A Shop Owner's Guide to Challenging Times

Aug. 4, 2020

Tips for coming out on top after an unprecedented time. 

I’m sure you’ll agree that the challenges we’ve witnessed this year have been extraordinary. We’ve seen our entire world turned upside down by a virus, shop owners have seen their car counts evaporate overnight, and we’ve seen unemployment numbers skyrocket. Yet during these unprecedented times, there have also been some glimmers of hope and positivity as well. We’ve seen shop owners throughout America go above and beyond for their communities and their customers, we’ve seen them demonstrate their abilities to weather any storm, and we’ve seen the most timeless rules of business tested and proven once again. 

I’ve been through many difficult times over the years as a business owner, and in doing so have discovered how to not only survive, but how to thrive during times of uncertainty. My hope is that this article serves as a simple guide you can use to make it through these challenges, and emerge as an industry leader. 

No. 1: Accept the Responsibility of Leadership – We must prepare ourselves for the inevitable challenges that we will face in the future. To do so, you’ll need to embrace the responsibilities of a leader in ways you may have never done before. You’ll need to not only have clearly defined goals in place, but you’ll need to truly believe in each goal and your ability to reach it. This is when your employees will need your leadership most, so if you overlook this requirement, your probability of success will drop substantially. 

No. 2: Ensure Your Employees Are People You Genuinely Believe In - As the leader of your company, it’s important that you believe in every single member of your team. The people you employ should embrace both your mission and your culture, and they’ll need to have the right attitude, aptitude and ethics. You’ll also find that by having the right people and principles in place, when times get tough, rather than just thinking of their own needs, they’ll be thinking of the greater good. As we all know, it’s the weak links in any team that can bring it to its knees, so it’s crucial that your employees are the right people with the right principles. 

No. 3: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - When those inevitable challenges do come, communication with your team is essential. Your employees will likely be concerned about their future when faced with difficult times, and if uncertainty or doubt creeps into their minds, it could rapidly tear your company apart. Accordingly, it’s critical that you communicate your vision for the future and your plan for navigating through the challenges at hand. In addition, it’s important to let your employees know that you have confidence in their abilities and that your commitment to their success and well-being will never falter, regardless of the circumstances. These messages of encouragement should be shared consistently, should be from your heart, and should instill faith in both you and your decisions. In essence, they’ll need to see, hear and feel your leadership. 

No. 4: Be Financially Prepared - If you look at Wall Street, you will see the companies that are doing the best during these times are those that have enough assets reserved to weather any storm. They know that having cash in the bank will not only serve as a rainy-day fund for them, but they can use the money to make investments at bargain basement prices. Without question, I can tell you that our clients who entered the pandemic with enough financial reserves to carry them through 3-4 months have not only kept all of their superstar employees, but many of them have made investments others could only dream of making. We’ve seen them buy shops at rock-bottom prices from owners who didn’t have the plan and the financial wherewithal to survive. We’ve also seen clients make advertising buys and take expansion steps at unbelievable prices as well. What allowed all of them to prosper when others were closing their doors? Just like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, they saved up enough cash in preparation for any future hardships. 

  No. 5: Accept the Unpredictability of Business - In order to better prepare for the future, I ask that you take a good look at all the auto repair businesses that have already failed this year. If you do, you will find most were owned by good shop owners with big hearts and the right intentions. Unfortunately, they were not prepared for these challenging times. I ask that you also look at all the companies that have done well this year. I am confident you will find they are the ones that are led by passionate people who believe in themselves and their employees, and who are well prepared for any challenging times that the future may hold.

Without question, our industry needs more principle-centered role models, and ones that can thrive during challenging times.  By planning ahead and adhering to the above, I am confident that you can be one of the leaders that others will want to follow.

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