Helping Shop Owners grow into the successful entrepreneurs they imagine themselves to be.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Your biggest fear should be….Nothing

Your biggest fear should be….Nothing

                  by George Zeeks

The three biggest fears are Spiders, Snakes, and the fear of heights.  The next one is listed as


  • The fear of situations in which escape is difficult.
  • This may include crowded areas, open spaces, or situations that are likely to trigger a panic attack
Interesting, “The fear of situations in which escape is difficult”.  It’s meant to mean a physical escape, but what if we twisted this to include an emotional escape.  A huge section of the population does not like confrontation and actively tries to avoid it.   How does that apply to the shop owner? For some of you it’s an everyday thing.  If you own a business, a lot of you are stuck within the walls of your shop and if the possibility for confrontation is within those same walls how can you escape? Let’s throw some situations against the wall and see how many stick.  How about the tech’s are making more money than you are but you’re afraid to change the compensation plan.  Then we could mention that your staff is not doing what you want them to but you’re hesitant to say something because they might leave you.  These are just two “situations” that you find yourself in and the fear of having a shop without a crew is too much to bear, so you do nothing.  Now of course the life that you have is not the life that you want but you feel trapped.  Read on and let’s see if we can expose those fears for what they really are, imaginary.
What do you do if you’re afraid of snakes?  You avoid places where you might see a snake.  If you’re afraid of heights, you probably will not stand on the ledge of a ten story building.  The key is avoidance.  You avoid the situations that could possibly trigger your fears.  Many of the shop owners that I work with deal with these exact problems mainly by avoiding them and rationalizing some reason that allows them to justify the decision.  The problem is that by using the faulty logic to make yourself feel better, you can’t improve your shop, the profitability or your culture. 
The first step to stop making excuses for what is going on.  I know it’s hard cause I’ve been in the same position that you may find yourself in.  Everyone deserves to be able to make a decent living, so when I say you need to change the compensation that change has to be fair to all parties.  The problem comes when the staff is overpaid and making more money than the shop can afford for the amount of work being done.  We see it all the time and the two most likely outcomes are the shop going under or fixing the pay plan.  Look at it this way, if the only reason your staff is working for you is the paycheck then you already have issues.  Ask yourself what you are doing to help make them better at their job?  Do you offer training?  Do you have a plan to develop each employee so they feel that working for you is good for their future?  Do you praise them when they do a good job?  When people leave to go work somewhere else, money is rarely the only reason or even the biggest part of the reason.  If your answer to the above questions was no then you need to work on those items as well as a new pay plan.
What if your staff is not doing the things that you want?  Well, are the items reasonable?  Have you discussed them with the staff and asked for their feedback?  Have you set a clear standard of what you expect and then help people accountable to it?  One of the worst things is to come up with rules, put them in place and then ignore them.  Just hoping that something good will happen doesn’t get the job done.  Once you know what you want, have you discussed it with the crew, gotten their feedback and suggestions, then you put it into place and hold everyone accountable.  That includes you by the way.  Living with a situation that is making you miserable is just no way to live.  Feeling like you’re a hostage to your own shop is crazy. 
Here’s a big part of the problem.  You probably can’t fix this yourself.  Your Coach can help you with a fair compensation plan.  Together you can do the math to have achievable standards for the production of the crew.  You can both sit down and walk through how this transition is going to take place.  This includes preparing for a member of the staff leaving.  It’s not the end of the world and if things have been bad long enough, it’s most likely going to happen.  You’re not in this alone but you have to recognize what is real and what is an excuse.  If at the end of this you find yourself wondering if you should be doing something different, then you probably should.  Talk to your Coach or you can talk to me.  Either way, we are here to help you reach for your dreams.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finding The Staff: Finding The Needle In A Field Of Needles

         Finding The Needle In A Field Of Needles

                              By George Zeeks

Everything is going great. The phone is ringing, we have customers coming through the door wanting work done on their car and all is right with the world.  Except, we don’t have enough technicians or maybe the right technician for the job.  A very common scenario that plays out in shops around the country everyday, a common complaint from our clients is the problem finding a good technician or the “right” technician.  My first impulse is to ask why we lost a good technician and were they that good to begin with.  Look at how you are hiring your employees.  If we find that we are doing the old fashioned “fog the mirror” test, then you got what you deserved.  Look at how you are treating your employees.  I have found it is very difficult to steal a happy employee; they just do not want to leave.  If you need to read further, because you need staffing, focus on fixing the root problem first or you will always end up looking for people.

First thing that we need to do to find staffing in today’s market is to get our head outside of the box.  The old ways just do not work anymore.  If you run an ad in the paper, it is expensive and a major gamble.  You might as well go to Vegas and try your luck there.   However, if we are going to run an ad let’s be smart about it.  Look at it from the employee’s point of view and sell what they want to buy.  What is different about your company that would appeal to a prospect?  Do you have benefits, training, flexible hours?  Are you closed on weekends and perhaps someone who is currently working the weekends would want to come to work for you so they could spend time with their family.  If you are going to run an ad, run one that will emphasize the benefits that you have to offer.  If it looks like everyone else’s ad then how are they going to find you?

Internet dating, I mean employment services can be a great resource or a total nightmare.  We have a company that we recommend on a regular basis that does a very good job.  There are, however, many companies that are not much better than placing an ad in a newspaper.  Anytime you spend your money on a one shot deal, you had better do everything that you can to make sure you are reaching the right employees.  Also, keep in mind what part of the country you are in.  The more rural your situation, the smaller the demographic pool that you have to work with; the less likely you are to have a positive result.

  Just like with customers, referrals are to best way to find people.  Do you have a rolodex of the past employee’s that have ever worked for you?   Do you keep the old applications for the applicants that impressed you in some way but were not right for the position open at that time?  Why not?  The “C” technician that you did not feel was ready 3 years ago may have turned into a skilled addition, provided that you parted company on the best of terms.  That happens quite often, by the way.  Networking with past employees is a great way to keep your options open and makes sure you have a good reputation among the technician community.

Talking to the Parts houses and the Tool Guys can be a great resource.  Too many times we ask them to “keep an eye out for a technician/ manager” but we fail to make it worth their while.  Offering a bounty for a good potential employee makes a lot of sense.  Offering a bounty to your current staff makes even more sense; they know people in the field and would not refer someone just for the money because they have to work with them.  You only pay once you have found the right person and have hired them and nothing works quite like cash on the barrel.  Some people may find this distasteful but remember that you can’t steal a happy employee.

A major target for many opportunities is the large corporate chain stores.  If you happen to be employed by such a facility, keep this in mind.  The further the employee is from a feeling of personal empowerment, the more susceptible he is to making a change.  The extended hours and the weekends do not help to retain staff and can make other opportunities that come up very attractive.  I have been on both sides of this particular fence, so I know the pros and con’s of each side very well.  I just made sure my people felt appreciated and valued so that I would not lose them, but many corporate managers lose sight of that.

A major missed opportunity is what happens before and after work.  Find you target area and spend some time in the coffee shops before work.  Anyone in a uniform is fair game, just walk up and introduce yourself and start selling.  It is amazing how many times this works.  Networking with fellow shop owners can become a mutual benefit by providing the prospective employee an alternative if you do not have a position for them right now, but make sure to keep their number on file for the future.  It also gives you another possible source for staffing by having the relationship with the other shop owners.  Seminars and training sessions can be a great pool of prospects.  The people there are looking to grow and advance in the field.  Keep the conversation quick and simple, establish some basis for further communication and get their phone number and call back at a more convenient time.  Here is the biggest chance to get your head outside the box; the only thing that will limit you is your imagination.

First & last is they way you treat your employees.  Most people invest a certain amount of their self image into their jobs.  It is your responsibility as a leader to encourage that investment by providing a positive atmosphere where the employee can feel a sense of growth, advancement and team spirit.  We hear all the time that we need to praise out employees more to encourage positive behavior, but this also increases the connection to management and each other.  It is not a catch phrase, it is hard work and requires constant attention to change the way we deal with those around us.  If you do not make this change then you will always be searching for new employees.

There are tons of employees out there; you just have to find them.  It truly is finding a needle in a field of needles; you just have to find the right one.  People change jobs every day and the person that you need is working somewhere right now but they are unhappy.  You just have to find the right needle.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How Employee’s go Bad?

How Employee’s go Bad?

By George Zeeks


Dysfunctional At the Top?

All organizations go through a period of time in which they become dysfunctional, some make it through this period and some do not.  The problem can stem from the top of the organization, its structure, or from the employees themselves.   Research on organizational dysfunction is the study of the organization as an entity, a living breathing organism comprised of all it’s of the members and of the parts from which it is made of.  Looking at the organization as a whole and then breaking down the component parts, we can see where the problems begin and the effect it has on the entity as a whole.  The breakdown in the organization shows itself during periods of stress but the root causes are already in place before they begin to manifest themselves.  Most of the data that I have found has been focused on the corporate level and much of that does not apply in this instance.  I have tried to condense the research in the field and filter it down so that we get a clearer picture of what happens specifically in the automotive field.

Dysfunctional Employees!

If we start with the members that make up the group, we may be able to get a clearer picture of what happens as the organization begins to break down.  The breakdown does not have to be total.  It can begin with a single person, section, or an area in the body as a whole.  The symptoms are basically identical, regardless of the number of people involved.  Each employee of an organization has psychological contract with their employer.  A change in the way the organization/employer operates results in a change in the contract with the employee.  This contract has to be reestablished, with both people and groups agreeing that the change is good and will benefit everyone involved.  If we do not have the “buy in” of the all of the members then a specific chain of events begins to occur.  We may see a steady progression through all of the steps or it may appear to jump through a step.  That does not mean that the employee did not go through a step, it just means that the symptoms were kept hidden and never became outwardly apparent.   The four basic steps are as follows:

1.     Denial/bargaining- the employee/group may have become used to the tasks that they are responsible for.  The longer the employee has held those tasks to be primary to their job function, then the more likely they are to be resistant to change.  As new or different priorities begin to affect their role in the organization, the “buy in” on the importance of the new functions must be obtained from the employee.  Let’s use an employee named Bob as an example.  Bob is happy in is job and his current tasks involve task A and B.  The organization has decided that, for the good of the organization, Bob will also have to perform task C and task D.  If Bob is not happy with the new tasks and no new “contract/buy in” is established, then Bob may very well choose to perform some of the tasks but not all of them.  He may choose to perform task A and task C but not task B or task D.  He may attempt to negotiate his new role or worse, just deny the task altogether in the hope that it may be overlooked.  The beginning of any change in the organization must include close measurement and individual accountability for the tasks that have been assigned.  Without the measurement and accountability, Bob’s denial goes unnoticed and we begin to move to the next stage.

2.     Apathy- Bob has not been held accountable for his lack of compliance to the new roles he has been given.  No action has been taken.  Bob begins to become apathetic to all of his tasks.  His self image of his importance to the organization begins to falter.  He is becoming a “clock monkey”.  He comes to work each day and performs some or none of his tasks but may appear to be working as usual.  The sooner his accountability to the tasks assigned is questioned, the more likely that Bob can be saved.   A new psychological contract can still be established but the likelihood of that has dropped to approx 75%.  The longer he is able to continue without being “found out” the more likely it is that he will move to the next stage.
3.     Aggression- Now that Bob’s lack of performance has become apparent, he is confronted by his supervisor as to why he has not been complying with the new order.  Bob may start by blaming others for his lack of task attention.  It may be a coworker, the new systems in place, or even his supervisor.  The aggression may escalate to verbal or physical outbursts that stem from his frustration with the changes that have taken place.  Again, the longer the employee has been entrenched in the old systems, the more extreme this stage may become.  This stage and its symptoms depend largely on the nature of the individual and may even been perceived as “whining” if the person is introverted and not able to openly express his opinions.  At this point, we have approximately a 50% chance of saving Bob by establishing the new “buy in”.  If Bob’s aggression is not recognized, perhaps by a supervisor that avoids confrontation, then Bob will move into the last stage.
4.     Absence- this stage may begin with Bob coming in late, leaving early. It may progress to the point where Bob is calling in sick or even no-show, no-call with no explanation. This may coincide with aggressive behavior when confronted with his absence. At this point, there is only approximately a 20% chance of saving Bob as a functional employee. The root problem of all these steps again, goes back to measurement and accountability for the tasks assigned to him. The lack of the employer/supervisor to perform their job appropriately has allowed a once contributing member of the organization to decay to the point of termination.