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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Four-Minute Rule

The Four-Minute Rule


Eric M. Twiggs

The cost of hiring someone bad is so much greater than missing out on someone good. - Joe Kraus.

Are you a victim of the four-minute rule?  I now realize this is what happened to my former client “Randy” back in 2010.  He had just completed an in-person interview with a service manager candidate named “Keith” and wanted me to do a follow-up phone screening. 

Randy believed Keith to be the “A” player he’d been looking for, but was bringing me in the loop to make sure.   According to Randy, Keith was “the cat’s meow”, “the greatest thing since sliced bread”, and any other metaphor you would use to describe a top performer!   I was looking forward to our upcoming call. 

The following day, I spoke with Keith and he initially seemed to be as good as advertised.  Our conversation took an interesting turn after I asked why he left his most recent job.

“There was a management change, and the new group wanted to move in a different direction.” He said.  “That’s Interesting, tell me more.” I replied. “Well Eric, they wanted someone younger for the position.  “Is that what they told you?” I asked.

His response was classic: “No, they told me it was because of my poor sales performance and low CSI scores.  But I think age was the real reason!”  How did these details get past Randy? It’s because he was the victim of the four-minute rule. 

According to research conducted by Los Angeles Psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Zunin, the average person decides whether or not to hire someone within the first four minutes of the interview!  We gravitate towards people who are like us.  For example, Randy and Keith were around the same age and both started their careers working in dealerships. 

It’s possible these areas of common ground, caused him to overestimate Keith’s qualifications.  So what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you?    Keep reading and you will learn two strategies to keep you from getting stuck with a bad hire.

Recruit Before You Need To

Most recruitment processes begin out of desperation.   The more desperate you are, the less discerning you’ll be when interviewing.  When your discernment levels decrease, the odds of you falling victim to the four-minute rule increase.  

Under pressure, the natural tendency is to look for shortcuts to help with the hiring decision.   As mentioned earlier, the most commons shortcut is to hire someone with whom you have hobbies, personality traits, and experiences in common.   

The solution is beginning your search while you’re fully staffed. When I mention this to clients, I normally get the following question: “But Eric, what if my employees find out that I’m looking?”  The key is to be proactive. 

Hold a meeting with your team letting them know you are advertising all positions at the shop to be prepared for the future business growth you anticipate.   Offer to pay them a referral bonus for referring you an “A” player they have worked with in the past.  I recommend the “up to $1,000 bonus” paid out at $250 per quarter. 

When you’re always looking, your people will be less alarmed by seeing your ads, and you’ll be positioned to make better hiring decisions.

Review Past Performance

When assessing a candidate, the strongest predictor of future production is their past performance.   In his book Topgrading, Dr. Bradford Smart defines an “A” player as someone who has a 90% chance to produce results that only the top 10% can accomplish. Taking the time to review past performance will keep you from making the four-minute mistake.

How did their results compare to their peers? Did they exceed their plan?  How would their supervisor rate their overall performance on a scale of 1-10?  Asking these questions for each previous job on their resume, will show you patterns and make it easier to predict how they will perform for you. 

The best way to ask these questions is to use what Dr. Smart coined as the T.O.R.C. (Threat Of Reference Check) method.  This is where you ask the candidate what their immediate supervisor will say WHEN (not if) you ask him about his performance.

For example: “How will Bob Jones rate your overall performance on a scale of 1-10 WHEN I ask him?   Knowing that you will verify their answers will cause your potential employees to think twice about stretching the truth!


Four minute decisions are easy to make, but hard to recover from.  Recruiting before you need to, and reviewing past performance using the T.O.R.C. method, will keep you from getting stuck with a bad hire. 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS:  I have created a Service Manager Scorecard, that can be used to determine if the person you are interviewing is truly an “A” player.  Email  and I will send it to you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The "Key" To Your Success

The "Key" To Your Success


Eric M. Twiggs

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key” The Eagles, (Already Gone)

As I reflect on the lyrics from the song “Already Gone”, I’m reminded of a retired dentist I read about named Jack, who started a consulting business in the Midwest. His clients blamed their declining sales on external factors like the area’s high unemployment rate and low median income.

Jack had a unique business model that separated him from his competition.  He only offered one service to the struggling dentists he called on.

Jack would contact all of their inactive customers who hadn’t visited the office in twelve months or longer.  For payment, all he required from the dentists was 5% of the sales resulting from his follow up calls.  This was surely a one sided deal in favor of his clients right?  Wrong!!

Jack made more money in his new venture than he ever did as a dentist, proving once again that the fortune is in the follow-up.  His clients were living their lives bound by the chains of low profit, not realizing they had the key to unlock themselves!

Is there a retired shop owner out there who could come to your shop and make a fortune off your failure to follow-up?   Stay with me and you learn two ways to make follow-up the key to your success.   

Personalize Your Contact Methods

According to the American Marketing Association, 68% of all business is lost due to a lack of follow up after the initial sale.  While it’s easy to use technology with every customer to automate this process, the key is to personalize your contact methods based on individual preference. 

Interview your clientele to determine how they prefer to be contacted.  For example, let’s say your customer wants to be contacted about her next appointment via phone call.  Sending her a text message may be convenient, but it will be costly to your bottom line when she doesn’t respond. 

The average customer receives up to 5,000 marketing message per day when you factor in television, radio, email, phone calls, and text messages.  Following up on your terms instead of your consumer’s will increase the chances of your message getting lost.  

Prepare A Phone Log

The phone log is one of the most under-utilized follow up tools at your disposal.  Most shops use it to track the percentage of customers who make an appointment.  It can also be used to follow up with the those who made an appointment, but never showed up.

The first step to phone log follow-up is getting the name and phone number on every incoming call.  I recommend asking during the beginning of the conversation, explaining that you need it in case you get disconnected.    

Next, you would create a binder where you file the weekly phone log data. Having a file will help you to monitor and measure the number of appointment “no show’s” you get each week.  A consistently high number would prompt you to address your service writers phone skills.  Since you can’t fix what you aren’t aware of, filing the phone log is a critical step. 

Lastly, you would call the prospects who didn’t come in as scheduled.  Did they have the work done at another shop?  Was there a hidden objection that was never addressed?  Even if they don’t come in, you can get valuable feedback to make you better on future phone calls. 


Personalizing your contact methods, and preparing a phone log will keep you from having a customer count that’s already gone!  Follow-up is the key to your success. 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I have created a script that can be used to contact customers who didn’t come in for their appointment.  Email  and I will send it.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What's Your Lose Number?

What's Your Lose Number?


Eric M. Twiggs

“Yes is the destination, NO is how you get there” Richard Fenton

In his book “Go For No”, Richard Fenton tells the story of a Chicago Insurance Company struggling to sell policies.   The typical agent was only selling 2 per month and the executive board was getting desperate.   The CEO decided to call in a well-known sales consultant to help them improve. 

 After spending thirty minutes reviewing reports and talking with the agents, the consultant communicated the following message to the leadership team: “Your people aren’t making enough sales calls!”

Sensing their disbelief, the sales guru asked them to participate in an experiment.  Each agent would spend the day in a randomly assigned territory selling door to door to new prospects. 

When the potential customer answered the door, the rep was only allowed to say: “You don’t want to buy life insurance today, do you?”   At the end of the day, they met back at the office to report their results.   

In spite of their sales pitch, every agent sold at least 1 policy.    Each rep visited 60 prospects and was rejected an average of 59 times, most with doors slammed in their faces!  Their day was a complete failure right?  Guess again.   The consultant used these findings to prove each seller needed to experience 59 daily failures to achieve their goal of 1 sale per day! 

This lose number completely changed the company.  Policy sales improved from 2 per month per agent to each rep selling 1 per day!

Bryan Stasch has taught you about your WIN number.   To win in sales, you need a lose number as well!

What’s your lose number?  Stay with me and you will learn my three step plan to figure out how much you need to lose in order to winWe will use the exit appointment and fleet sales as the example.  

1.       Establish a Measurement Tool

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  So before you can calculate your lose number, you need a reliable measurement tool.  Most shops use the daily estimate tracker to record information on each customer.  For exit appointments, they mark a Y in the appropriate column for every customer that said yes and an N for those who declined. Any documented patron who doesn’t have a Y or N in this column, is someone who was never offered an appointment.   

Having the tracking system gives you the opportunity to inspect what you expect, and positions you to hold your service writers accountable. 

Many shops have someone who’s designated with responsibility over fleet sales.  Using a tracking log to measure who they have visited, when they were there, and what the outcome was, will keep your fleet salesperson on track with your expectations.

 The insurance company story teaches us that sales is a numbers game.   The tracking log is a great tool to put those numbers on paper. 

2.       Set a Goal

Attempting to improve your sales without having a goal in sight, is like shooting baskets in the dark. You work up a sweat, but can’t tell if you’re winning or losing.  The solution is to identify and communicate specific goals for the number of exit appointments and fleet customers you expect each week. 
The target should be a number aggressive enough to make the advisor stretch, but achievable based on recent trends.  Asking someone who’s only been scheduling 4 appointments a week to now schedule 16 would be overwhelming. Setting a goal to improve from 4 to 8 would be a stretch, but achievable at the same time.    

3.       Know Your Conversion Rate

Now that you have a measurement tool, and have set achievable goals, you’re one step closer to calculating your lose number.  The final step is to know your current conversion rate.  For every 10 customers you ask to schedule an appointment, how many say yes?  How many weekly fleet cold calls result in a new sale?   

Based on my research of ATI clients, the average exit appointment conversion rate is around 50% and the typical fleet conversion rate is 30%   In other words, 5 out of every 10 customers says yes and 3 out of every 10 fleet attempts results in a sale.   To compare your results, divide your total number of successes into the total number of attempts for the last 4 weeks. 

Here is where your lose number comes in:  If your goal is to schedule 5 appointments per week, with a 50% conversion rate, you need to lose at least 5 times to hit your goal. (5 divided by 50% minus 5) On the fleet side, if your goal is 3 new fleets and your conversion rate is 30%, you need to hear the word NO a minimum of 7 times a week to succeed. (3 divided by 30% minus 3). 

Imagine what your fleet results would look like if you kept making calls until you achieved 7 no’s even though you hit your goal of 3 early in the week!


Establishing a measurement tool, setting a goal, and knowing your conversation rate, will allow you to set an accurate lose number for whatever you are selling.   Focusing on the NO’s is the insurance you will need for future success! 

         Eric M. Twiggs
        The Accountability Coach

 PS.  I have a Fleet tracking log you can use as a measurement tool to keep your fleet sales manager accountable and to track your lose number.  Email and I will send it

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How To Become The Best of The Best

How To Become The Best of The Best


Eric M. Twiggs

One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.  Rick Godwin

What separates the Top Shops from everyone else?  I pondered this while attending the awards banquet last week at the ATI Super Conference.  Out of 1400 shops in the program, only 12 are recognized as the Best of the Best based on their results and community involvement.  The answer to my question was revealed as I reviewed the name badges of each award winner.    

Upon registration, each conference attendee is given a name badge to wear around their neck.  This year, we labeled each badge with a listing of the previous Super Conferences the owner has attended.  When looking at the names of the Top Shops I observed an interesting trend: Each winner had attended at least 5 consecutive conferences. 

This begs the following question: Are they able to go every year because of their success or are they successful because they go every year?  I say neither.  The fundamental reason for their success, is their habit of making decisions that pay for themselves. 

Most shop owners only focus on the short term costs while ignoring the long term benefits.

For example, I have spoken with several clients who have told me the following: “I can’t send my writer to class for two days, because I’ll have to work the counter.”

The top shops, on the other hand, are willing to make this sacrifice knowing that one implemented idea from their advisor can pay for his trip!  So what other decisions do the best of the best shop owners make that payoff down the road?   Stay with me and you will learn about the two decisions these leaders have in common.  

Digital Tablet Courtesy Checks

While conducting my “Top Shop study”, I discovered some interesting trends. First, 11 of the 12 award winners are using a tablet based courtesy check system.  Secondly, the tablets chat feature, which allows tech’s to instantly communicate with the writers, customers, and each other, has reduced total nonproductive time by an average of 115 minutes per day in these locations!

The monthly fee ranges anywhere from $229 to $400 per month, depending on the provider and the chosen plan. The decision to invest in the digital tablets would pay for itself, even if you only sold one additional estimate per month. 

Imagine what your checkbook would look like if you sold an extra estimate per day in comparison to the paper courtesy check system!

Designated Service Manager

It’s hard to see the picture when you’re stuck inside the frame.   In other words, it’s difficult to focus ON your dreams while working IN the business.   This explains why each top shop has a designated service manager running their day to day operation.  The best examples of this are the most recent ATI Shop of the Year Award Winners Dave & Jan Murphy, owners of Murphy's Autocare. 

When they started their business back in 1994, Dave was the designated service manager at his location.  He worked around the clock and was unable to leave without closing the shop. Six years later he hired his replacement in spite of his fears of not being able to afford him.  This was a decision that paid for itself.

Today, Dave & Jan take an average of 12 weeks of vacation every year.  When they aren’t vacationing they attend 20 group meetings, ATI classes, and various industry conferences, while their designated service manager runs the shop.

The Murphy’s are sticklers for doing an annual goal poster.  It’s easier for them to see the pictures because they aren’t stuck in the “frame”. 


Becoming a top shop has everything to do with making decisions that pay for themselves.  Attending the Super Conferences, investing in the digital tablets, and hiring a designated service manager, will cause your customers to view you as the best of the best!


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  The best of the best service manager candidates are not actively looking for you.  Email and I will send you 5 specific strategies to attract these passive job seekers.