Play Date

Written by mitch on. Posted in Uncategorized

We’re just one day into the New Year and I’m behind already!
How is this possible? I haven’t had enough time to fall behind!
I feel like some of the kids I get to see at the shop, programmed so tightly they have to consult their smart phones or i-Pads to schedule a “Play Date” and then email an “Invitation to a Meeting” to their parent/chauffer to co-ordinate the logistics. They bounce around from school to gymnastics, soccer, cheer, religious studies, leadership, baseball, band, martial arts, community service and who knows what else.
Just keeping track of it all and arranging transportation is a full time job.
When I was the same age, all I had to do to schedule a “Play Date” was grab a red rubber Spaulding ball and a broken broom handle, walk down the steps of the tenement we lived in, look around, see if there was anyone else “on the street,” and if there was, shout out a, “Yo, wanna play some stick ball?” Or, handball… Or, basketball… Or, street hockey…
If there was a response, problem was solved, game on: “Play Date” scheduled…
Now, I’m starting to feel like one of those kids: max-ed out, with no time for anything, let alone fun.
That isn’t exactly true… There shouldn’t be a “starting to” in the sentence above. Crashing through this existence at warp speed constantly trying to force five quarts of life into a four-quart container isn’t exactly something I just started doing. In fact, it’s something I have more than a little experience with. You see I started pushing the envelop when it comes to getting things done when I learned how to take care of more than one car at a time on the pump island at my father’s place in Brooklyn and then reinforced those ‘skills’ on the service drive at the corner of Cloverfield Blvd. and the Santa Monica Freeway.
It was nothing to pump gas on two or three vehicles, wash the windows, check the oil… and, the tires when asked, collect and sell TBA – lots of Tires, Batteries and Accessories – without missing a beat.
After that, it was working on two or three cars at a time in “the back.”
Multiple tasks, multiple priorities: multi-tasking, before it had a name.
Now, it’s orchestrated chaos in the office and at the service counter: multiple clients, multiple technicians, multiple vendors, multiple estimates, multiple authorizations, multiple responsibilities, multiple problems and a task list that would make one of those over-programmed kids weep!
The question has to be: Is this normal? Is it healthy? Is it wise to feel like you’re a day behind the first day you’re back to work after New Year’s?
Is it wise… Is it healthy… Is it normal… And, what do you do about it if the answer to any of those questions is, No!
I’m working on that right now. I’m working on learning the skills necessary to rein things in a bit because even if it is normal… for us: normal for this industry, I don’t like it. I don’t like it for a number of reasons not the least of which is the fact it can’t be healthy and it isn’t wise… even though it almost certainly appears to be normal.
And, just for the record, just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s ‘right.’
I think the root cause of it all is bad habits and a serious lack of knowledge: business management knowledge in particular.
The bucket full of bad habits all seem to relate back to trying to do everything ourselves: bad habits that are reinforced every time we trust someone else to do something, anything we finally force ourselves to give up, and then having to deal with a disappointing result and its consequences.
The lack of business management knowledge leaves too many shop owners too afraid to charge what they need to in order to make a decent living, and then finding themselves forced to do more work for less money in order to just get by, not realizing they are actually artificially suppressing the very price increases they need in order to survive.
The secret seems to be hidden somewhere in the middle of finding people you can trust and trusting the people you find…
Don’t misunderstand! They had better be the ‘right’ people: the right choices. But, the change we all need has to start somewhere and finding the right people is the best place I know to start.
As far as the automotive shop management information is concerned, there has never been more or better training and educational aids out there. All you have to do is find your well and then drink the water.
The reward? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward not only to catching up; but, to getting a little bit ahead as well. At least, that’s the goal.
How do you know if you’re getting it right?
The answer is simple… You get the time, inclination and ability to schedule a play date of your own

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I am a fourth generation, forty-sixy year veteran of the automotive aftermarket: an ASE Certified Master Technician, Service Consultant and Approved Automotive Manager. I grew up in this business with a passion for all things mechanical, particularly those things relating to performance. That passion grew to include all aspects of management, leadership and personal development with a special focus on every day shop operations which resulted in an eight-volume series on automotive shop management published by Cengage Learning and Thomson Publishing. I have been a trade journalist writing to the aftermarket for almost thirty years, devoting my professional life to improving both the image and experience of everyone struggling to succeed in the service industry and I've worked diligently to improve communication and increase understanding between all segments of my industry. This site and everything on it is both an extension and a continuation of those efforts

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