Process is Paramount

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I can remember back when I worked at a large package delivery company as a new, young automotive fleet supervisor. I had left a four-hour division meeting more confused than when I had arrived, not knowing it would all make perfect sense one day. You see, that was a very large company, but compared with my repair shop of today, we have a lot in common. Who would have thought? Whether you run a large or small business, you must have a rhyme or reason for everything you do. We call this “systems and processes,” and it works.

For instance, take a look at how you schedule work, handle customer write-ups, dispatch work to technicians, perform diagnostics, maintain quality control, etc. Each and every one of these areas of your business should be handled in the most efficient way possible to maximize your business’s profitability. When you add it all up, you have a well-oiled business machine.

Now I know systems and processes are among many tools you need for a smooth-running and profitable business, but getting them dialed in is one of the most crucial steps in running a successful shop. To illustrate this point, think about the last time you went to your doctor: Do you remember the flow? It probably went something like this:

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• You walked in and were asked to sign in at the counter.

• You were asked for your insurance card.

• You were asked to fill out forms on a clipboard, and then pay your co-pay.

• You were asked to wait and told someone would be with you shortly.

• A nurse came for you; you were weighed and your blood pressure was checked.

• You were taken into an examination room and told the doctor would be in shortly.

• You met with the doctor and were then sent back to the front office counter.

• You rescheduled your next appointment and picked up prescriptions.

• You left.

Imagine if the doctor’s office didn’t have a consistent process, or what chaos it would create if any of the steps were mixed up. The same goes for your shop. If the steps and processes are followed exactly, every time, it is much more efficient, productive and profitable, and customers are happier. How many more clients can be seen in a day, or jobs completed, when a shop is operating at peak efficiency? Add that up daily, monthly, yearly and you might be surprised at the increase in the bottom line.

The sooner you start putting in place the proper systems and processes, the sooner your business will run itself rather than running you. It’s worth it to take the time to work with your people, one step at a time, to build a good, solid system; whatever works best for your operation. Tweak it until it is perfect, document everything and review it with them so everyone understands the rhyme or reason for every step in the process.

It won’t be long before you see a major improvement in the way your business is running.


B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif. Contact him at blee@ratchetandwrench.com.

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