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Leveraging Your Peers' Knowledge

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I’ve been distracted lately…really distracted. Trying to complete one project to the point some of the really important stuff I should be focused on is beginning to get dangerously close to those cracks everyone is always talking about.

I was fortunate enough to realize this while preparing three presentations for a recent speaking engagement. I was lucky in this particular instance; I got the message before I crashed and burned.

Looking back, I think it was the subject matter and content of each of the presentations that allowed me to recognize the inherent dangers I would confront if something didn’t change: how each presentation seemed to rest seamlessly on the substance of the material that preceded it and how each was as relevant to me and my life as it was to every other shop owner in attendance.

The first of the three presentations focused on exit strategies and succession planning, something through which I just lived. More than that, it established the critical need to ensure your business reaches its fullest profit potential in order to ensure its sustainability throughout the process, so you have something to sell when the time comes.

The second presentation was devoted to “getting unstuck,” the gap between knowing you have to do something and your ability to implement and execute. The difficult work in actually getting things done, especially if you aren’t the only one involved.

The third presentation was all about “leverage.” The need to compound effort and opportunity in order to achieve your vision. How to compound the benefit all the tools, training and technology have to offer when they are properly understood and deployed within the shop.

I’m afraid you will hear a lot about this concept of leveraging over time. Not only with regard to the obvious benefits in efficiency and productivity that leveraging your investment in tools, training and technology might enable, but with regard to an entirely different kind of leveraging that results from three critical “C-words”: co-operation, collaboration and communication. And, perhaps, most important, the kind of leveraging that flows out of one additional “c-word,” community!

It’s a critically important word our industry has only just started to recognize, accept and understand. What I’ve come to realize is that all of us are smarter than any of us.

What does that mean? It means that our combined knowledge will ultimately prove superior to the individual effort of any one, single shop owner when that knowledge is shared, organized and available. And, when the individual shop owners who need it most aren’t too stubborn or proud to take advantage of the fact it’s there!

Does that sound a little too existential? Perhaps, but I’ve been hanging out at the highest levels of this industry for some time and I’d like to share just a few of my observations about this concept of community and its relationship to success in our industry.

First, the idea of community, of shop owners working together to move the industry forward while achieving personal and professional success, is nothing new. The history of independent repair shop owners organizing and working together to achieve mutual success is close to 80 years old.

Second, shop owners involved with other shop owners through outside associations or organizations are almost always more successful than shop owners who aren’t. If you don’t believe me, pick any five of these critical key performance indicators—gross sales, gross profit, gross profit on labor, gross profit on parts, net profit, average invoice, labor mix, the percentage of labor sales to total sales, labor content per job, service bay productivity, technician efficiency and effective labor rate—and compare the performance of affiliated shops with non-affiliated shops.

With the exception of a few outliers, the affiliated shops will outperform non-affiliated shops every time because of their willingness to share critical information unselfishly.

And, finally, isolation is dangerous, debilitating and ultimately, self-defeating. It’s a breeding ground for depression and self-pity, and the perfect home for a pervasive and destructive kind of helplessness that can suck the life right out of you and your business. While affiliated shops, shops actively involved in community, have a built-in group of cheerleaders and accountability partners who are vested in success and the future of our industry!

So, if you’re looking for a recipe for success in our industry, the missing ingredient should be obvious: just add more successful shop owners!


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