Multitask to Effectively Time Manage
SHOP STATS: Dynamic Automotive Location: New Market, Md. Owner: Lee Forman, Jose Bueso and Dwayne Myers Average Monthly Car Count: 217 Staff Size: 5 Shop Size: 1,500 sq ft; Annual Revenue;just shy of $1 million
Juggling college courses, raising her daughter and working as the service manager at Dynamic Automotive, Sara Abrecht spends her workweek, well, working.
Yet she finds time to appreciate the little things, like taking a technician to lunch when he or she is not feeling well and getting excited over her electric stapler—her eight-year anniversary gift at the company and a nod to her constant efforts to upgrade the shop.
Abrecht found her way from cosmetology to the auto industry and has spent 10 years at Dynamic Automotive doing office work and working as service manager. For four years while working in the industry, Abrecht attended school part time. In order to juggle school and work, Abrecht went to morning class two days per week before work and attended a three-hour night class once per week.
Now, Abrecht continues to attend the University of Maryland to obtain her bachelor’s degree in accounting with a minor in business management. She manages not just the shop, but also her education and her daughter’s extra curricular activities.
Despite also spending her weekends at her daughter’s traveling softball tournaments, Abrecht takes time to listen attentively to her customers and staff. She’s found that customers might have a lot going on in their lives, similar to her schedule, and just need someone to sit and listen to them for a few minutes every day.
And to add another personal touch to her business, Abrecht writes handwritten notes to her customers in order to thank them for their business or to check in around the holiday season.
I listen to Pandora radio in the car on the way to work. I like to turn the music up and get my creative ideas flowing. This is time before I start work where I think about any marketing ideas I have. I handle the marketing for the company and just this morning, I spent time before work thinking of ideas for the spring campaign. My ideas so far have evolved from “The Great Defrost” to, “Don’t let cabin fever get you down; spruce up your car and get out of town.” I like to make them like a jingle.
I’ll find some images of a cabin and flowers in bloom and add them to a poster. This idea just popped into my head as I was getting ready this morning.
Inspiration will strike throughout the day so when an idea pops into my head, I write it on my phone or a notepad that sits in front of my computer.
I spend the majority of the day at my desk. I get into the office around 8 a.m. and then spend time picking tickets, organizing tickets into filing bins on the wall. The bins have each tech’s name and I sort through tickets by priority first and then by a technician’s strength. Some might work better on Chevrolets, while others work best on BMWs.
Thursday morning is when I do payroll so that’s a top priority on that day. I also like to spend time calling customers and letting them know when their car will be ready for the day and what it will cost. If a technician calls me into the shop, I’ll switch to the office’s cordless phone and keep the customer on the phone while I help with the technician.
Our office technology is “old school” but functional. I’m old-fashioned and prefer a paper planner for my own schedule. You can go and check off to-do items for the month without deleting them. I can always go back and find what I’ve already accomplished.
When I joined the team we still used Microsoft Schedule Plus but we switched to Google Calendar, which is better. Google Calendar is all online so when I make the technician’s schedules, he or she is able to view it on his or her phone on the go.
I spend time handwriting notes for customers and building relationships. I’ve been at this job for 10 years and it’s gotten to the point where I can pick up the phone and recognize a customer just by their voice. A lot of customers have brought their cars here for as long as I have been here. Sometimes I’ve been on the phone for over 30 minutes with a customer and realized that I haven’t even updated them on their car’s repairs.
For first-time customers, I like to send out thank-you notes. For the past holiday season, I sent out about 800 cards with little gifts inside. I have a designated filing bin for new customers who still need a card. For longtime customers, I like to add in details to make each card unique. I mention how I hope their children are coming home from school for the holidays or ask about their family.
It’s important to engage and listen to the customer. I need to be able to listen to his or her specific needs, whether that be financial or timing of when the car needs to be done, and accommodate accordingly.
I didn’t connect with customers when I first started. I had to be patient and get to know the customers that were already loyal to Lee. I think I was here for two years before people in the industry stopped referring to me as the “office girl.” I decided I had to do my best and wait it out.
To combat any issues, I would just offer to go get Lee on the phone for the customer. Eventually, they came to see me around all the time and making an effort in getting to know them.
I typically meet with staff over a cup of coffee. I have coffee and chit chat with my staff every morning. I like to drink two shots of espresso over ice and then a protein shake in the afternoon but when that’s not possible, I revert to my home or office Keurig. In addition to the daily meetings, I’ll meet with the other location managers once per month. There are four of us in total. It’s kind of like a “think tank” where we check in on what’s happening at each location and share ideas.
Sometimes I’ll go out to lunch with the staff. When I do eat at my desk, which I do frequently, I’m usually interrupted at least 18 times.
I’m in the process of hiring an assistant. I would like to hire someone who can help with the office work and especially answer phones.
One of my techs came in last week and asked what he could do to help me relieve my workload. I asked him to take the phone and call a customer. Even that brief seven minutes when he was on the phone helped me finish writing up the estimates for the day.
Before and after work, I continue my education in business management. I recently graduated from Frederick Community College with an associate degree in business administration. When I attended that school, I would go to a morning class twice per week and then an evening class, which would last about three hours. I’m attending the University of Maryland and taking online classes after work. Now, it will just be a matter of setting aside the time to do that at home. I’m still in the process of renovating my home office.
I also continue to keep up to date with my Facebook groups. I’m a member of the Young Automotive Networking Group and Women in Auto Care. I’d like to get more involved and once my schedule slows down, attend conferences within the next couple of years.
The end of the day rolls around and I lock up the shop. I leave the office around 6 p.m. I’m the one that locks the office and sets the alarms. I’m constantly reminding my staff to check they have their personal items because most times, I’ll have to go back in and unlock shop to find a wallet or cellphone.