Posted to Shop Management Forum on 1/12/2014
This past Friday we had a shop meeting with our entire crew
in attendance. We have held shop meetings from time to time
in the past but this one was different & that is why I
wanted to share it here.
We relocated our shop about 14 months ago. The 6 months or
so prior to the move & the 10-12 months after were quite
hectic on all fronts and it was wearing on everyone. About 2
months ago I began to see it taking its' toll and told the
crew we were going to get through the holidays then hold an
all day "re-boot" session the first Friday of the first full
week of January. I don't think all them believed we'd do it
but it got us through the holidays.
Monday of this past week comes along & I gave each of the
employees a letter explaining the intent of the upcoming
meeting: There will be no set agenda, I have no set list of
topics to discuss, everyone is asked to bring in a list of
concerns or issues they would like to address and no one can
make a personal attack on anyone else. If you have a concern
come prepared with possible solutions to correct it and be
prepared to discuss any and all topics openly. I let them
know that we would be discussing company financials at the
beginning of the meeting. The only prepared item I took into
the meeting was a 30 minute discussion on profit & loss.
We held the meeting off-site at a rented meeting room so
there would be no possibility of interruption. We had
donuts, pastries, coffee, juice, fruit, bottled water, etc.
available for all as everyone arrived. Everyone was told to
enjoy the refreshments at will throughout the morning, to
get up & stretch as needed & to remember we were there to
work together, so make the most of it.
The meeting opened by me sharing with the crew financials I
had never shared before, all of which were totals for the
previous year: Total sales in dollars, gross profit %
combined, GP% labor, GP% parts, RO averages, net profit
after all expenses including my salary, etc, etc, etc. We
discussed how an insurance deductible for an accident
affects the bottom line & how long it takes to return that
money to the bottom line so it once again becomes useful as
cash flow. We discussed how not billing out a $1.00 (cost)
part multiple times over the course of a year can impact
these same numbers as well. We discussed posted labor rate
vs actual labor rate and why they are different. We also
covered how lost labor potential (efficiency/productivity)
impact parts & labor sales and the negative effect it has on
these numbers as well. We discussed factors that can
contribute to issues in all of these areas & how they are
controlled & by whom- everyone from the person scheduling
the appointment on through the service advisor, dispatch
process, technician use of time, stall placement, etc. We
were able to discuss how improving these numbers not only
benefitted the business but how it would benefit each of
them as well. I then pointed out to them that it was
important that they understand these impacts on the bottom
line as I was certain that the concerns they were bringing
to the table, once addressed, would help us all to move
forward in a positive manner and that our true measurement
of the success of our meeting will be seen in the numbers I
had shared with them when we review them again in the
future. This was an open discussion that was very
interactive as I would ask questions of them as I wrote
numbers on the white board at the front of the room. Once
they realized no answers were wrong they had fun with it and
educated themselves willingly.
That was my opening 30 minutes of fame. I wasn't certain
where the meeting would go from there. I held up a legal
size pad with no writing or notes on it and told them that
they were looking at my agenda. I came into the meeting
ready to listen & implement so long as they understood that
whatever we decided to do it had to improve & be measured by
the numbers we had just covered.
The next 7.5 hours....yes, you read that right, 7.5 hours
were the best investment of time in shop management training
I have ever had. Our entire crew came to the table ready to
participate. Everyone had ideas for improvement, some were
initially fielded as complaints but with coaching from one
another were turned into ways to improve our operation as a
whole. We discussed advertising, marketing, training,
processes & procedures, cost of goods sold, cost of labor,
how margins are determined & why, scheduling, estimating,
drivability diagnostics, you name it.
We spent the morning in an open forum of discussion that
slowly developed into question & answer about how & why
certain things occur & ideas on how to improve. We discussed
in detail their ideas to improve on the concerns they
brought forward & agreed on how we would implement those
changes. We wound up the last 30 minutes before lunch
reviewing all we discussed & deciding what needed to be
addressed in the afternoon & why.
We then broke for lunch (which we had catered in to us) and
enjoyed one another's company as people. Nothing from the
morning was discussed. Everyone stayed & visited, not one
person opted to go their own way for lunch.
We started up again shortly after 1 and verified where we
wanted the afternoon to head. We began to work on processes
& procedures that are needed to get a vehicle through the
shop from the appointment being made all the way through
dispatching, technician processes, parts ordering, customer
cashiering & follow-up after the sale. Some of this we
already had written up in our operating manual and not
everyone understood it. A lot of it needed modified. We went
through this process step by step, made LOTS of adjustments
to it and moved on.
The next item the crew wanted to address was our inspection
form. We made some minor changes to the inspection process &
format of the form but the biggest change they wanted was a
marketing idea....they wanted to have information on the
back of the form that explained the importance of proper
vehicle maintenance, what different fluids were & how they
break down over time AND requested we add a discount coupon
on the inspection form to be used to entice customers to
perform these services within a 30 day window of the
inspection. Simple to do.
The final item of the day they wanted to address was our
drivability check-in form, or the form we follow when
interviewing the customer for their drivability appointment.
it was edited and the process for interviewing the customer
for an appointment was revised along with it.
We then held a brief review of the day & how everyone felt
it went. All were happy to have been part of it & would like
to do it again. We decided to hold a 4 hour meeting
quarterly to review our progress and to hold another all day
event next January just as we did this day.
I have been a part of two different 20 groups in my 13 years
as a shop owner. While I did gain a lot from being a member
of those groups, I would have to say that the knowledge I
gained in those groups paled in comparison to the EDUCATION
I received about my own business by merely setting up an
open format & coming to the table ready to listen. To
witness the willingness & teamwork present was truly a great
I will never forget Friday January 10th, 2014.
Norm from Washington