Running a Shop Shop Life

Jones: What’s the Plan, Stan?

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Begin with the end in mind. That’s the second habit in Stephen Covey’s bestselling book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." For shop owners, this translates to succession planning.

When Bruce Arians stepped down as the head coach of the NFLs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March, it sent shock waves through the sports world. The burning question became, “Who would leave a team positioned to make a run at winning another Super Bowl with the greatest quarterback in league history under center?”

In his no-nonsense candor, Arians said at his press conference, “A number of people have already asked, 'Why are you stepping away from the chance to go to the Hall of Fame and win another Super Bowl?' Because I don't give a sh*t about the Hall of Fame. Succession is way more important to me. This has been my dream for a long time. Guys that know me, they knew I wanted one of my guys to take over, and that's more important to me than anything."

“More important to me than anything.” How important is succession planning to you?  

Beginning with the end—the same as Arians did when he took over the Buccaneers in 2019—starts with visualizing how you want your shop to look when you're no longer running it, from personnel, departments, and vendor relationships to branding and marketing, reputation, and customer service. What do these look like in 10 years? In 15 years? In 20 years?

While no one can predict the future, especially given the speed of technology, those things I mentioned above are rooted in principles and are mostly unaffected by changing times. 

If you’ve been in business for a couple of weeks or a couple of decades, it’s not too late to think about your succession plan. Perhaps you’ll want to sell your shop down the road. What does your year-over-year revenue have to look like to make for an attractive sale? Which staff positions do you need filled to take in the necessary volume to achieve that revenue goal? Which software will you choose to manage your shop and its record keeping? What does our online presence need to look like? How will your employees be cared for and compensated? If you don’t want to sell, who are you grooming to take over when you leave the shop? For Arians, it was his defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. This decision left him with little concern about the effect change would have on the team’s chemistry, mission, and focus. 

In this month’s issue, we have a few articles to help you start this process. In “Succession Planning Starts Now,” writer Paul Hodowanic shares the succession planning story of three shop owners, with expert insight from Ratchet+Wrench columnist Joe Marconi. Tess Owings’ Toolbox articles “Make Your CRM Count” and “Invest in Your Future” give additional guidance for putting the right management software in place for your shop and choosing the right retirement plans for your people, respectively. In early March, I interviewed a shop owner who said one of the most important things he did for his staff was give them fully paid benefits so they could work with peace of mind and focus on doing their best for customers. It’s uncommon today, but an attractive approach to keep your team focused and intact. 

My charge to you this month: think about your succession plan and take one action that gets the ball rolling. Re-read Marconi’s March column, “After 41 Years in Business, I’m No Longer a Shop Owner,” to get a timeline of how he ran and sold his shop, and pivoted into his next life in the industry as a consultant. You’re working too hard to one day leave your business to chance.

On that note, I leave you with a quote from Robert Greene, "Most men are ruled by the heart, not the head. Their plans are vague, and when they meet obstacles, they improvise. But improvisations will only bring you as far as the next crisis, and is never a substitute for thinking several steps ahead and planning to the end … Never lose your head over a vague, open-ended dream —plan to the end.”

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