Running a Shop Columnists

Stokes: Rules on the 95%

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I'm a big believer in life before structure, not structure before life. So if I'm going to hire a technician who does diesel, I want to see how that works first before I put the system around having it as opposed to offering that service and not having the right people in place. I’m going to build around the talent, not create the system first.

Now, not a believer in business plans. I think that people who write business plans are people who have probably never owned businesses. Therefore, because they’ve never owned a business, they can write a very good business plan because they think it goes from A to B to C to D, and everything goes down in line—but it doesn't work that way. In business, I like to have a business plan that's more flexible, and that has room for variables for things that can happen so that I can make the adjustments as I go along.

Once you have things in place, you don't want to put a lot of regulations around growth and learning. That’s to say you don’t want to make a new rule for everything that happens in the shop. I'm a big believer in putting rules on the 95% of things that can happen in your shop, and then for the 5%, those things that are uncommon, you don’t want to put a lot of red tape around those. 

For example, If you have a kid who blows up a transmission versus a kid who blows up a tire, they are two very different things. The cost of a transmission is a lot different than a tire, but you don't want to fire the kid over the transmission if he learns something from his mistake. Because now you’ve got this kid who understands the mistake that he's made, and he’s going to go out there with that knowledge to another shop. Unless you see the same mistakes or the person is wishy-washy, you want to give them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve. But you don’t have to make a rule about how to handle transmissions around that.

So what you want to do is you want to build your entire company's rules around the 95% of the common things that your shop is focused on, on common things that you're going to face in your shop, the things you're going to build and plan on, and then for the 5% of things that could happen, you want to hire the best and brightest people possible who can fill those roles and you can build the structure around that, as opposed to the other way around.

Structure before life can seem organized; it can seem easier and more thought out, but rarely does it work and almost never is it wildly successful. In the world of business, you must be fast and you must see the pivot before you get there. Most times that requires more flexibility than people are comfortable with. While my way may seem messier, crazier, and unplanned ... I would encourage you to look at it differently. What you are seeing is life; a life that is contagious. And as the issues come up, we will flesh out if this is something that needs a system or not. Then build it out. This is how we have built our auto concepts and how we built Shop Fix. 

When you build an organization around a rule for everything, you slow down your team and you slow down your company's growth. If your team did a procedure and an engine blew up and it's not happened in 20 years, then leave it alone. Move on. If you go create a system for something that is not going to happen again in the next 20 years you will cost yourself way more than the cost of an engine over the next 20 years. Think bigger and hire smarter people. They will do more for your bottom line than any system you come up with.

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