Monthly Archives: July 2012

In It… On It… Through It…

There is an entire universe of things I should be doing right now not the least of which is sleeping…
Yes, Sleeping!
You see I didn’t get quite enough sleep last week. It seemed like I moved directly from my chair at the service counter to my chair in my home office with just a few minutes spent eating and in quiet conversation with my wife at my chair at the dining room table. That’s a lot of sitting. But, more that that, it was a lot of working: especially, when there is a lot more Have To than Want To involved.
It was busy the week before and for that I am truly grateful. It’s the summer and ‘busy’ in a weak economy is a blessing. However, ‘busy’ is always better when it is manageable. Unfortunately, the problem with ‘busy’ is that it isn’t always manageable and it was anything but manageable last week.
When the dominoes begin to fall and things feel like they spiraling out of control it’s hard to do much more than default to what you know will work. I say that like it’s a conscious decision. It’s not… It may as well be an autonomic nervous system response: something you don’t think about, something that occurs without conscious thought or control.
Your days are filled with crisis management and damage control and your evenings with all the paperwork that didn’t get processed while you were busy doing everything else it takes to keep three technicians engaged, involved and productive.
Running a quality shop with a real commitment to “High Touch:” intimate communication with your clients throughout the process, is a contact sport. Anyone who has done this successfully knows that: anyone who doesn’t know or realize it, hasn’t done it or hasn’t done it successfully. Trying to achieve that level of performance when you are short-staffed and while you are breaking in a new office support person is self-destructive if not just plain suicidal, and that was my week last week.
When you are fully engaged working in your business it’s all but impossible to work on it. When you aren’t working on it the only thing you can be sure of is that no one else is working on it either. Long range planning grinds to a halt and the “Crisis Du Jour” is all there is.
Where are the parts you ordered for Infiniti? They should have been here thirty minutes ago!

What do you mean you can’t get a new dual mass flywheel for that ’01 Lincoln LS? How can that be possible? And, where in the world are we going to get it resurfaced if we can’t replace it?

Oh, my God! The automotive literacy clinic you’ve been planning, promoting and talking about for the past six months is this Saturday! How can that be? Are we ready?
The tapestry we weave every day is incredibly intricate. The pattern more complex than any of us realizes because we stand too close to recognize the detail.  I see it only because I’ve trained myself to see it. As a writer, it’s a big part of what I do. And, as a writer it’s my job to reflect on what I see. The problem is, we – any or all of us – can only process so much information at any given moment. That means we either disengage and back away or let the chaos wash over us hoping somehow we won’t drown in it.
I’ve learned to back away in order to at least try and gain perspective, attempt to recognize any discernable patterns and then formulate what seems like an appropriate response. The problem is when I do that, I detach almost completely: from just about everyone and everything. That’s one of the reasons that with the exception of the deadlines for my July columns for Motor Age and Aftermarket Business, I’ve been off the grid for the past couple of weeks.
That’s the bad news… The good news is that as a result of all that contemplation and reflection, I’m back and there lots to write about: lots to share, not the least of which is what has to feel like a dysfunctional process (Any process that allows the weight of all the responsibility to fall on the shoulders of just one person in a business that employs many people is dysfunctional in my opinion!).
Any process that leaves you drowning In It: wrestling with ten or twelve or thirteen hours of To Do’s and Have To’s in a ten hour day, instead of working On It, which as the Chief Executive Office of Chaos, Inc., is your job, is a problem.
And, anything that leaves you hoping for little more than getting Through It is certainly a lot less than any of us should find ourselves looking forward to.

Adopt-a-Shop: Paying it Forward

I recently had the opportunity to present at the 2012 ASCCA Summer Meeting, June 22, in Orange County, where I brought up a concept I’ve talked and written about in the past. That concept is: Adopt-a-Shop.
Gene Morrill, Owner of Certified Automotive Specialties in Glendora and a member of ASCCA Chapter 5 came up to me after the presentation and asked if I would put something together explaining this idea in a little more detail, either for the members of his Chapter of for the Board of ASCCA.
In thinking about what to do and how to do it, I decided create a short video first so I could see what I had to say about this idea of Adopting-a-Shop, before attempting to write it all down. The video is available here and on my YouTube Channel: 

If you have a moment, actually about sixteen moments, take a look and let me know what you think. I think it’s an idea worth sharing.

The first thing you need to know is that this is not a new idea… And, second, it isn’t really just mine. I was first exposed to the concept of reaching out to another shop owner in a very intimate and personal way by Ben Caswell, owner of Ben’s Transmission, in Santa Barbara, California, more years ago than either Ben or I would like to remember.
It started shortly after Ben attended a Terry Greenhut seminar and was exposed to Terry’s concepts of automotive shop management: his philosophy of successfully running an automotive service business, and it had a profound impact on both his life and his business…
Ben took those concepts to heart and made them work and in so doing turned his business around. In what was perhaps one of the first demonstrations of “Paying it Forward” I’d ever heard of, he chose to share what he’d learned with other shop owners in order to ensure they had the same opportunities he’d been given. In other words, he became an evangelist. But, unlike a lot of other evangelists, Ben chose to put his money where his mouth was!
The way he chose to practice his special brand of ‘paying it forward” was by personally choosing a shop owner he believed could or would benefit from being exposed to Terry’s message, and then paying for that shop owner to attend a subsequent seminar with a “You can pay me back from the additional profits you generate after you’ve implemented what you’ve learned and you can do it whenever you can….”
In many ways, this was the ultimate “Unconditional, No Risk, Money-Back Guarantee!” All the other shop owner had to do was show up with an open mind, which in many cases was asking a lot more than that statement might imply, and then just execute.
I know… It sounds a lot easier than it is, but difficult doesn’t necessarily mean impossible either!
The ultimate goal here is to elevate the repair community and build a stronger, more resilient, more profitable and successful service industry for us all. The goal is to increase association involvement and, perhaps, more important, commitment.
Having shop owners – especially, successful shop owners who are also active members of our associations- adopt another shop: a shop whose owner might be struggling, just might be the shortest and most direct way to accomplish those goals.
It certainly seems like the easiest way to accomplish them simultaneously.
And, that’s pretty much it… There are really very few among us who have not struggled: who have not left a lot of their own skin in the game while working their way toward success. There are few among who have not paid a significant price for those lessons in dollars, time and effort. And, there are few among us who would not or could not benefit if that experience was shared openly and willingly.
There are shops in our industry desperately in need of help. Shops and shop owners, struggling to survive every day. There are shops within our association that have an incredible amount of experience, wisdom and knowledge to share. Our job is to connect the dots
It sounds simple enough, but let’s not kid ourselves. This will not be a simple or easy fix. We have to overcome a number of issues, not the least of which are: our own insecurities, the insecurities of those we hope to help, our natural resistance to change – any kind of change: positive or negative, issues of trust on both sides of this inter-personal equation, the false notion of somehow losing your “competitive edge” – whatever that means, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept help from anyone – least of all someone who might be perceived as a competitor. But, nothing will ever change for any of us unless or until we overcome any and all of these obstacles and muster the courage to do something different, something bold, something decisive.
We have the knowledge base. We have members within our associations, within our industry, who have the knowledge and ability to change the lives of those marginal shop owners out there who are interested and willing to accept help. If successful, we can effectively double the size of our associations if we can get past the natural reluctance to share what we’ve learned.
We can double the size of our institutions if we can just get past the kind of ‘Scarcity Mentality’ that suggests there is only one pie with a finite number of pieces and it’s getting smaller all the time.
I believe there is a technology for everything… Adopting-a-Shop included. But, this isn’t the time or place to discuss the details of how best to accomplish this strategy or these goals. It is, however, the time and place to decide whether or not we are satisfied with the way things are and what we are willing to do about it if we’re not…
Albert Gray, in a speech entitled “The Common Denominator of Success” delivered before the National Association of Life Insurance Underwriters in 1940, suggested that successful people are successful because they form the habit of doing those things people who are unsuccessful are unwilling to do… I might add that not all those who struggle for success are unsuccessful because they choose to remain that way. Some may be incapable due to a lack of understanding, education or experience.
Those of us who are affiliated have already done at least one of the things the majority of unsuccessful people in our industry are either unwilling or unable to do, and that is JOIN something… We can double the size of our organizations by doing one more thing many people are reluctant to do and that’s reach out to another shop owner to help them reach the next level of their success.
Don’t get too excited, at least not yet. While it might double the size of our organizations, it would still leave us with the vast majority – more than seventy percent – of the shops out there, unaffiliated, isolated and struggling!
Whether you are an association member or you are unaffiliated, I’d like to know what you have to say about this concept: How it could work… Why you think it won’t.
I’m available to discuss this idea further if there is an interest… You can reach me here, at: mitchs@schneidersauto.netor through
Until then, stay well, take care, make money, have fun and don’t do business with anyone you don’t like…
There is probably a very good reason you don’t like them and you don’t really need to find out what that reason is…