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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How To Be First If You're Not An Early Bird

How To Be First If You're Not An Early Bird


Eric M. Twiggs

“A players hire A players. B players hire C players. Do you get it?” Steve Jobs

Southwest Airlines is known for their random seating policy.  You board by groups based on when you checked in for your flight.  Taking advantage of their “Early bird check in” feature, increases your chances of boarding the plane sooner.

Travelers are divided into three groups. Those in the “A” group have the luxury of boarding and exiting the plane first, and choosing whatever seat they want.  The “B” level flyer has to walk further and wait longer as all of the “A’s” exit the plane.  Being a “C” group member guarantees you the combination of a long wait and a middle row seat between two people who snore!

On my flight back from the ATI Super Conference, I was “C” player. But everything was about to change. The gate attendant announced over the intercom that it was possible to upgrade to the “A” group if you were willing to make an additional investment of $30. 

I paid the money and moved to the front of the line ahead of my fellow co-workers as they each gave me dirty looks.

When we landed in Baltimore, I was the first to exit the plane. And then it hit me.   Since I was willing to invest in an upgrade, I reached my destination faster, and with less effort.  I was first even though I wasn’t an “early bird.” 

At your shop, “A” players will get you to the top levels of performance faster and with less effort, than those in the B and C group.

Your competitors may think of themselves as the early bird, because of how long they’ve been in business.   You can still be first in your market as long as you are willing to invest in a people upgrade.   Keep reading and you will learn the two ways to find and invest in better people.

     Finder’s Fee

Studies show that a bad hire costs the average small business six times the annual salary of the employee.  If you hire the wrong service manager and pay him $50,000 per year, it may cost you up to $300,000 ($50K X 6) after you factor in his pay, training costs, severance, costly mistakes, and lost business opportunities. 

Knowing the potential costs of hiring a “C” player should make it easier to invest in someone from the “A” group. 

A good way to accomplish this is to offer a finder’s fee to your current employees who find you top talent they have worked with in the past.  I recommend offering an up to $1,000 finder’s fee that is paid out $250 per quarter.  

You can also offer this to your tool guy, vendors, and fellow networking group members.   The potential $300,000 cost of a bad hire justifies your investment of $1,000 for an upgrade! 


In today’s job market, you have two types of job seekers: Active and passive.  The active job seeker is the individual who is actively looking for another opportunity.  They have their resume on the job boards and spend their spare time interviewing.

The passive job-hunter is someone who is not actively looking, but is open to making a career move that would be an upgrade.  “A” players tend to reside in this category because of their intense focus and desire to do well in their current position.   

Fishing is a technique to help you access the passive candidates.  Here’s how it works: When interviewing an “A” player, ask him about other great performers at his shop.  For example, if you’re interviewing “Mike” the technician, have him tell you about the best service writer he has worked with.

Mike tells you how great “Joe” is at sales and customer service.  Once you hire Mike, you would then get him to recruit Joe.    You could also offer Mike the finder’s fee to entice him to reach out to his former co-worker.  Even if you don’t hire Mike, you have the option to pursue Joe yourself. 


So there you have it.  Offering a finder’s fee, and going fishing, will allow you to be first even if you aren’t the early bird in your market.  Your willingness to invest in the best people, will give you your boarding pass to the “A” group of shop performance. 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. I have a “Bad Hire Calculator” that I can send to help you measure the cost of your last bad hire and justify your investment in an upgrade.  Email and I will send it to you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Ugly Baby

The Ugly Baby


Eric M. Twiggs

“In giving birth to our babies, we find that we give birth to the new possibilities within ourselves.”  Jon Kabat Zinn

People don't refer to their baby as ugly.  I had an experience as a district manager back in 2001 that confirmed this fact.  One my store managers named “Rick” would instruct his unhappy customers to call me, without making any efforts to address their concern at the store level. 

The customer would complain, he would give them my phone number, and then go about his day.  Rick was never happy with the discounts I would give to satisfy the customer.  He would accuse me of “giving away the farm.”

Since Rick was unhappy with my resolutions, I implemented a new policy requiring all complaints to be resolved at the store level.  As a result, Rick’s patrons stopped calling, but he would still call me with questions about how to resolve the issues that came up. 

To keep the ball in his court, I would do a conference call with him AND the customer while listening in as HE worked out a resolution.  Rick’s morale improved and he was much happier with how the complaints were handled.

Here’s what’s interesting:  He gave away more in discounts to keep his customers satisfied than I ever did!   So why would he be happier, even though he was doing exactly what he accused me of?  

It’s the same reason that nobody refers to their baby as ugly:  People support what they help to create.  I call this “the ugly baby principle.”   By giving Rick ownership of the customer satisfaction decision,it was now “his baby.”   

Stay with me and you will learn about two other aspects of your business where this principle applies: 

Training Takeaways  

1    Employees that attend training classes  fall into one of three categories: vacationers, prisoners, and learners.  The vacationers motivation for attending training is to “chill out” and get a break from the daily grind of the shop. 
     The prisoner doesn’t see the need to come to class, and is only there because the boss requires it. The learner is someone who desires to gain the necessary knowledge to grow personally and professionally. 

     You can use the ugly baby principle to convert your vacationers and prisoners into learners.          

Let’s suppose you're sending your service writer named “Mary” to class.  The first step is to set the expectation BEFORE Mary arrives that she will come back with a minimum of three takeaways to improve the business. 

After she returns, get her to complete the takeaway worksheet, notating what she will do based on what she learned.  Lastly, during your weekly one on ones, review Mary’s worksheet to verify she is doing what she said. 

Since people support what they help to create, starting the conversation with the phrase “you said you would...” will remind her that it’s her baby, and increase the likelihood of future follow through. 

  Team Meetings

1.  You schedule a team meeting with the goal of improving morale and keeping everyone on the same page.  Unfortunately,  many of these gatherings are really gripe sessions in disguise.  The writers complain about the technicians and the technicians complain about the writers in an epic “us vs. them” battle. 

     In spite of your good intentions, employees tend to view these meetings as an hour of their life they will never get back!   The solution is to implement “the notebook technique” at your next get-together.  This has also been referred to as “Eating the elephant”.

Here’s how it works:  You purchase a spiral bound notebook for each employee. Then, have everyone walk the entire shop starting from the parking lot notating everything that’s working well, and areas in need of improvement. 

Next, conduct a meeting where you list everything they found in both the good and bad categories.  Starting with the good findings will allow you to maintain a positive tone.  From there, get a consensus from the team on the top two items that need to be addressed. 

Bay cleanliness and courtesy check compliance usually sort to the top.  Your employees will be more inspired to keep the bays clean and perform courtesy checks if the idea was their “baby” and not just yours.    


So there you have it.  Giving your people ownership of their training takeaways and team meetings will improve compliance and keep you from crying like a baby after talking with your accountant! 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  If you would like my “Ugly Baby meeting kit” that includes a weekly meeting agenda template along with the “notebook technique”, email and I will send it. 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Are You The Shop Nazi?

Are You The Shop Nazi?


Eric M. Twiggs

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

One of my favorite characters from the sitcom Seinfeld was “The Soup Nazi”.  This episode aired in 1995, and featured actor Larry Thomas playing the role of the no-nonsense New York soup vendor. The character was inspired by a real soup vendor named Ali, whom the show’s producers were patrons of at the time.

He maintained a harsh, and demanding tone with his customers, insisting they place their orders according to his strict guidelines. Engaging the consumer was not a concern.  It was all about him.

He would famously yell: “No Soup For You” to anyone who failed to comply with his demands.  Customers tolerated this mistreatment because they believed that if you wanted get a great bowl of soup, he was the only option in town.

I was recently watching this episode, and the following question came to mind: Would the Soup Nazi model work in 2016?

“No Sales for you!”  This is what today’s customer would tell our friend from Seinfeld. Thanks to the internet, the competition is only one “mouse click” away.  I could Google the phrase “soup near me” and find five other businesses offering the best soup in town. 

The abundance of options has leveled the playing field.  The winning shop’s today, are those that focus on delivering a memorable experience.  

Are you The SHOP Nazi?   Keep reading and you will learn two factors that may lead to your customers to feel this way

Lacking an employee recognition program

How you treat your internal customers determines how they treat the external ones. According to a recent study done by the Cvent Web Survey organization, customer retention rates are 18% higher when employees are engaged

 In other words, if your employees are engaged, they will be more likely to create an engaging experience with your customers. What do you do as a team to have fun?  What rewards do you have in place for someone who creates a memorable customer experience?

 A rewarding work environment will get your people to buy into the bigger picture.  Shop Nazi’s are only focused on what they want.   A formal recognition program will shift your employee’s attention from themselves to your customers.

Having to ask for referrals

One of my fellow coaches attended a Disney Cruise last week.  When he returned to the office, he spent thirty minutes telling me about the experience, and recommending that I take my family.  I am willing to bet he was never approached by the president of Disney and asked to give a referral. 

They delivered such a memorable experience, that talking about it was a natural response.  How many customers gave you a referral last week without you approaching them to give one? 

There’s nothing wrong with requesting referrals.  However, only getting the referrals you ask for is a sure sign of a forgettable experience.  Disney doesn’t have to ask.   Do you?


During the Seinfeld episode, The Soup Nazi would yell “NEXT” after denying service to his customers.   What will you do NEXT to recognize your people and create an experience that produces unsolicited referrals? 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I have a “Customer Experience Kit” that includes employee recognition best practices and a customer exit interview survey.    Email  and I will send it to you. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Secret To Losing Sales

The Secret To Losing Sales


Eric M. Twiggs

“Failure isn’t fatal. But failure to change might be.” John Wooden

What’s the secret to losing sales? If you are looking to gain insight on a secret, it helps to recognize the clues.  In her book “Presence, Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges”, Harvard University Psychologist Amy Cuddy, mentions a study that was done of 185 Venture Capitalist who spent their days listening to sales pitches from entrepreneurs looking to receive funding for their startup venture. 

These “angel investors” would decide which business to invest in based on what they heard from the business owners seeking the capitol.  The goal for the owner was to sell the capitalists on why they should invest in their venture.

During the study, the investors were asked what clues they looked for when deciding who to invest with and who to reject. Their findings may help you to understand why you have lost sales in the past.  The #1 clue the investors looked for was if the “sellers” believed their own story.  

The capitalist paid close attention to eye contact, passion, and confident body language.  Based on this observation, they could tell if something was off.  One of the surveyed investors made an interesting comment: “If they don’t buy what they’re selling, I don’t buy what they’re selling.”

Here is the secret to losing sales: Embrace a belief that doesn’t line up with your goals.   Just like the investors, your customers can tell when something seems off.  

Remember that customer you had last week who called around to price shop the estimate the writer gave him, even though his car was apart in your bays?  It’s possible, that the writer who presented the estimate didn’t believe his own story.   Keep reading and you will learn two additional clues to determine if you have a non-believer in your building.   

The Broken Record

I remember a service writer who I coached to schedule the exit appointment.   We would role play exactly what to say and how to say it. I repeated myself so much, I felt like a broken record.   In spite of my efforts, the results never changed!

The following week, this writer attended our service advisor class and told the other attendees that our teachings didn’t work “in the real world”, because the customers in his area didn’t like to make appointments.

He was unable to sell his customers on scheduling their service, because they could feel his lack of buy in.   Does your coaching of the phone script, courtesy check, and exit appointment process leave you feeling like a broken record?

If they have the ability to perform the task, but are failing to do so, a limiting belief may be the root cause. You will continue to feel like a broken record if you keep repeating yourself, instead of confronting their misguided beliefs.

Blaming Your Customers  

Back when I was a district manager, I had a sales problem in one of my shops.  I was convinced that the problem was the customers in that area. This location was in an urban environment, and had a reputation of being a low performer.  

The results were so bad that I had to lay off “Joe” the service manager and promote his assistant to replace him.  This move set off a surprising chain reaction.  Twelve customers who hadn’t been to the shop in over a year came back, thanking me for making the change!  They each told me the only reason they were returning was because Joe was gone!

The problem wasn’t the area or the customers.  It was Joe!  I was guilty of embracing the misguided belief that the customers were to blame.  My sales at this shop didn’t improve until I recognized that the blame always belonged on my side of the counter.  

So there you have it.   Having to sound like a broken record, and hearing your customers take the blame, are two indicators of limiting beliefs.   If you ignore these clues, you will master the secret of losing sales! 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Do you have someone at your shop who blames your customers or the area for their results?  Email me and I will send you a tool to help you get a true picture of your customer demographics based on your zip code.