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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Secret To Holding Your People Accountable

The Secret To Holding Your People Accountable


Eric M. Twiggs

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.” Bill Phillips

What’s the secret to holding your people accountable?  As I ponder this question, I am reminded of a conversation I had with “Laura”, a shop owner who was trying to determine why her sales and customer count had been down on Saturdays.  In previous months, Saturdays had been her busiest day of the week, but over the past two months, sales had dipped by 25% year over year. 

The decline in sales occurred around the same time she placed “Patrick” as the assistant manager for the location.  And what was the one day of the week, that Patrick oversaw the operation by himself?  You guessed it, Saturday! 

“Eric, Patrick isn’t the problem! He’s great with customers, he told me that he schedules their next service and makes the follow up calls.” Laura stated with confidence. “OK Laura, is he following the sales process?” “Absolutely!  He told me that he visits the car with every customer every time!"

“Well, how does he do on the phones?” I asked.  “Eric, he’s great on the phones.  During our last one on one, he told me that he was following the phone script he got from Randy’s service advisor class.”   

My glass is usually “half full”, but this time I was skeptical.   I suggested that she begin recording all incoming and outgoing phone calls.  She agreed, got the call recording systems in place, and began the habit of listening to the recordings.    When we spoke again, I was surprised by what she found. 

“Coach, I have to admit, when you first asked me to record the calls, I didn’t see the point.  But then I listened to Patrick’s calls and heard him telling our Saturday customers that we close at 1:30pm, when we really close at 5!” 

Next, she conducted an unannounced shop visit the following Saturday, and saw that he wasn’t scheduling appointments or visiting the car with the customers.  None of the things he told her, were true!     This encounter reinforced the following secret to holding your people accountable: Always inspect what you expect.  

Has accountability been an issue at your shop?  Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In his book Unlocking Potential, Michael Simpson reported on a recent global survey that was conducted with over 50,0000 company employees from around the world.  

The survey concluded that 79% of the respondents felt they were not being held accountable for a lack of progress towards their organizations stated goals.    Stay with me to learn a two-step plan to master the accountability secret. 

Establish Your Non-Negotiables

I was having dinner at one of the chain restaurants recently and noticed an annoying trend.  The waiters each wore these buttons on their suspenders, and sang “the birthday song” whenever they became aware that it was someone’s birthday. Now I must admit, I don’t like the buttons and birthday song routine! 

When the manager stopped by my table to see how I was doing, I asked her the following question: “If I worked here and decided not to wear the buttons and sing the birthday song, what would happen?”  She replied: “You wouldn’t be working here for long!”   And then it hit me.  Wearing the buttons and singing the birthday song are examples of non-negotiables. 

Every job has certain tasks that must be done even if you don’t like them.  When I ran shops, following the phone script, doing the courtesy checks, and scheduling exit appointments fell into this category.    The tasks were critical to the culture I was building, so I was unwilling to negotiate or debate about them with my employees.    

What are the buttons and birthday song items that are critical to your culture?  I recommend putting them in writing and scheduling a meeting with your team to review.   As I previously stated, you must inspect what you expect.  Having clearly communicated non-negotiables is the first step because it lets everyone know what you expect from them. 

Trust What You Verify

During my career as a district manager, I would have meetings with my people where I laid out the non-negotiables.   Next I would have everyone sign a memo agreeing to do the courtesy checks, follow the phone script, and schedule the exit appointment. 

I would have conference calls the following week, where everyone told me they were doing what we agreed to.  My Vice President would call and ask if the shops were executing the non-negotiables, and I assured him that they were.  I trusted what they told me!

When my boss and I would visit a random location, we would find that the employees were doing everything except the courtesy checks, the phone scripts and the exit appointments!   Like Laura, I made the mistake of trusting without verifying.  This experience inspired me to create a show me list. 

I created a list of specific items related to the non-negotiables that the managers had to show me during the visit.   Instead of asking about courtesy checks I said: “Show me your courtesy checks from this week.”  Instead asking about the phone process, I directed them to:“show me your phone log.”  Instead of asking about exit appointments, I required them to: “Show me your appointment log.”  

Once I made a habit of inspecting what I expected, compliance improved.  Have you been trusting what you haven’t verified? Developing a show me list will keep everyone honest.


So, there you have it.  Once you establish your non-negotiables and trust what you verify, you’ll be on your way to mastering the secret to holding your people accountable.   Trust me when I tell you that inspecting what you expect will increase your odds of become a Top Shop!

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS:  Not sure what to add to your show me list?  Email to receive your show-me checklist


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Are You A Victim Of Your Business?

Are You A Victim Of Your Business?


Eric M. Twiggs

“99% of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”  George Washington Carver

In chapter two of their book Extreme Ownership, former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote about their experience initiating Navy Seal officer candidates.  The final week of testing was referred to as “hell week”.   They observed an interesting trend during one of the hell week sessions. 

As part of their initiation, the candidates were divided into six, seven-man boat crews that competed in a series of races against each other.  Out of the six teams, boat crew #2 won every race in the series while crew #6 finished dead last each time.  The leader of crew #6 blamed his crew members and his crew members blamed each other. 

He believed that the winning leader was lucky, because he inherited a better team which gave him an unfair advantage.  To resolve this debate, Babin swapped boat leaders sending the leader of crew #2 to boat #6 and vice versa.   After making the change they resumed the races.  What do you think happened next?

You guessed it, with the new leader in place, the losing boat crews luck suddenly changed!  Boat crew #6 went from worst to first by winning the rest of their races, with crew #2 finishing second. Why did such a small change make a big difference? The winning leader took full responsibility for everything that happened on his boat.  The leader of the losing boat pointed the finger at his people as the reason for his failure.   

Here’s the big takeaway: You won’t feel accountable for your results until you become responsible for your reasons.   What “reasons” are holding you back from success?   Here are the most common examples that I hear: “The vendors say that all the shops in my area are slow.” “There aren’t any good technicians in my market.”  “Eric, you need to visit me, so you can see that my customers are different.”

During my career as a district manager, I would replace a shop manager who made one of these statements with a new leader, and suddenly the losing location would start winning.    Since they embraced their reasons, both the boat leader and shop manager were playing the role of the victim.

Are you a victim of your business?  Stay with me to learn to strategies that can help you move from victim to victor.   

Practice “My Fault Management”

I was speaking with a shop owner recently who was complaining about the state of his business.  He went on for twenty minutes telling me all about the mild winter, his bad local economy, and the industry shortage on technicians.   I asked him to tell me one thing he had done in the past week to improve business and the line went silent! 

Before I could hang up and dial 911, he admitted that he hadn’t done anything to improve his business. And, why would he?    Since he didn’t believe he was responsible, he didn’t feel accountable.  He was a victim of his business.   

The solution is to assume that everything that happens in your business is your fault.  This is what’s known as “my fault management.”  Phones not ringing? Your fault!  Now that your responsible, you will be motivated to adjust your marketing efforts.  Customers declining your estimates? Your fault!  Now that you’ve taken the blame, you will be more likely to start practicing the sales process.

Don’t have the right techs?  Your fault!  Now that its your fault, you will be more inclined to post a hiring banner and commit to the minimum number of interviews you will conduct each month.  The sooner you take the blame, the faster you’ll experience the gain. 

Establish a Winning Culture

After reading about the boats, I was left with the following question: How was boat crew #2 still able to finish in second place, even after losing their great leader?  And then it hit me.  It was because the leader had established a winning culture.  A sure sign of a winning culture is that people do the right things whether the leader is present or not.

When a winning behavior is ingrained in your culture, it becomes a natural part of what you do.  For example, the Les Schwab Tire Company has been a consistent winner in the automotive industry when comes to customer satisfaction Index scores. 

The service advisors have been trained to run out to the car to greet the customer in the parking lot.   This behavior has been talked about so much during their meetings and training sessions, that it happens whether the boss is watching or not.  Everyone understands, that if you want to work for Les Schwab, you run to the car.   It’s what they do. 

As you attempt to build a winning culture, keep in mind that what you do speaks louder than what you say.  The losing boat leader played the blame game and so did his people.   This makes practicing my fault management critical to establishing a winning culture.


So, there you have it.  Practicing my fault management and establishing a winning culture will help you to move from victim to victor.    If you aren’t taking extreme ownership, you’re missing the boat. 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Looking to establish a winning culture, but don’t know where to start?  Email to receive the five keys to a winning culture. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's The One Thing You Need To Succeed?

What's The One Thing You Need To Succeed?


Eric M. Twiggs

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Ron” had just graduated from college with the hopes of landing a job as the sporting goods manager with a major retail chain.  He was a star athlete in college, so he figured the sporting good department was a good starting point that would lead to his goal of becoming the general manager.

Ron had this track record of succeeding at whatever he attempted to do.  He was a great student, great athlete, and popular on campus.  Success seemed to follow him wherever he went.

He approached the job interview with confidence, feeling good about his chances of getting the position.  His confidence grew after his Monday morning interview with the hiring manager. He was dressed for success, and felt that he had great answers to her questions.  As the interview concluded, Ron was told that he would be contacted at the end of the week, with the final decision.

That Friday Ron received the call from the manager informing him that they had decided to pass on him and hire another candidate. He was so disappointed, that he went home crying to his mother.   For the first time in his life, Ron experienced a major failure.  Before you hit the delete button, keep reading because this sad tale does have a happy ending.

His failure to get the sporting goods manager job led him to pursue a radio broadcasting career.  The exposure he received from being on the radio led him to pursue acting.  His popularity as an actor opened the door for him to enter politics. 

The “Ron” in the story is Ronald Reagan, and historians believe that if he had succeeded in getting the sporting goods manager job, he may have never become President of the United States.  In other words, failure was the key to his success. 

Did the employment ad you just ran fail to generate any responses?  Did the “A” player you just hired fail to show up for his first day?  Did your recent marketing campaign fail to make the phones ring?

When I’ve experienced these types of setbacks, it felt like a punch to the gut.   That “punch” can be a signal of progress, if you maintain the right perspective.   Keep reading to learn why failure is the one thing you need to succeed. 

You Get Feedback

During my career, I’ve been trained to focus on success.  I’ve created vision boards, had written goals, and maintained a positive outlook.  My glass is always half full.  So, I was surprised to hear “Chubby” make the following statement at our last company meeting: “For our company to succeed in 2017, I need you to fail faster!”

 As I sat there, I wondered: “Why would Chubby encourage me to fail?”  And then it hit me.  You get more usable feedback from failure than success, so failing faster means learning faster.

During the time that Thomas Edison was struggling through the process of inventing the light-bulb, he was widely viewed as a failure.  He perceived his failures to be feedback.  Here is what he said: “I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   The key to getting usable feedback from your failure is to focus more on what you learned than what you lost.   

You may have lost money on your employment ad, but your learned how to write a better one next time.  You may have lost the “A” player, but you learned to do better job of staying in touch with candidates once they accept your offer. You may have lost money on your marketing campaign, but you learned to target the right demographic for the next promotion. 

 Feedback is so critical to your success that author and management expert Ken Blanchard refers to it as “the breakfast of champions.”  Failing faster gets you more feedback.

You Can Achieve Mastery

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the world to “The 10,000-hour rule.”  Based on his research, he concluded that achieving mastery in any discipline required 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. 

This level of practice occurs when you perform a task, get feedback on your failures, and then perform the task again the correct way.    This explains why someone can have thirty years of experience as a shop owner and not achieve mastery

Without deliberate practice, thirty years of experience is the same as one year’s experience repeated thirty times.

It’s impossible to achieve mastery without embracing failure.   The critical step to embracing failure is to assume responsibility for everything that happens in your business.  For example, you can’t achieve marketing mastery, if your local economy is to blame for low car count.  You won’t master the sales process if the customers are to blame for low margins. 

Once you become responsible, you will be positioned to learn from your failures and move forward in the correct way.


Ronald Reagan’s story teaches us that failure is a necessary step to success.  Embracing failure is the key to getting feedback and achieving mastery.  Failure may not get you to the White House, but it may lead to you becoming a Top Shop!

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS:  I have created a special tool to help you focus on what you can learn from your failures.  Email and I will send it. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Answer To Your Car Count Question

The Answer To Your Car Count Question


Eric M. Twiggs

 “Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution” Naveen Jain

“What can I do to get more cars?”  asked “Mark”, an ATI member who was experiencing the winter blues.    He was averaging thirty-nine hundred dollars in weekly mechanical sales and thirteen cars.

It was hard to understand why car count was an issue because Mark has one hundred fifty Google reviews with a 4.8-star average!  He has a great looking website and appears on the first page whenever you search the high traffic key words on Google.

Mark also has a series of commercials that play on the local cable stations that his customers always mention seeing.    Since Mark records all of his incoming phone calls, I asked him to send me some recordings, to see what I could learn. 

He sent over three recordings of his service advisor named “Tom”.  On each call, Tom failed to invite the customer to the location, and had a tone of voice that would cure your insomnia.  At night, you could play these recordings and immediately fall asleep!  

We decided to switch things up by giving his other service advisor named “Dave” responsibility over the phones, since he had an energetic personality and tone of voice.  Tom was only allowed to answer the phones when Dave was unavailable, and to get the customer’s name and phone number for Dave do the call back.   

This minor change had a major impact.  The following weeks, the shops sales improved to a ninety-five-hundred-dollar weekly average on twenty cars!  According to Mark, the only thing he’s doing differently is having Dave answer the phones.  

This proves that executing the phone process is the answer to your car count question.    I know what you’re thinking: “Cute story Coach, but what do Tom’s phone failures have to do with me?”

Well, based on the data that has been gathered from ATI instructor Randy Somers, there’s a 96% chance that you have a phone execution issue.  He’s phone shopped over fourteen hundred locations and only sixty-four (4%) invited the customer to the shop. 

96% of these shops failed execute the phone process.   So how can you leverage the phones to answer the car count question?  Stay with me and I will explain. 

Hear Them Smile

One of my fellow coaches named Ray, used to work for the Midas Corporation twenty years ago.  He told me that each location had mirrors connected to the counter that were labeled with the following words: “How Am I Doing?” 

My initial thought was that the Midas service writers had a serious vanity issue and needed to check their ego at the door!    But Ray assured me that the mirrors had everything to do with the Midas customer service culture. 

Their writers were trained to smile whenever they were on the phone.  The mirror served as their monitor to make sure they were executing their phone process with a smile.  Smiling on the phone was so ingrained into the Midas culture that failing to do so was a terminable offense! 

Studies show that your voice conveys 84% of the message over the phone, with only 16% coming from the actual words you use.     When you commit to executing the script with a smile, you send a positive message to your customer that can cause them to choose you over the frowning competitor. 

Tom’s tone would make you snore, but a smile can get the customers to your door.  When you listen to your writer’s phone calls, do you hear them smile?

Ask For The Appointment

If your advertising budget has increased, but your car count has decreased, the natural tendency is to blame your advertising.  The purpose of your advertising is to get the phone to ring. Therefore, the purpose of the phone call is to invite the customer to the shop.

According to research done by author and sales guru Kenneth Polino, a customer with an appointment is three times more likely to come in and make a purchase, than one who doesn’t.   As we saw with Mark’s shop and Randy’s study, the most common problem is the failure to ask.    

I’ve discovered that the desire to diagnose is a leading cause of the failure to ask.  Imagine having a tooth ache and calling your dentist to find out why.  He probably wouldn’t say: “Sounds like you need a root canal which is $900!”

 As much as he wants to help you over the phone, his priority would be to make you an appointment so he can see the problem and then make an accurate diagnosis. 

Here’s the big takeaway that will help you overcome the desire to diagnose:   The best way to help your phone customer, is to set her up with an appointment to visit you.   Asking for the appointment will put you in the top 4% of shops in America. 


So, there you have it.  If they can hear you smile and you ask for the appointment, you will have answered the car count question.  What minor changes do you need to make to your phone process, to have a major impact in 2017? 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS:  We have a new and improved phone script to help you answer the car count question.  Email and I will send it to you.