It’s the minor details that lead to major problems.  Have you dealt with the sand in your shoes?   The following scenarios may help you to answer:

A customer leaving your shop unhappy, is a minor detail.  When she shares the experience with her ten thousand twitter followers, it’s a major problem.  Ignoring the suggestion of “always be hiring”, is a minor detail. 

Losing your best technician, without having a replacement in mind, is a major problem.   Not implementing the parts matrix is a minor detail.  Not having enough cash flow to make payroll is a major problem. 

If you have overlooked any of these minor details, you have sand in your shoes.   Most people are looking for that one magical idea that will change everything in their business.

The Top Shop’s on the other hand, consistently win because of their disciplined dedication to the details.  In other words, they win the game of inches.

Are you like most people, but want to become a Top Shop?   Stay with me to learn two strategies that will help you to win the game of inches.

Do The Math

Fear based emotion is the root cause of your desire to ignore the details.  For example, the detail of making the exit appointment is ignored because of a fear of rejection.  The detail of “always be hiring” is overlooked because of a fear of failure. 

Some shop leaders have a fear of conflict, so they allow their technicians to avoid the detail of documenting the digital inspections.

The problem is that your bill collector isn’t afraid.  From your collector’s perspective, either your account is current, or its past due.  Either the funds are available or they’re not.   You may be dealing with emotion, but your vendor is dealing with simple math.    

The key is for you to replace your fear-based emotion with math.  Start by calculating your average cost per car. 

Go to the four-week average column in your portal and add up your total fixed costs, sublet costs, your total service manager wages loaded, and total technician wages loaded.   Take that total and divide by your weekly car count average and you will get your average cost per car. 

So, let’s say you have calculated your average cost per car to be $300.00.  Knowing this, makes it easier to explain to your service writer with a $250 average repair order (ARO), how his failure to follow the process is hurting the business. 

You can also use the win # drill (desired net profit + weekly fixed costs/ weekly gp%/ avg ARO) to calculate the number of cars needed to achieve your net profit goals.  This can help to take the emotion out of improving your car count via the exit appointment.

It’s ok, you can get mad at me, but you can’t get mad at math!  Doing the math removes the emotion from the equation, so you can focus on the details.   

Look For The 1%

I was watching an online documentary titled Tom VS. Time.  This documentary chronicles how New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can play at an elite level despite being 40 years of age.

It shows Brady working with a performance coach who specializes in helping quarterbacks improve their football throwing mechanics.  

During the interview segment, the coach was explaining the difference between the average and the elite quarterbacks who request his services.

Here’s what he said: “The elite quarterbacks aren’t looking to get 5% better, they come to me to get 1% better!”   Finding the 1% will help you to win the game of inches.

The average shop owner evaluates the quality of the training based on the quantity of the takeawaysThe elite shop owners are just looking for the 1%.   

One hallway conversation at the Super Conference can make you 1% better.   One sentence from that book your 20 group is reading, can make you 1% better.   Changing one word you use to present the estimate, based on what you learned in class, can make you 1% better. 

If you’re getting 1% better every day, in time you can win the game of inches and become the best of the best!


So, there you have it.  If you do the math, and look for the 1%, you can win the game of inches.  When you become the best of the best, you will have more time to vacation at the beach, the place where having sand in your shoes is a good thing!


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

Looking to get 1% better at presenting the estimate? Email  to receive your Minor Details Checklist

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Secret To Successful Selling At Your Shop

The Secret To Successful Selling At Your Shop


Eric M. Twiggs

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less." -Diogenes

My interviewer threw me a curveball!  I had just graduated from college and was interviewing with a sales manager named “James”, for an outside sales position with a major copy machine company. 

“Sell me this pen!” James demanded, as he slammed the pen on his desk in front of us and awaited my response. 

I responded by creating an imaginary list of all the features the pen had to offer, to include special ink that lasted a lifetime!  “This will be the last pen you ever buy in your life!” I confidently exclaimed. 

I felt good about my selling performance as the interview concluded.  I was sure that I aced “the pen test” and was looking forward to getting a call back.  As I sat by the phone waiting for it to ring, the only sound I heard was the sound of the crickets outside of my window! 

Where did I go wrong?  All of my sales training up to that point had stressed the importance of clearly communicating the features and benefits of the product. 

Several months later, after reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s book The Sales Bible, I realized where I went wrong. Gitomer wrote the following statement that forever changed how I viewed the sales process: 

“Listening is the first commandment of selling.”   And then it hit me.   I had nothing to listen to, because I never asked James any questions related to his need for a pen! 

Was he in the market for a pen?  What did he like about the one he currently uses?  How specifically did he plan to use the pen?   I was so focused on talking that I forgot about listening.

Have you ever been so focused on talking that you forgot to listen? Well, you aren’t alone.  Consider the following research findings of Dr. Ralph Nichols, a pioneer in the field of listening:

“While participating in a conversation, the average person forgets 50% of what the other person is saying immediately after they finish speaking.”

In most conversations, when one person is talking, the other is mentally rehearsing his response, while he waits for his turn to talk.  

Think about your own life for a moment.  How many people can you name that actively listen without interrupting, and give you their undivided attention while you are speaking?  For most people, it’s a short list.

Since the failure to listen is such a prevalent problem, becoming a masterful listener can give you a competitive edge. This makes listening, the secret to successful selling at your shop.  Stay with me to learn two specific ways that you can benefit from becoming a better listener.

Listening Builds Trust

Imagine taking your car to a shop and you tell the writer that you have a 2010 Ford Fusion.   As he is writing you up he asks you “What kind of car was that?”  Later in the transaction, you instruct your advisor to replace the two rear tires, only to find that he has the two front tires circled on the work order! 

You ask him to call you on your cell phone number with updates and realize later, that you have three messages on your home answering machine letting you know that the job won’t be done today as promised!  Based on this interaction, how much trust would you have in this shop? 

Sadly, this scenario occurs every day in shops across America.  How can the customer trust you to be “her mechanic”, when she can’t trust you to remember what she told you about her vehicle?  To build higher levels of trust I recommend that you embrace the habits of note taking and restating.

When the customer is calling, you can use your phone log to write down the necessary details of the conversation.   When she is at your location, use a note pad to write down what she’s saying.

After she has told you about a specific problem, review your notes and restate the problem back to her, to confirm that you were listening.    Embracing these habits can make you her shop of choice, because you will have established the right level of trust. 

Listening Builds Connection

The story is told of a young woman in England who had the opportunity to dine with two political rivals who were running for the office of Prime Minister: William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraell.  

She was later asked to compare her encounters with both gentleman.  What she reported confirms the value of being a great listener.

“When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I felt like he was the most interesting man in the world.  After sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I felt like I was the most interesting woman in the world!”

Disreali won the election by a landslide, because of his ability to listen and connect.  He allowed her to talk about her favorite subject.   

Your customers and the young lady have the same favorite subject: Themselves!   This is why going out to the vehicle with the customer is such a critical step.  You get the opportunity to listen as she talks about herself.   Asking the right questions is the starting point of the listening process. 

For example, after asking her how long she plans to keep the car, you get to listen as she tells you about how well she maintains it.  After asking about the todler car seat in the back, you get to listen as she tells you about how well her little son is doing in soccer.

When she feels like she is the most interesting customer in the world, she will vote for you as her shop of choice!  Your ability to listen will build that connection.


So, there you have it.  The opportunity to build trust and connection, makes listening the secret to successful selling at your shop.  I have mixed emotions about failing the pen test. 

On the one hand, I wish I would have asked the right questions to start the listening process.

However, If I had gotten the copier sales job, I may have never started my career in automotive, and I wouldn’t be in position to listen to the recordings of you applying the secret to successful selling!  


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Email to receive the 7 Secrets To Becoming a Masterful Listener!