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SHOP STATS: TMT AUTOMOTIVE  Location: Bremen, Ind.   Operator: Mike Tatich  Average Monthly Car Count: 190  Staff Size: 10  Shop Size: 6,600 sq ft; Annual Revenue; $1.3 

Mike Tatich was introduced to the automotive industry when he began working in car sales at 17 years old. Fascinated with cars, Tatich would hang around a dealership after hours while his friends worked on cars.

A few years later, Tatich and his soon-to-be wife, Serena,  discovered an empty building in their hometown on the main drag and made the call to lease it for his own operation, TMT Automotive. The business started without a set customer base and the staff included roughly four employees: Tatich, Serena, his brother, and friend from high school who was a certified technician.

“Have you ever seen a trainwreck?” Tatich says, with a laugh.

TMT Automotive today now stands as an example of opportunity today. Tatich’s son, Tony, is now in the process of ownership, and Tatich spends his time leading the shop at an arm’s distance and working as a coach to help other businesses.

“My shop right now can operate with me and without me,” Tatich says.

Through Tatich’s career, he’s learned the importance of how running a one-man-band presents a challenge when a vacation takes place, as well as defining the gap between managing and leading a business.

I can manage it, coach it, lead it, and not work in it,” Tatich says.

 

On Monday morning, I have a level 10 meeting with Tony, my son, at 6:15 a.m. We have a meeting at 6:15 to go over last week’s stats, and we go over everything from KPIs, to what went right or what didn’t. We follow a program called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) based on the book Traction by Gino Wickman, which is a set of concepts and tools to help entrepreneurs manage their businesses better. It’s something that we’ve fully implemented.

Roughly seven years ago, I started to look at how we’re going to move things forward; Tony was out of college and we didn’t know if that meant he was going to lead down the path of eventually taking over the business, or if that something he was even considering. But, we started to build a plan, and I met with a succession planner and worked through the process, which took around 18 months.

Once the plan was built, I ran it past my mentors and ran through their suggestions; it was cool because I went through two separate industry leaders and came back with similar feedback. Overall, the feedback was helpful because Tony wasn’t in a place to write a check, so we billed it into his ability to buy the shop and make money. Our deal is seven years for him to purchase 49 percent of the business, and at the current pace the shop is going at, he can do it in three.

 

Since Tony runs day-to-day operations, my day starts at 7:30 a.m., and involves meeting with personele. Each day I try to have a 3–5 minute conversation with everyone that works in the business. It’s a personal side of the business that I always missed and is something that has made a difference at our shop because it allows me to be more in touch with their lives. I usually try to do that around mid-morning, somewhere around 9 a.m.

I started doing that over the last two years as Tony’s taken over more of the shop. Probably seven years ago, I was running everything day to day and we left on vacation and everything went to crap. I was sitting in a banker’s meeting and I was telling him how great everything at the shop was, and he said, “That’s all well and good, but what happens if you get hit by a truck?” I stopped right there. I think the meeting was on Friday, and I spent all weekend thinking about what would happen with the business if I left, given I had put myself in a position of running the business all by myself. The shop had been running for 20 years and everything went through me, and if I wasn’t there, it didn’t run well. That conversation inspired me to leave behind what I was doing and build a team around the organization.

Getting in the mindset to divy your business out is something that I think a lot of owners struggle with in the industry. I coach and talk to so many shop owners that take charge of everything and it can be really difficult.

 

I work on leading the shop, behind the scenes. My business office is in the retail area of the shop, so I’m typically there throughout the day. I’m still taking care of the business finances and the leadership of the operation overall. I’ll look at certain things that we might need to improve on, like what equipment should we bring in, or forecasting for what 2019 and 2020 is going to look like.

In leading the shop, I’m focusing a lot on things we require for our employees and the vision for what our business looks like. In our shop, we require a minimum of 40 hours of training per year—and that goes for all positions, including working with customers to working as technician on the shop floor.

I’ll work one on one with employees, too. Recently, I met with a technician that had been with our company for a long time and he was due for a raise. I asked him what his personal goals are and he said that he wanted to eventually be able to purchase a house. After he got the raise, we worked with him to get to his goal and set him up with a financial advisor. His goal is in place now, and by next year, he’ll have a down payment on his house. We used to not get that involved in our employees’ lives, but this is something I think is important to do—especially in today’s era.

 

I’m there to help Tony if he needs it. Since Tony is taking over, I do all management through Tony because I don’t think it’s effective to do so otherwise. There may be instances where Tony will come to me and ask for help, and we work through that together. In John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership, one of the levels I think about is if I’m trying to make Tony a leader, I have to assist him now instead of him always assisting me.

Tony and I meet again on Tuesdays with our sales trainer, and then my week usually involves being away from the shop. Tuesday is a coaching day for me, Wednesdays I teach service advising for two classes over a six-week period, and Thursday afternoon is my marketing day. I leave and go to my home office and work on marketing as a business and work on all of the marketing programs. Then, on Fridays, lately I do some additional coaching with our new service advisor at the store and help Tony, if he needs assistance wrapping up anything from the rest of the week.

My shop can go on without me, and to me, that’s something that’s worth noting.

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