Running a Shop Leadership Strategy+Planning

The Great Pyramid of Planning

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I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve had my share of problems with goals and objectives, tactics and taking the small steps required to accomplish anything of consequence in life.

I can teach them easily enough—showing you exactly what to do and how to do it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for me. I understand the concepts and the technology, what it takes for you to implement and execute. It’s getting into the mess that is often my own life that I seem to have the most difficulty with.

That mess is all too often, well, messy!

I’ve attended the programs, taken the seminars and bought the books—I’ve even written some of the books myself. But it’s executing and implementing all these critical and important principles in my own life that leads me to reach for the antacid and keeps me up at night wondering what needs to be done next and where to start.

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It is a lot more difficult than it sounds; at least, it is for me, and that’s the oddest part of all this. You see, I have absolutely no problem knowing what to do or the order in which things need to be done when it comes to anything involved in diagnosing or repairing a vehicle. Working on cars and trucks makes perfect sense to me. It’s purely a matter of, “If this, then that.”

It’s the office and the service counter and dealing with mission, vision, goals, objectives, clients, employees and vendors that have always presented the ultimate challenge involved in “running” the shop. These are the problems most likely to manifest themselves if you don’t have a plan, and the failure to plan has driven more shop owners into debt and out of business than just about anything else I can think of. You can’t run a shop without a prioritized set of goals and objectives leading you toward a predetermined destination any more than you can travel without a map.

But, after more than four decades in the business, I think I’ve found the answer—three answers, actually. They are all elegantly simple and easy to understand. In other words, they are answers that work and that I try to utilize every day.

The first is visualization. You need to know where you are going. You need to see your destination—what you hope to achieve or accomplish—very clearly. Author Stephen Covey called it “starting with the end in mind.”

The second is prioritization. You can’t do everything at once. It is the fastest and easiest way to fail. Believe me, I know, because I’ve tried and failed. Choose three of your highest priority goals and objectives and attack those first. Pick the three that will result in the most positive and productive results, three that will get you closer to success faster than any of your other goals and objectives.

The third is moving forward by looking backward. “Reverse engineer” the steps involved in making your goals and objectives a reality.

Look into a future where your goals and objectives have already been achieved and then figure out exactly what needed to happen for that goal or objective to become a reality. Then attack each individual step with an absolute single-mindedness of purpose until you can check it off your list.

I’ve learned to break this down into must do, should do, could do, and might do.

I never really thought about it enough to realize these steps form a natural pyramid, but they do and I was reminded of that recently by one of this magazine’s editorial advisory board members. It is a pyramid you can use to plan for tomorrow and ensure that each day is an improvement on the last. 

Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at Contact him at

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