Running a Shop How to Lead Leadership

Avoiding Day-to-Day Distractions

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If you’ve been to a state fair, a Chuck E. Cheese or any arcade recently, you may have noticed the row of whack-a-mole games strategically placed to separate your child from their allowance, or you from your hard-earned cash.

They are both unavoidable and irresistible: a dangerous (and expensive!) combination. But, unlike most “normal” folks, I have learned the secret. I’ve broken the code. I refuse to engage.

My refusal is not due to lack of interest or the fact that I’ve somehow become immune to the endorphin rush that comes from swinging that hammer. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve just learned to restrain myself and walk away.

In the shop, crushing problems that rear their ugly little heads unexpectedly and without warning is something all of us manage to do just about every day. In fact, it happens so often and with such regularity that we manage to “play the game” without much conscious effort.

Stop! There’s one right there: That critical part, the one that’s been holding up the job and tying up the last bay for six hours, just got dropped off—at a shop across town! And there’s another: It’s the realization that one of your techs “forgot” to mention there was another problem noticed during the inspection that failed to get written down and as a result wasn’t estimated or communicated to the client.

It’s the customer that just added four hours of work to an already packed day, or the one who decided they just couldn’t make it today and left a four-hour hole in your schedule. It’s the EGR valve that failed in three months when it should have lasted three years, or the tech who was unexpectedly called out of town on a family emergency. It’s the scan tool that suddenly stopped working, or the subscription that expired—the one you meant to renew, but, you got sidetracked smashing another ugly little beast.

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The temptation to get lost in the game; the joy, release and instant gratification of the moment spent solving the impossible problem or averting the unavoidable crisis, and the elation and relief that follows is significant, intoxicating, almost overwhelming. But, I’ve learned to resist, at least most of the time.

Like most of us, I’m a “crisis junkie,” addicted to decoding the impossible riddle, triumphing over the insurmountable challenge. I revel in beating the game. I always have and more than likely always will. And,I’ll bet there are more than a few of you out there who do as well.

But, I’ve learned to control my addiction. I’ve learned to ignore the temptation and resist the urge. I’ve learned there is ultimately greater satisfaction in averting a crisis than there is in coping with one as it unfolds. And I’ve learned  that the only effective way to do that is to do the job of a shop owner and create systems that reduce the likelihood of things falling apart in the first place—processes that work.

For crisis junkies like you and me, the “good news” is there is no effective way to keep every conceivable calamity from occurring. Sooner or later it will be your turn or mine to pick up that hammer and start banging away. But, we can avoid the exhaustion that is sure to result from spending all day every day encircled by an incalculable number of whack-a-mole games, beating down one crisis after another.

We can give ourselves a bit of a break if we can learn to anticipate when and where the next crisis is likely to occur and then share what we’ve learned with each other. It may not be as satisfying, entertaining or near as much “fun,” but it’s guaranteed to be more productive and certainly more effective for our businesses in the long run.

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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