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Real Work

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While at AAPEX in October, I attended a training session hosted by business consultant and author Brent Peterson, who discussed a topic many auto shop owners and managers should be able to relate to: real versus fake work.

Peterson, who co-authored a book by the name of Fake Work, sent the message that though many people are working harder these days than ever before, they’re not working on the right things to move their organizations forward. To illustrate the concept, he showed a video of a man tirelessly scraping snow and ice off his car, only to realize when he was finished that the car wasn’t his.

At an independent auto repair shop, it’s easy to get consumed with the minutia of day-to-day operations, whether it’s getting under the hood of a vehicle, interacting with customers, lending a hand to employees, answering emails, or any number of other activities. The problem, though, is that much of that work doesn’t translate into real productivity, into real results that help advance the business and meet goals. In other words, it’s easy for good-intentioned leaders to spend day after day producing “fake work” that is ultimately detrimental to the business.

Those individuals might benefit from looking instead at the things that add real value to their businesses, the real work of setting goals, developing a plan to meet them, hiring the right staff and providing them with the tools and inspiration to succeed. Successful shop operators and industry consultants back up this idea regularly. We found several to elaborate on it in this issue.

In “A Vision for Success,” Bob Cooper, president of auto service consulting firm Elite Worldwide Inc., drives home the importance of knowing your job description as a shop operator and sticking to it.  

“I don’t want to say this in a way that will be misunderstood, but the biggest mistake shop owners make is that they don’t do their jobs as owners,” Cooper says. “They don’t understand their jobs.”

Cooper outlines five simple, but critical, parts of a shop operator’s job description and talks about how to adhere to them and lead in a way that produces real results. 

In “Moving Up in a Down Economy,” Gene Morrill, owner of Certified Automotive Specialists in Glendora, Calif., shares the real-work strategies that helped his shop have a dynamite year in 2009, when other shops were floundering. Those strategies are helping his shop thrive today.

Another shop owner who illustrates the importance of producing real work is Scott Travers, featured in this month’s case study. For a long time, Travers avoided problems with his staff and didn’t lead his business as an owner.

“It was the same as most shops: You just take the next indicated step in front of you,” he says. “You get too busy, so you hire more people. You get too crowded, so you get a bigger shop. You keep expanding, but that doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing and you don’t really understand how to manage any of it.”

Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find advice for setting prices that produce maximum profit, tips for managing employees from all generations and more to help you concentrate on the real work of making your business better.

Jake Weyer
jweyer@ratchetandwrench.com

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