Jones: Adaptation, Culture, and Leadership

March 2, 2022

Why focusing on people first makes businesses better.

I believe in running toward change when a course of action seems clear. This doesn’t mean I know the outcome—often I don’t—but I’m sold on the why before the how becomes evident.

Aviator Amelia Earhart said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” I believe this. As a former small business owner, I’ve had to move with changing trends many times throughout my career. When web design expanded from HTML to CSS, I learned to code cascading stylesheets. When website builders replaced hard coding as a faster, less expensive option for clients, I learned Joomla and then Wordpress. Even within journalism, I had to change writing styles—news, public relations, and magazine reporting aren’t the same. I learned to move with the market because that’s what my clients wanted and expected. They were paying for my expertise and in knowing this I took pride.

There’s an old single-panel comic of two yellow dinosaurs perched on a rock surrounded by water. As Noah’s Ark floats into the distance, one dinosaur says to the other, “Oh, crap! Was that today?”

Businesses need to be adaptable, ready to embrace change. That’s the enduring lesson amplified by the pandemic. When businesses fail to adapt, they miss the boat and end up left behind like the two dinosaurs. The way we’ve always done business is comfortable, but is it sustainable? Profitable? Customer-centric? 

Successful businesses this decade win because they’ve adapted to the trend of putting people first—customers and team members. Add storytelling through social media and businesses feel more personal to customers than ever. The whole customer experience becomes immersive and pleasant starting from the top down. And that all rises and falls on company culture.

This brings me to the heart of this issue, honoring our best workplaces. Each repair shop highlighted has successfully “... developed a great culture and a place employees want to work for,” writer Paul Hodowanic points out. 

Creating culture starts by making the workplace healthy—ensuring your employees feel heard, have access to training opportunities, have the right tools for the job, and receive critical feedback to aid with job improvement. Satisfy these and you’ll create a culture of openness, loyalty, and enthusiasm that keeps your staff intact for the long haul.

On the customer side of culture, I encourage you to read Turning Deferred Work into a Customer Relationship. As customer service becomes more personal, service writers  function as care consultants within the realm of customer communication. This includes walking customers through their repair estimates, explaining technician recommendations and costs, and scheduling ongoing repairs in a way that’s comfortable for the customer’s budget while placing the safety and drivability of their vehicle top of list.

Adaptability and change. That’s what this decade is about for small businesses. Change is happening fast in the auto industry. That leaves businesses two options—adapt or be left behind. Let’s choose the former.

About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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