One of the toughest things you will do as a shop owner is make a decision that you know your employees won’t agree with. And while you don’t necessarily look for approval for all of your decisions, you do hope that the people around you will at least have trust in you.
In the end, even when it appears that no one around you agrees with your decision, you make it anyway. Why? Because you are the leader, and leaders don’t make decisions based on what’s popular, but on what’s in the best interest of the business and everyone employed there.
A while back, it became increasingly obvious that a certain employee was not meeting our expectations. This technician was well liked by everyone.
However, being well liked is only one criteria for continued employment. Being able to perform at the level we needed him to is an entirely different story.
In an effort to gain support and maintain morale, I confided in a few key employees, including my manager. I wanted to see if we could somehow resolve this problem and get this employee up to speed. I listened to all sides and put an interim plan in place.
As the months passed, it became evident that the employee in question was making no effort to improve his performance. Something had to be done. I met with my manager to explain my position and to express my opinion that I did not think this person should be employed with us any longer. He listened, but I could tell he did not agree.
Because of the strong relationship this tech had with the other employees, they valued that relationship over what I believed were the facts. I was in for a rocky ride, but I knew in my heart that based on all the information at hand, I had only one alternative. I kept asking myself two questions over and over: “Taking the emotions out of it, what is the right thing to do? What is in the best interest of everyone, in the long term?”
Before letting this employee go, I began the hunt for his replacement. I made my usual calls to my contacts and after a few meetings with potential candidates, I found my new tech.
A downside to making any decision is that there is never a guarantee that the decision you make is the right one. If a decision backfires, it’s all on you. If a decision proves to be right, don’t expect any high-fives from anyone, either. After all, the boss is expected to pull a few rabbits out of his hat, isn’t he?
The day came when I had to let this employee go. I could sense the feelings of despair and anger permeate the shop. I can’t remember a time when I felt so isolated and alone; a horrible place to be.
I prepared myself mentally for the aftermath. Would the other employees isolate the new tech and resist accepting him into the team? Would morale suffer? There was only one thing for me to do—stay strong in my convictions and give it time. My manager and the employees in my company are great people with the right values. I needed to give it time, not for them to agree with me or side with me, but to find it in their hearts to realize there will always be times when the boss has to make tough decisions. Staying strong in my convictions will also send a message that decisions are based on what will benefit all the people employed in the company.
It’s been a while now since the incident. Production is up and things are getting back to normal. The new tech is working out and has gained acceptance by all. I will never know how everyone really feels, but that’s OK. Being the boss sometimes means taking the heat for the greater good.
There is one thing I know for sure: I will once again be confronted with another tough decision in the future. And, it may once again temporarily distance me from my employees. The thing to remember is that everyone views the world differently. People’s perceptions are their own realities. We cannot expect employees to always understand what it takes to be a shop owner. Bottom line: On top of making tough decisions, as shop owners we also have to be the most understanding and patient people on the planet.
Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of autoshopowner.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.