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Open shop meeting
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 1/12/2014 33 Replies

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 experience.

I will never forget Friday January 10th, 2014.

Norm from Washington

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