Stokes: Your Annual Review

Nov. 20, 2023
As we approach 2024, it's time to look back on the goals and actions of 2023 to determine what's next.

In January, we all talk about what we're going to do for the year, but how many of us look back in December and ask ourselves what lessons we’ve learned? What worked? What didn't? 

One of the best things we can do is carefully review our year and say, “Alright, I hired John as a technician in February. John quit in June. I saw a red flag in his resume, and I ignored it. I hired Bill in May, and he’s still with me. Have I done any training with Bill? Have I paid for any training classes for him? Has Bill improved? If he has improved, have his salary and bonuses improved? Has he taken any vacation time? When was the last time I gave him a review—told him he’s done a good job. Have I had to write him up?” We should do this across our entire team—for our service advisors, our office staff and our parts people.  

Finding Answers in Your Profit & Loss Statements 

Have you ever printed your monthly P&Ls, looked at your hiring decisions and written down the months when your people were hired? If so, what changes did you see after their arrival?  

What about your marketing? What new material did you roll out? (And remember, marketing is also used for hiring.) If you put out great marketing, everyone knows who you are and they want to come work for you. If you put out bad marketing, no one knows who you are and they don't want to come work for you. If you put no marketing, no one even thinks you exist. So, how can we get ahead of this? We're going to view this differently and process this from a different angle. We’re going to be honest with ourselves and point out the mistakes, which may be that we’ve not done any training since May, and it's now December, and it shows.  

Finally, ask yourself when was the last time you discussed your systems and why everybody must do their part in the process to get the customer’s car through them and out the door. Many of us haven't stopped and thought about our business in this way.   

Process and Press On 

Start reflecting on the business decisions you’ve made in the last 12 months. It’s December, and you're going to look back and say, “I made $50,000 this year. I made $550,000 this year” and that is going to be determined by how you set up your business. Did you roll out new marketing programs and then have service advisors who weren't good at curb selling and who couldn’t get the car into the parking lot causing the marketing to fall flat? We blame the marketing when it’s was our staff. Do we have technicians who aren't good enough because we have not gotten them training and now the office staff has had so many comebacks they’re scared to sell with confidence and don’t want to be yelled at by a customer? All of this comes back to us. What are the lessons we can extrapolate from the business decisions we made this year? 

We can all pause and ask ourselves those questions, and I think we can come to some solid conclusions we would not have come to because we spent time reflecting. I would also say we just in general need to spend time thinking more than we always do. Get your monthly P&L, review it and look at that P&L realizing that every single department on that P&L is run by one of those people out there in your shop right now. And those people are what determine those costs. 

If you don't like what you're seeing—you don't see what they're producing—then you need to get the right people on board or get into the training they need, but that's ultimately your responsibility, so I encourage you to sit there, reflect back on all of ‘23, look at everything that's happened so far. Then make a decision on where you want to go and pull the trigger. Learn the lessons you need to help you throughout your business career going forward. 

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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