How to Manage Time More Effectively
In early 2014, Kris Virdo was a technician at Alliance Transmission and Auto Center in San Marcos, Calif. Today, he’s the owner, finding himself working long hours with endless tasks to steer the business in the right direction.
Virdo is in the midst of learning what it means to manage co-workers that are suddenly employees, along with updating nearly every management system his business uses. Finding time to do all that is needed is nearly impossible, let alone the fact that his shop is down a tech and in need of a quality leader.
For many shop owners, whether they’re a former tech or not, the temptation is to work within their business rather than focusing on the big-picture items needed to steer the shop in the right direction. Most have found, though, that doing so leaves them searching for time to promote business growth and take care of employees and customers.
Industry consultant Bill Haas of Haas Performance Consulting has seen many owners succumb to busy schedules, and he says it is important for them to regain control and focus on efficiently managing their own schedules through empowering independent employees, delegating tasks and performing the jobs that fit their skills.
“The biggest struggle I see is that they’re trying to do everything themselves. They just don’t let go,” Haas says.
Having set processes within your business is where it begins, Haas says, from multi-shop organizations to small, single-shop crews. Giving clear job descriptions and having precise processes will go a long way in allowing employees to begin taking the reigns.
The consequences for not doing so are that owners will find themselves doing other people’s jobs and neglecting their own. This leads to less productivity, lower car counts and a downward spiral of lost business.
“Find talented people and allow them to do their jobs,” Haas says. “When they’ve got someone who has talent, and they give them a task, they don’t need to be constantly double-checking the work that’s being done.”
Haas says that can start by giving your employees a set time to talk to you about issues and ask questions through planned company meetings.
Taking time to have shorter meetings more frequently makes sure there is a time where employees know they can bring up issues and ask questions. Haas recommends finding a slow point in your shop’s weekly or daily cycle to have those meetings.
Haas suggests early Monday morning meetings even though they can seem to be more of a hindrance than a help.
“People think that’s really difficult because it’s the start of the week and work got dropped off over the weekend, or customers want those early appointments,” Haas says. “I think it’s important to set the stage for what needs to be accomplished that week and talk about the numbers from last week.”
Haas adds that those meetings should only take 10 minutes or less, and are important in giving shops feedback and direction for the week.
Managing your time better is just as important as managing your business. A lot of doing that comes down to simply keeping focus, and not allowing the day-to-day distractions to throw you off.
Sure, there will be things that turn your day upside-down, but creating stopgaps and backup plans can help alleviate the effects.
“When somebody has to fill in, it is typically the owner,” Haas says. “Develop plans and stick to them. Don’t feel like you have to be out there to save everybody.”
Haas added that, once an owner has a quality team in place, problems shouldn’t come all the way up the chain of command to be solved.
Another way to alleviate interruptions is to see people by appointment.
“Don’t let people show up at your store and walk in cold-calling you, saying they’re representing a marketing company, an insurance agency or parts supply,” Haas says. “If they want to talk business, tell them you see people by appointment.”
Having that structure allows you to then set a date and time for that appointment. But keep it short, Haas adds. “You don’t want to be spending hours on end with them. They may not have anything else to do; don’t let them use your time.”
Virdo began work on those stopgaps by planning a DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance) personality assessment to find out more about his employees and to see how they can be better utilized. The program works by analyzing an employee’s personality and showing their strengths and weaknesses.
“I think once we get together and go through that, the action items in our business will be covered,” Virdo says.
Knowing that your employees are capable of managing their duties will give you the time to get your work done and allow you to take the next steps in improving your business.
Giving service advisors and technicians the confidence to make decisions and solve problems allows them to do what it takes to take care of the customer, Haas says. It also gives them the ability to handle tough situations without second-guessing the decisions they make.
“The only thing that should be brought to my attention is that we had a problem, it got handled and the customer is well satisfied with what we did,” Haas says.
Keeping customers as the focus will give a base priority for everyone to go back to when a circumstance arises that isn’t centered on the customer. Being able to point back to quality service often creates an objective solution to subjective issues.
In order to maintain that standard, though, Haas says owners have to make sure their employees understand that management has their back.
“Would I make the same decisions? Maybe not,” Haas says, “The important thing is seeing if the customer was satisfied. They have to see that you support the decisions they make. If you don’t, they will stop making those decisions, and they’ll be chasing you down to make them.”
A big part of supporting a staff, Haas says, is by being present in your shop.
You want to be visible to your company: “You shouldn’t be coming into the store, going into your office, and two or three hours after you’ve arrived, people don’t even know you’re on the premises,” Haas says.
A good way to combat that is to make it a point to check in on people, saying hello and showing employees that you appreciate them by thanking them for the things they did the day before to solve problems and help customers.
Watching the Clock
Managing the business is a lot easier once you have your own schedules and tasks under control. Leading by example, Haas says, will show your employees how you want them to manage their time and efforts.
A good way to start is by putting just one or two things on a to-do list. “Once you write it down, you have a greater commitment to it,” Haas says. “You’re going to have things arise throughout the day. The list can grow when you find you can get to everything.”
Making the transitions from an employee to owning the business, Virdo says he’s prioritized listening to his crew and gathering their thoughts into his schedule.
However, getting out of his tendencies as a tech, Virdo has had to leave behind his relaxed nature. “That mentality keeps them relaxed, but they also get lazy,” Virdo says. “They end up just pushing work out instead of focusing on a quality job.
Virdo already sees his need to delegate tasks and responsibilities to minimize his to-do lists.
“I’ve had to move one of the older technicians into the office to handle customer service and data entry,” Virdo says. “My strengths are sales and customer service. Ultimately, I would want to be the one talking with people.”
Haas agrees, saying that it is important for owners to look to settle into their prefered role sooner than later.
“It’s important to recognize what it is that they do best and what is it they enjoy doing as an owner,” Haas says. “They’ve got to recognize their best value to the business. Then they can fill their lists with the tasks they can enjoy working through.”