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The Fixer: Get on the Path to Success

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Trust me, I know just how you feel. I remember feeling the exact same way, and it wasn’t even that long ago. 

Even from the beginning with my business, I was trying to learn, I was trying to find the right ways to do things—the strategies, processes, overall business philosophies that have led so many others to success. 

And I did learn a lot. But nothing changed. And there wasn’t a tangible reason why. 

I can remember—clear as anything—trying to implement a change in my shop, and I just couldn’t do it. What if it didn’t work? What if it wasn’t right for my shop? What if I failed for no other reason than I couldn’t do it? It was overwhelming and scary. There was no black-and-white reason for it; all of it was just gray. 

I was overwhelmed, so I did nothing. I was overwhelmed, so nothing changed. And the cycle kept going.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? I’m going to guess that a lot of you are nodding your heads. 

Well, let me fast-forward my own story for a moment to let you know the good news: Everything eventually did change in my business, although I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t some moment of divine inspiration that saved me. My business changed because I had no other choice but to change it.

Today, I have a six-shop operation that I am extremely proud of, and a few other business ventures as well. And just so you know, I started in a one-bay garage behind my house. I didn’t go to business school—I didn’t even finish high school. 

Now, I’m telling you this, because I want you to know that you can make these changes, too. Once you stop feeling overwhelmed.

So, how do you do that? Let’s back up for a second. I talk with a lot of shop operators around the country every week, and those that are struggling aren’t struggling based on a lack of knowledge or experience. Most often, these folks know what to do, but simply don’t know how to execute. They’re too overwhelmed by the day-to-day; they’re so bogged down in the issues that flair up that they can’t take a step back and make a change. 

And just to be clear: This happens at all levels of business; I’m not only talking about shop operators who are struggling. You can feel just as overwhelmed and unable to implement change in a flourishing shop—even if that business has a next level (or many next levels) to reach. 

So, I was reading a study recently about stress and your ability to make decisions. For the study, they looked at farmers and tested their IQs when they were in seasons with lots of rain. And they tested them when they were in a drought. You might guess (since I’m bringing this up) that the study participants scored significantly higher during times of heavy rain. 

Stress is a killer.

But, you’re asking again, How do you eliminate that feeling of being overwhelmed? How do you clear yourself of stress and make the correct decisions to push your business forward?

I’ll go back to my own story quickly: My entire life changed at a 20 Group meeting I attended a number of years back. I was still struggling with being overwhelmed, despite investing in my “business education” in groups like this one. I knew what to do, but I couldn’t pull the trigger and make changes. Well, at one meeting I was given an assignment—a simple process change in my shop, something that I had to come back to the next meeting and report on. I went back, implemented it, and I killed it at that next meeting. Do you know why? My fear of being embarrassed or failing in my next meeting outweighed my fear of failing to implement that change. I took it as a personal challenge, stepped in, and got it done.

And you know what? The next time I wanted to make a change, I had the courage to do it. The same for the time after that, and the time after that, until gradually, day by day, year by year, my business completely turned around and was set on a course for massive growth.

My advice is two-fold here:

First, massive changes don’t occur overnight.

You change your business and alter your trajectory by taking those little steps. Make one goal, and achieve it. Then make another. And another. Keep going, and keep pushing. The difference between a successful business and a failing one isn’t some drastic obvious issue; it’s a bunch of tiny decisions and strategies that lead to that end result. So, change, little by little. Improve each day. 

Now, the second part comes down to receiving that push in the right direction.

I look at the issue of “overwhelm” as if it were quicksand. You get caught and no matter how hard you fight and fight, you’re not getting out on your own. Someone needs to throw you that rope. Everyone in business needs a mentor, someone who can take that objective, outside look and push you in the right direction. You need someone to push you to that level of self-awareness where you can see that change must be made. This advice isn’t about coaching or 20 Groups (although they are great sources for this). This can be another business operator in or out of our industry. It can be someone you read about in Ratchet+Wrench. You can email me, and I’ll answer your questions in this column. 

You can find help in a number of places, but you need to find it. Invest in yourself. You won’t get any more time given to you in life. So, don’t waste any more of it stalling. Let’s make changes. Let’s improve. Let’s do it together. 

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