Not counting shops like a Midas, Tuffy or Quick Lube, there are approximately 134,000 independent automotive repair shops currently in operation in the U.S. market today. Most of them are probably pretty good to very good. A small minority would be considered great. Can you say your shop is Good? Can you say your shop is Great?
Where do you start when you want to take your shop from Good to Great?
In his book titled Good to Great, author Jim Collins said, “good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons that we have so little that becomes great.”
Think of companies outside our industry that you consider great. I would consider Microsoft to be great; it’s constantly innovating, it’s deeply ingrained in most of our country’s industries, schools and home life. I also would consider Starbucks to be a great marketer, not because of the coffee, but because they have grown from a local coffee shop to an international chain of high-priced coffee that everybody’s gotta have.
When I think of great leaders, Rudy Giuliani comes to mind. He was a great leader during the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks.
In a nutshell, I think greatness comes from understanding what you can be the best at, combined with a strong passion to provide great leadership, and lastly, an understanding of what drives the profitability of your enterprise. All three elements are equally important, because one without the other two will not deliver a great company. And accomplishing two, but not all three, will provide a good company, but not a great company. To me, success begins with leadership in all three elements.
In order to go from good to great, you must first identify where in your company these elements exist, then create a strategy for improvements on them.
Understanding Your Strengths
Understanding is the critical term here. Understanding what you can be the best at is not the same as wanting to be the best at something. With understanding your strengths, comes a realization of what your weaknesses are. When you look at your day-to-day business, do you find that you (your company) can be the best at underhood service, but only OK at body work? Then consider directing your resources to being the best underhood service shop and losing the body work part of the business. Or if you started out as a full-service shop, but over the years have found that your team really excels at undercar service, reconsider where you place your resources, both personnel and financial.
What Are You Deeply Passionate About?
You’re the leader of this team. What gets you going in the morning and keeps you working late at night? I hope it’s a passion for your work and not merely a desire to get the bills paid. Without passion, you will only be good, never great. And you will certainly not be able to lead your team to greatness.
Examples of passionate leaders who have led great teams are everywhere — of course one of the most recognizable is Vince Lombardi, but the legends include Joe Gibbs, Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Tommy Lasorda and Bo Schembechler. You probably have your own list. Read their biographies and consider the careers of these men. You can apply what worked for them in your own situation and be a leader of a great team.
What Drives Your Profitability?
This is a very important element of the Greatness idea. Without profitability, you’re going to be deeply passionate about something you’re really good at, but not for long because you won’t be paying any bills! So, you need to understand what generates profitability for your shop. Try to develop some key measurements to help you focus your thinking and strategy.
Perhaps right now you measure profit per employee, but it might make more sense to measure profit per job, or profit per bay, or profit per customer. I would recommend you take your time with the profitability aspect and really get to understand it. Create new measures if you don’t already have them in place, and share them with your people, so they understand how important their actions are to the overall success of the enterprise.
Determine if you want to go from Good to Great. Then develop the strategy to get there. If you’re interested in an easy-to-read study of companies in the U.S. that have gone from Good to Great, I would recommend picking up Jim Collins’ book. Or, if you’re ever in the Akron area, stop by and I’ll loan you my copy.
One more note, I’ve taken another step into the digital world. In late February, I started a blog. It’s simply a website of thoughts, ideas, commentary and experiences that I put together for you, the TechShop reader, to take a look at every now and then. You can find it at www.techshop-ets.blogspot.com. I welcome you to read it, bookmark it, check it frequently and certainly send me your comments.