Bennett: Build a Better Shop: The Power of Covey’s 7 Habits 

March 21, 2024
Try these 7 Covey-inspired habits tailored for today's shop leader.

About a year ago, I wrote an article titled 10 Must-Read Books for Auto Repair Shop Owners. One book I mentioned was Steven Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." In my journey as a shop owner and a leader, I've found incredible inspiration and guidance in this book. The principles hold even more relevance today, helping us navigate the fast-paced demands of business and leadership. We live in a world where everything from customer expectations to technology changes at breakneck speed. To thrive, we need resilience and effectiveness – the ability to stick to our core values and do the right thing, even when things get hectic.  

Covey's work reminds us that real strength comes from who we are inside. Through his 7 habits, he teaches us the importance of leading ourselves well before we can effectively lead. They also help us make better choices, dream big, and build strong relationships with ourselves, our employees, and our customers. A habit isn't just one thing—it's three:  

  • Knowledge: Understanding what to do and why.  
  • Skill: Knowing how to do it.  
  • Desire: Really wanting to do it. 

Ready to evolve from simply running a shop to building a purposeful business? Let’s dive into the 7 habits of highly effective leaders.  


1. Be Proactive 

Being proactive means taking control of your life and your shop. It's understanding that what we do comes from our choices, not just from what's happening around us. Proactive people don't waste time blaming problems on the economy or demanding customers. They take action based on their values, not their moods. Think of it like this: reactive shop owners get stressed by weather changes impacting business. Proactive ones focus on marketing strategies for those slower days. 


2. Begin with the End in Mind 

Imagine your ideal shop five years from now. More bays? A specialized service? That's your destination. This habit is about setting a clear vision for your business before you start each day. A clear vision ensures you're always moving in the right direction, not just putting out fires or chasing the latest trend that doesn't serve your long-term goal. Paint a clear picture, and both you and your team will flourish because of the clarity your vision can provide.  


3. Put First Things First 

This is about managing your priorities when running a busy shop. Urgent tasks scream for attention—a customer complaint, an equipment breakdown ... but are they truly the most important thing to focus on for your shop's long-term success? Important tasks get us closer to our goals. They might be employee training, streamlining workflow, or building customer loyalty. Focus on those, even when the urgent pulls at you. 


4. Think Win-Win 

This mindset is crucial for building a thriving team and loyal customer base. It's seeing negotiations—whether with employees, vendors, or customers—as opportunities to find the best solution for everyone. Win-win thinking rejects the idea that someone has to lose. This builds trust and leads to the kind of long-term relationships that fuel successful shops. 


5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood 

Genuinely listening to customers and employees sets great leaders apart. This isn't just hearing their words; it's about understanding their needs and where they're coming from. It’s about granting them your full attention and concentration, free from distraction. And this doesn't mean you’ll always agree, but listening genuinely does give whoever you are talking to the confidence that at least you really heard them. This builds a foundation for compromise, understanding, and finding solutions. It makes customers feel heard and makes your team feel valued. 


6. Synergy 

Synergy is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In a shop, it means finding ways for your team to collaborate to achieve more together than they could alone. Brainstorming solutions to a complex repair or cross-training for smoother workflow—these are ways synergy shows up. It requires setting aside ego and seeking out the collective intelligence of your team. 


7. Sharpen the Saw 

This is about taking care of your most valuable asset—yourself. Working long hours and overlooking personal needs is sometimes necessary or just the “easier” solution. But neglecting yourself makes you less effective. This applies to physical health, mental sharpness, and finding ways to re-energize. Think of it like this: you don't ignore maintenance on your shop equipment; give yourself the same care for long-term success. 


Adopting These New Habits  

The power of these habits lies in their ability to inspire purpose and integrity. By adopting them, we can confidently navigate the challenges of running a shop or leading a team. This is a call to action for leaders across the auto repair industry to harness these principles. Imagine the impact when we create shops where personal growth and effective leadership flourish together. 


Your Next Step   

Pick one habit to focus on. It could be setting a weekly time to envision your shop's future or consciously seeking to understand a customer's problem truly. Start small and let the momentum of these habits propel you toward the shop and the life you’ve envisioned and deserve. 

I hope my enthusiasm for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People inspires you to read it yourself and find your path to the most effective you possible. If you have any thoughts email me at [email protected]

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