Stokes: Paying Attention to the Things That Keep Going Wrong

Aug. 3, 2023
Your team will make mistakes. Knowing how and when to intervene makes all the difference.

As owners, we get frustrated and say, "Man, we’re always screwing this up!” or “Tom, Sally, why does this keep happening over and over.” Instead of digging into the person, we should blame the process. If we blame the process, that allows the person to lower their guard and not feel attacked. That allows us to say, 'Alright, Sally, we’ve got to stop greeting the customer this way. After you find out about parts availability, we need to call them back. Or maybe you're calling, but you're not getting a person on the phone.” (That's one of the things we teach—always get a hold of somebody and get confirmation they've received your message.) As you attack the process, it causes that team member to say, “Hey, I could have done better.” This allows us to sit back and go, “OK, where in this process are we continuing to do the exact same things hoping we'll get a different result, but aren’t?” We keep getting the negative result. So, if we continue to dig, we will find it. The real key would be to let them continue to make mistakes and let it snowball all the way to the end. In doing this you will see the thing causing the next problem and the ones after that. You'll think, Holy cow they're really messing up! That's going to cost me money. You don't want to let it happen; you want to intervene. You need to let it pan out and then say, “Alright, I see what's going on. I see the issues.” The reason we didn’t before is because when an employee does something wrong, we’re there to fix it before it hits level two or level three. We’ve never seen it at a seven, eight or nine.

Knowing When to Step In and Teach

There is another mistake that Tom or Sally makes when they get stressed out which causes them to run to the bathroom and hide. When I see it, I'm able to go, “Alright, everybody see what happened? Mrs. Jones got really upset with us. We told her the car would be done at 3 o'clock on a Friday, but the wrong part came in, we left her a message she didn’t get. She showed up after we closed at 6, left a scathing voicemail and a negative review and picked up her car on Monday.” They’ll think there's nothing more we could have done since we called and the message, but as soon as we found out about the part at 11 am, we could have called, waited and called again. We need to call until we get a hold of someone because this is going into a weekend when most people want their car—the stakes are higher. Then the team's going to say, “OK, that makes sense.” That starts with us all looking inward and saying, “What could we have done differently?”

Focus on the Small Wins to Hit the Big Goal

August is one of the hottest and busiest months of the year. Instead of them focusing on Mrs. Jones being then friction throughout the entire process, we need to be looking at where we parked cars that are completed. We need to be looking at how we do our QC process. We need to be looking at how we answer the phone. Examining everything we do—how can we streamline it and make it more efficient? That keeps ego out of it. That keeps defenses down low and keeps everybody willing to work as a team. So instead of just saying the goal is to hit 400 grand, we’re now saying the goal is the best technician quotes we've ever done. The goal is we're going to be better at communicating than we've ever been. The goal is we're going to be better at following sales scripts than we've ever followed them before. If we make those small things the goal, the overarching goal of hitting 400 grand will take care of itself—and we'll get there because of a lack of friction.

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

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