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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What About About Your Legacy?

What About About Your Legacy?


Eric M. Twiggs

“We are faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.  We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

After many months of struggle, “Mark” was finally turning the corner.  The year was 2012 and he was the owner of a Midas in the Midwest.  Making payroll wasn’t a problem, and he was no longer consumed with the concept of cost cutting. 

Mark believed that time was on his side and confident of the direction things were moving in.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train!  I was looking forward to our upcoming Monday morning coaching call.

I called the shop and “Steve” his service advisor answered.   I greeted Steve and asked for Mark.  There was silence on the line.  I asked Steve again to find Mark for me.  Once again, there was no reply from Steve. 

In a loud tone of frustration, I asked “Hello, Steve can you get Mark on the phone?”  To which he replied “No Eric, Mark won’t be coming to the phone.  On Saturday, he suffered a massive heart attack and passed away!”  

This threw Mark’s family and employees for a loop.  His wife took over the business and struggled with the day to day operations. 

The following questions kept coming up: “Who did Mark call for building & equipment maintenance?”, “How and when do the employees get paid?” “Where do I find the bank account passwords?”

Since Marked worked IN instead of ON the business, he handled these tasks himself.  As a result, all the information was in his head and not on paper. Within a year, the family decided to close the shop.   This was not the legacy that Mark intended to leave. defines a legacy as anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.   In his hit play “Hamilton”, Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda describes a legacy this way: “Its planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” 

Here’s what you should know about your legacy:  Your decisions today, will impact your family & employees tomorrow.   

What about your legacy?  Keep reading to learn about the two decisions you need to make to ensure you leave the legacy you intend to leave. 

Decide On Your Replacement

Over the past eight years I’ve met shop owners who have achieved consistently good results.  I have also met those who have achieved great results and made the ATI Top 12 on a regular basis.  In most cases, the good and great performers have had a similar level of “know how”, when it came to fixing cars and running the business.

So, what separates the great from the good you ask? There are two factors: 1. The great have a bias towards taking action.(for more details, read my previous blog post)  2. They have a strong 2nd in command, who can produce exceptional results with or without them being there!   As a shop owner, you won’t experience true greatness, until you decide on your replacement.

Mark was starting to achieve good results at his shop, but he never decided on a replacement.  As a result, there wasn’t anyone to maintain the momentum after his passing.  His decision not to hire a 2nd in command impacted his family and his employees.   

Have you decided on your replacement?  The first step in the process is to build a job description based on the tasks and duties you would expect this individual to perform. 

Second, you would look at your current employees to determine if anyone meets the qualifications.  Lastly, I recommend reviewing a current wonderlic personality test for the candidate you are considering. 

Decide To Create a Succession Plan

A recent study, known as The Legacy Project, was conducted by Dr. Karl Pillemer at Cornell University.  He surveyed over 1200 senior citizens living in an assisted living community.  He asked them to reflect on what the biggest regret of their life was. 

You may be surprised by what they recorded as the number one answer:   The amount of time they wasted worrying about the future.   By creating a succession plan, you can minimize the amount of time you spend worrying about those worst-case scenarios. 

When you have a solid plan, you can fearlessly face the future.  As we have seen from the opening story, just having a plan in your head, isn’t enough. The key is to create a written plan that gets communicated to your family members, 2nd in command, estate attorney, accountant, 20 group members, and your ATI coach.  

For more information on how to create your plan, I invite you to attend the ATI Shop Owners Part 5 course on Succession Planning.  You can also consult with your Coach. 


If Mark had decided on his replacement, and created a succession plan, he would have left a different legacy.    Are you happy with the seeds you’re planting today for the garden of tomorrow?   Sounds like you have some decisions to make.


The Accountability Coach

PS.  Want to create a succession plan but don’t know where to start?  Email and I will send you my succession planning resource kit. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Uncomfortable Truth About Hiring

The Uncomfortable Truth About Hiring




Eric M. Twiggs


“Every experience in your life is being orchestrated to teach you something you need to know to move forward.” –Brian Tracy

“Jeff”, a shop owner in Southern California, was stuck working IN the business.  Since HE was the service manager, He couldn’t attend his son’s soccer games.  It was so bad, that when his wife would take little Jeff the games, men were asking her out on dates. 

They thought she was a single parent, because Jeff was never with her!  But everything was about to change because he had finally found “Bob” the service manager candidate he had been looking for. 

Bob had responded to Jeff’s craigslist ad and passed the face to face interview with flying colors. He arrived on time wearing a sharp suit.   Bob took the wonderlic personality test, and scored as an ideal fit for the role. 

Bob even took the time to write Jeff a hand written thank you note, thanking him for the opportunity to interview.  The final step of the process was for Jeff to check Bob’s references.  Based on how things were going, Jeff saw this as a mere formality.  

Jeff called   Bob’s former Boss and here’s how the call went: {Jeff} “So Bob worked for you from January of 2008 to May of 2012?” {Boss}:” YES”  {Jeff} “Good! Bob tells me that he was your service manager for that entire time.” {Boss} Yes. {Jeff} “Great! Knowing what you know today, would you rehire Bob?”  {Boss} ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! 

He went on for the next fifteen minutes talking about all the customer complaints he had to clean up after Bob left him without giving notice.   How was Jeff so wrong about Bob?  It’s because he ignored the uncomfortable truth about hiring.

And here it is: When evaluating a candidate, their past performance is the strongest predictor of future behavior.  I have found this to be true based on having conducted more than one thousand interviews over the past twenty years. 

During that time, I have noticed that most of the “job hoppers” I hired, ended up hopping jobs on me.   The candidates who said bad things about their former bosses, eventually said bad things about me.  By asking better questions, both Jeff and I would have made better decisions. 

So, what questions can you ask during the interview to get to the uncomfortable truth?  I will explain as you read on.
Tell Me More?


I was recently interviewing a candidate who told me that he left his most recent shop because there was a change in ownership.  I replied: Tell me more?  He then told me that the owner wanted to bring in someone younger to work with the customers.  I replied: tell me more? Next, he did what Bryan Stasch refers to as turning states evidence!  

He said the new owner terminated him for failing to meet his sales quotas, but he felt the real reason was his age!   By asking for more information, we moved from “a change in ownership” to the uncomfortable truth about his performance.    

During the interview, you will get to the truth faster if you commit to talking 20% of the time and allowing the candidate to talk 80%.  Low performers tend to talk in generalities, with the goal of hiding previous performance issues.  When you ask: “tell me more?”, they will feel compelled to provide the specifics you are seeking. 
What Will She Say WHEN I Ask?

In their book Who, The A Method of Hiring, Geoff Smart and Randy Street mention that the average hiring mistake can costs a company up to 12 times the salary of the individual, when you factor in the following costs:  Compensation, benefits, training, severance pay, lost customers, and lost opportunities. 

To help overcome this expensive mistake, Smart and Street provide a listing of excellent interview questions to help the reader.   There is one question that is very effective.

They recommend asking the candidate about their previous supervisor’s opinion of their performance as follows:  First, you ask the candidate for the name of their previous supervisor.  Let’s say her name is “Lisa.” Next, you would ask: “WHEN (not if) I call Lisa, what will she say WHEN I ask her to rate your overall performance on a scale of 1-10?” 

Adding the word WHEN sends the message that you’re going to check the reference. Knowing that you will verify whatever they say, can motivate them to provide an honest response.   The 1-10 question will get you a specific answer regarding their past performance.

According to Smart and Street, scores below an 8 should be considered as red flags.  Asking this question about multiple references will give you a clearer picture of the prospect.



 I am happy to report that Jeff learned from this experience, and started using the earlier mentioned questions during his interviews.  He eventually hired a strong service manager, who has freed him up to attend his sons Soccer games. 

If you commit to asking the right questions, listening to the answers, and hiring the right people, will you be STUCK working IN your business?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!   


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  For a complete list of the latest interview questions that will get you to the uncomfortable truth, email and I will send them. 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Fastest Way To Increase Your Pay

The Fastest Way To Increase Your Pay


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

It was the year 2000 and “Andrew” was working as a part time pizza delivery person in Naples Florida. Every other Friday, he would deliver a lunch time order to Auto Europa, the local auto repair facility.  Over time, Andrew and “Scott”, the shop owner, became friends. 

One fateful Friday, Scott was summonsed to appear in court and had to leave the shop. He noticed that this particular Friday was his busiest Friday ever. 

(By the way, how do your customers know to show up when you’re the most shorthanded?)  When Andrew arrived with his typical pizza order, Scott greeted him with an unusual request.

“Andrew, I have to leave right now!  Can you answer the phones for the next few hours while I’m gone? I’ll give you a free oil change for helping me out.” To which Andrew replied: “Sure Scott no problem.  I’ll do my best.”

Later that day Scott returned to the shop expecting the worst.  What he found caught him by surprise.  Andrew had scheduled three appointments for the following week and converted one of the incoming calls into a $1,500 sale!  Scott was so impressed that he hired Andrew to be his full time service advisor.   

Andrew was promoted from part time pizza delivery to full time service writing. By doing a great job on the phones, Andrew found a way to increase his pay!  

There are two lessons that can be learned from this story:  1. Remember to ask your local pizza delivery person if he’s ever considered a career in automotive.   2. Being great over the phone is the fastest way to increase your pay!  

Today we will focus on being great over the phones!  Stay on the line and you will learn the two keys to increasing your pay. 

Understand The Math

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that according to a recent Experian Automotive report, 68% of all customers call an automotive repair facility first before visiting. 

The bad news is that based on the results of the random phone shops conducted by Randy Somers in his service advisor classes, only 4% of the service advisors offer to make the customer an appointment.

To put this math in perspective, for every 100 advisors in North America, only 4 are answering the phones correctly. (4/100=4%) 

If you understand the math, you will see that being great on the phone can give you a competitive advantage, and increase your pay.  Let’s suppose you have a $450 ARO and by following the ATI phone script, you invite one additional customer per day to your shop. 

That would work out to $2,250 per week of additional revenue ($450 X 5) and over the course of 52 weeks, you would pick up $117,000. ($2,250 x 52) Understanding the math will inspire you to improve your focus on the phones, and ultimately increase your pay. 

Record and Review Your Calls

In his best-selling book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell addresses the following question: “What separates the top performers from the rest of the pack?”  Through his research, Gladwell discovered that the top performers in any arena engage in “deliberate practice.”

Deliberate practice is when you perform a task, get feedback on what you did wrong, and then perform the task again the correct way.  He concludes that consistent deliberate practice is required to become a world class performer.

Are you a world class performer when it comes to the phones?  Recording and reviewing your calls can move you in that direction.  Listening to how your service advisor is executing the script and then providing corrective feedback is the key.

It’s a bad thing to be a part of the 96% of shops in North America that aren’t inviting the customers to visit.  It’s even worse to be in this group, and not know that you’re in this group!  Recording and reviewing your calls will solve this problem, and put you on the path to becoming world class. 


So, whatever became of Andrew the pizza guy?  Today Andrew Farrar is the Owner of Auto Europa in Naples Florida.  His focus on answering the phones correctly, changed the trajectory of his career!  Once you understand the math, and record and review your calls, you can increase your slice of the pie as well! 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS. Email to receive a recording of what a great phone call sounds like! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Does Your Goal Have The Gulp Factor?

Does Your Goal Have The Gulp Factor?


Eric M. Twiggs


'Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.'  Les Brown

If ATI were to give out an award at The Super Conference, for The Lowest Labor Rate in the Country, “Patrick” would have been the winner! 

Patrick was a member that I coached several years ago, who owns a shop in Central Pennsylvania, where he charged a $70.00 per hour labor rate.  While his labor margins were low, his anxiety level on employee pay days was high. 

When reviewing his net profit goals, I reminded him that making payroll would become less of an issue if he raised his labor rate.   I could tell this made Patrick uncomfortable, because he swallowed so loudly, I could hear “the gulp sound”. 

Even though he was obviously uncomfortable, he responded “OK Eric, when we talk again next week, I will have raised my labor rate!” 

The following week, I was looking forward to our coaching call.   This was going to be the week where Patrick took the first step to becoming a profitable shop. 

I got Patrick on the phone and asked “Patrick, did you raise your labor rate, like we agreed?  “Yes, I did Eric!” He replied with an enthusiastic tone. “My new labor rate is now $71.00 per hour!”   

In his book, Unlocking Potential, Michael K Simpson coined the phrase “the gulp factor”, to describe those goals that stretch your comfort zone to the point where you make the “gulp” swallowing sound before setting them. 

For example, you won’t experience any sleepless nights prior to raising your labor rate by $1. However, raising your rate to exceed your local dealer, is a goal that comes with gulp factor fully assembled!

I know what you’re thinking: “Eric, the Les Brown quote was great, but I’m not like most people. Why do I need to aim high when setting my goals?”  Keep reading to lean the two benefits of setting gulp factor goals.  

You Will Attract The Right People

Imagine being in the front of the room doing a power point presentation for the members of your 20 group.  Next, imagine stopping mid-sentence to reach for your bottled water to take a drink.  Chances are, nobody would leave their seat to help you pick up the bottle.  Now, what if you stopped in the middle of your presentation to reach for the six-foot folding table in the corner of the room? 

Someone would get up to give you a hand.  Why? Because lifting a bottle of water isn’t a stretch for you.  Moving the six-foot folding table on the other hand, is difficult for you to manage by yourself, and will require help from others who are stronger than you. 

Let’s go back to the labor rate example.  You don’t need a coach or other successful shop owners to help you raise your labor rate by $1.  If you were increasing by $10, you would be more inclined to consult with your coach or others who have made this move to find out how they did it, and what they did to justify the value of their service to their customers. 

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the higher you advance as a shop owner, the more you must depend on others to achieve your goals.    If you commit to setting goals that make you uncomfortable, you will attract the right people. 

You Will Take Aggressive Action

I am always amazed at the number of shop leaders who respond to attending their first ATI class with the following statement: “I already knew that.”  What’s amazing is that those who make this statement leave ATI to return to a shop that is failing to achieve their desired outcomes. 

It’s taken me eight years to figure out why this happens, but here it is:  In most cases, the level of “know how” between the good performer and the great performer is similar.  What separates the great from the good is their ability to take the necessary level of action whether they feel like it or not.

It doesn’t take aggressive action to improve your Average Repair Order(ARO) by $20.   Setting a goal to improve by $200 would make you gulp, but you would be more likely to role play how you overcome objections, conduct daily courtesy check audits, and to verify that the writer was visiting the vehicle with every customer. 

Again, I know what you’re thinking: “But Eric, I may get depressed if I fall short of achieving my stretch goal.” Well, which scenario would be more depressing: Setting a goal to improve by $20 and achieving it, or setting a goal of improving by $200 and “only” improving your ARO by $100. (I was never a math whiz, but I believe $100 is more than $20)   

Failing to achieve a stretch goal, will take you further than succeeding with the simple goal.  The aggressive action that is required makes all the difference.    


After attending the shop owners class, Patrick increased his labor rate by $10.00.  The idea was such a stretch for him, that he was motivated to consult with the other shop owners in his class.  The mere idea of making such a move attracted the right people in the class to provide him with guidance. 

Their input motivated him to take aggressive action when he returned to his shop.   As a result, Patrick put more profit in his pocket.  If you commit to setting stretch goals, you can achieve the same outcome! Does your goal have the gulp factor? 

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

Not sure if you’re taking the right levels of action to achieve your portal benchmarks?  Email  and I will send you a “KPI Actions Document”