At the 2016 Automotive Training Institute (ATI) SuperConference, Murphy’s Autocare in Beavercreek, Ohio, took home the Bob Cutler Award for Succession Planning. Co-owner Jan Murphy says receiving the award was especially significant for the Murphys because they knew Cutler personally.
“We had dinner with him shortly before it happened,” Murphy says. “He died so quickly; it really shook us and forced us to look at what we would do.”
Cutler, a beloved shop owner and client of ATI, died at the age of 58. The award, named in his memory, goes out to shops who have gone above and beyond in their succession planning efforts. Murphy says that the news about Cutler was a wake-up call to her family-owned-and-operated business. Within six months, the Murphys put together an emergency plan and a longer-term succession plan that they continue to update. By planning and keeping the entire team informed, everyone is on the same page, should something happen, and it’s helped prepare them for the Murphys' eventual retirement. It’s also allowed the Murphys to take 12 weeks of vacation per year.
Murphy’s son, Brian, is currently a manager of the shop and will take over when his parents retire. The Murphys have two other children that are not in the industry, but they are also kept in the loop. Twice per year, the entire family meets to discuss what will happen with the business so everyone is informed. The Murphys even have a plan if Brian decides he no longer wants to take over the business (Ryan Boswell, the shop’s second manager, will take over). By preparing for every possible scenario, keeping detailed records of everything that the staff needs to know and slowly transitioning roles, the Murphys sleep comfortably knowing that their shop will be taken care of.
I’m off on Mondays and Fridays. I go in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12–5 p.m. My husband and I share an office so I give him the mornings to do his one-on-one meetings. I work better at home anyway. I’m the HR manager as well as the CFO. I do accounts payable and receivable. I can log onto our bookkeeping software from my home computer. Dave goes into work at 7:30 a.m. and works from anywhere between 3–5 p.m. depending on what’s going on. He’ll sometimes come home early to work on paperwork or read books on leadership.
Working with your husband every day and seeing each other every night can be challenging. Since we’ve started succession planning, we’ve made it clear what each of us is in charge of and we make sure not to step on each other’s toes when it comes to those decisions.
We have one on ones with the staff that we call “eating the elephant” (because it’s the process of making a big change in small, manageable steps) and we also have them with each other on Tuesday mornings when I come in. During these meetings, we talk about our goals and things that we need to work on and we keep track of it in a notebook. We’ll go over what needs to be worked on from last week and we’ll cross it out if it’s been taken care of and put a checkmark if it still needs to be worked on. Dave does this with the managers on Monday morning.
Dave used to “eat the elephant” with the rest of the staff but we’ve transitioned that task to Ryan. Right now, Ryan does it with Dave but by November, he’ll be doing it by himself.
Ryan and our son, Brian, who will be taking over the shop when we retire, open the shop at 7:30 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m. Brian is our service manager right now but he also comes into the office and handles some of the marketing and advertising. He also does interviewing and oversees the day-to-day operations. In addition, he’s in charge of the morning meetings.
The meeting takes about 10 minutes and includes a brief overview of the day and a fundamental. Fundamentals are the roadmaps to the behavior in our business. We have to get buy-in from everyone and get everyone on board that these are our beliefs. We began using fundamentals because we needed better communication and we did not seem to have a common goal. We go over one fundamental each week with examples.
At work, Brian doesn’t call us mom and dad. It’s Dave and Jan. We treat each other like coworkers. Our children all live in town and we all get together and have Sunday dinners together. We have a rule that we don’t talk about work at dinner. It’s important to separate work from home.
Brian came to us with his interest in purchasing the shop a few years ago. We don’t have a drop dead retirement date, but we don’t want to hang around and linger. Since we’ve had time to prepare, we’ve been able to get him ready. He’s gone to manager and owner training. He knows many of the other shops in the community and he’s active in trade associations. He’s been at the counter for three years and before that, was a master tech for 10 years. I know that Bob’s death really shook him. He wanted to know what would happen if his dad didn’t come into work. Now, our whole staff knows what to expect.
We have a black book and a red book. That’s where we keep track of everything anyone would need to know in case of an emergency to keep the shop running. The black book has all of the policies and procedures in it, like job descriptions. The red book is information that not everyone would need to have access to, like passwords and accounts.
We have monthly meetings where the staff gets lunch together and we go over who is scheduled for what training and anyone that’s just come back from training shares what they’ve learned. At our monthly meetings, if anything new has come up with our planning, we let them know. During these meetings we also go over each of our staff’s vision boards. The vision boards have personal and business goals. It’s an opportunity for them to share something that they’d like to do and by sharing it, we can all help them achieve it.
Twice per year, we have a semi-annual meeting with our estate and business plan. Our other children are not interested in the business, but we still want to keep them informed. We set up an advisory board that has a state attorney, a financial planner, an accountant and our ATI coach. This board would help them out in the event of a crisis.
On Saturday from 12–1 p.m., Dave and I do a radio show called “Auto Talk” on our local radio station. We usually take about a week off per month and go down to our condo in Florida, but we try and be back by Saturday because we like doing it so much.
When we leave on our vacation, we’re able to totally unplug. We don’t go on long vacations, but I know everything at the shop is taken care of. I sleep a lot better knowing if something happens to us, we have a plan.
SHOP STATS: Murphy's Autocare Location: Beavercreek, Ohio Operator: Jan and Dave Murphy Average Monthly Car Count: 200 Staff Size: 10 Shop Size: Two separate buildings that are 2,500 square feet each Annual Revenue: $1.5 million