Saeli: What’s Your Shop Culture?

Jan. 29, 2024
Understanding the role of creating a cohesive working environment that leads to internal and external success.

I may travel the country now talking with shop owners like you, but I’ve also owned a successful shop in New York. I’ve learned from practical experience that there is nothing more important than shop culture. If your shop culture is great, I bet you have a successful and fully operational business. If it’s not so great, it may be time to focus on this crucial component of running a profitable shop. Oh, also … I’m a practical guy. I know you don’t have a lot of time, so, I’ll list a few actions here that you can put into place today and see the results soon.


OK, So, What is Shop Culture?

Shop culture is your identity. It’s how you run your business. How you treat your team. How you want a customer's experience to be positive no matter which employee they're speaking to. The overall attitude of your shop. The attitude of you as an owner and everyone that works for you.


Each Action You Take as an Owner Should Reflect the Shop Culture of Your Business

Let’s take policies and procedures, an area that is now often referred to as the shop’s playbook. Each policy you institute with your team should have your desired shop culture in mind. Certainly, a good policy institutes guidelines—a process to achieve a business goal—but behind that policy should be the larger philosophical mission of the shop. If you have a policy about the steps that your service advisor should take to check in a new customer, that’s great, but as the owner, you should ensure that the policy reflects your desire to help the customer in every way. Is the explanation of the car’s issue described in a way that is friendly and understandable to a person not necessarily car savvy? Listen to what your service advisor says to customers. Is that what you want your shop to reflect to anyone walking in the door, calling, texting, or emailing? A Playbook that reflects your shop culture isn’t just the steps that need to be taken by your team, but the attitude that each step reflects.


When Interviewing, Do You Think About How They Would Fit in with Your Team?

This is an area of recruitment that can be overlooked. Don’t just think about the technical expertise of a new crew member. They also need to reflect the culture of your shop. A great analogy is sports. A championship team will have an excellent team culture or shop culture, for our industry. It’s not just that each athlete knows their role. Each team member respects and gets along with each other. Your employees don’t need to be best friends, but everyone needs to be friendly and supportive. So, when
interviewing, keep in mind the way they respond to your questions. Are they a bit defensive when you ask questions about their past experience? If you introduce them to a few of your senior team members, do they have a natural and friendly conversation? When interviewing, always have your eye on the actual hands-on expertise of a new team member, but also think about the overall attitude of that recruit. Will they fit in with your team?


Shop Culture Isn’t a ‘Pie in the Sky’ Unattainable Term

Bottom line: your shop culture is key. It’s a key component of owning and running a successful business. If you haven’t thought through what you want your culture to be, now is the time to put pen to paper and think this through. Here are some points to consider:

  • Your team. When you walk in each day, do people have smiles on their faces, or are they scowling at each other? It does no good for you, your shop, or your employees to have a group of people who don’t have the same attitude each day.

  • Think about each area of your business. Does each reflect the kind of shop culture you want to have? That includes recruitment, marketing how you position your shop to the public, the frequency of team meetings, and more. Check that your playbook reflects the culture you want to have at your business.

  • Write down what you want your shop culture to be. Doesn’t need to be long, just a strong paragraph will do. Discuss with your team and make sure they understand the ramifications.

  • Customers. When a customer comes to your shop for help, how are they treated by your team? Is that what you would want if you were the customer?

  • If you own a few shops, the same thought process should be taken for each location. It may be even more crucial to consider this since you can’t be at more than one shop at a time. You want to ensure that your brand’s culture is consistent across all locations.

Your shop culture is the driving force for all facets of your business. And a solid one will be reflected in your profits.

About the Author

Jim Saeli

Jim Saeli is a senior speaker, workshop instructor, and shop inspector manager for DRIVE. With more than 40 years of industry experience under his belt, including owning his own shop, Jim is dedicated to helping every shop owner grow their business and improve their lives. He’s an expert in management, marketing, and employee relations.

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