Bunch: Shiny Penny Syndrome

March 29, 2024
Chasing the shiny object can lead to innovation or catastrophe. It's up to you to wisely choose which.

Happy Spring to all! This morning, I was reflecting on a memory from years ago. We had three locations, and we had our share of serious challenges to overcome if we were going to make it.  I met with my General Manager at his office and saw a penny taped to his monitor. I asked him what that was for. He said it was to remind him that he likes to chase shiny pennies, and it was a reminder to himself that his job was to keep us focused on the fundamentals of the business. What he meant was he had to carefully assess my wheelbarrow of new ideas I threw at him every week to gauge whether it was a bad idea, a good idea, or a great idea. If it were a great idea, we would talk about timing and what to focus on first. Fast forward 15 years and now—an owner of six shops, a marketing company, and a coaching/training company—I have certainly found the pros and cons to being a “shiny penny chaser.” Let’s dig deeper into this idea.

At VISION 2024, I hosted a panel discussing the relationship between successful shop owners and their second-in-command. Most entrepreneur-minded shop owners tend to be “shiny penny” chasers, relying on their second-in-command to sift through ideas and prioritize them based on the company's ability to handle changes. I would not have built the size of the company I have without being a “penny chaser.” The flip side of the “penny” is that their foundation and infrastructure is heavily reliant on my “second in commands” who are tasked with running the day-to-day operations and who work to deliver excellence to every client, every time.

For this to work, the management team must create a healthy balance between focusing on the fundamentals of the business and exploring future innovation. While innovation and technology are essential for our survival, we cannot neglect core business principles like good customer service, speed of service, and of course, fixing the car right the first time. When two leaders look at a company through different lenses, it’s easier said than done. Having open and honest scheduled conversations is a must, always keeping in mind, both people want what’s best for the shop and to not take feedback or pushback personally. Failure to have these meetings and keep an open line of communication can cause resentment and frustration on both sides. If left unchecked, it can have catastrophic consequences to the morale, the bank account, and the overall business.

In my last article, I talked about prioritizing the customer experience and having every interaction contribute positively to their customer journey. How many of you read that article, but did not take action to evaluate your customer experience and start to make changes? Unfortunately, most of us. It may seem obvious, but those shop owners who are proactively working to enhance their customers’ experience are also the ones having record months. I know that’s the boring stuff, but the “boring stuff” is what makes a business great.

I always challenge shop owners to evaluate their priorities by examining their daily activities. Are these activities driven by a focus on fundamental practices or are they merely reactively chasing after “shiny penny “opportunities?  I am not saying that “shiny penny” chasing is a bad thing. 

Pros of Chasing Shiny Pennies:

One of the advantages of chasing after new opportunities is the potential for growth and expansion. Being open to innovation and growth can lead to adopting new technologies, processes, or services that enhance efficiency and customer experience. For instance, adding a new location, integrating a new point of sales software, digital vehicle inspections, and offering ADAS calibrations can help streamline operations, increase sales,  and set a business apart in a competitive market.

Cons of Chasing Shiny Pennies:

However, the downside of constantly pursuing shiny pennies is the risk of neglecting the fundamental aspects of the business. In the automotive repair industry, it is crucial to prioritize tried-and-tested practices that ensure consistent quality service and customer satisfaction. Focusing too much on new ideas without mastering the basics can lead to operational inefficiencies and compromised service standards. I see this all the time, even with companies that do over eight figures in annual revenue.

A well-run shop, akin to the movie "Groundhog Day," prioritizing repetition and excellence in daily tasks over the thrill of constant innovation. There is daily focus on perfecting the essential tasks and principles that form the foundation of a successful business. This emphasis on mastering the fundamentals involves attention to detail, consistent service quality, customer respect, reliable service, and a commitment to fixing vehicles correctly the first time are timeless components of a thriving auto shop.

Just as in the movie where repetition leads to growth and change, the repetitive practice of core business functions can pave the way for sustainable success in the long run. Ultimately, the key lies in recognizing the value of mastering business fundamentals along with the exploration of new ideas, creating a strong and resilient foundation for growth and innovation.

Getting the Balance Right

As entrepreneurs and shop owners, finding the delicate balance between pursuing new ideas and upholding the essential practices of running a successful business is a perpetual challenge. Just like the lyrics of Depeche Mode's song from 1983 "Get the Balance Right" suggest, it is crucial to navigate our balance with precision and mindfulness:  work and life, profit and people, sales and operations, knowing you will always be “course correcting” and knowing that’s part of the fun!
In future discussions, I will be doing a deeper exploration into the effective time management strategies employed by successful entrepreneurs and shop owners. By delving into various methodologies, I will aim to uncover valuable insights that can inspire and guide you and our industry into being proactive industry leaders who are transforming our industry for the better, and what better place to start than our calendar!

Until next month, please take a moment to evaluate your priorities and focus on what truly matters in your business. Embrace this call to action by reassessing your daily activities, aligning them with your core business objectives, ensuring that you invest your time and resources wisely, and listen to your second in command about what the company needs, more new ideas, or master the fundamentals, or both!

I would love to hear your thoughts, please email me at [email protected]

About the Author

Greg Bunch

Greg Bunch is the founder/CEO of Aspen Auto Clinic, a six-shop operation in Colorado, and the founder/CEO of Transformers Institute, a training, coaching, and consulting company for the auto repair industry.

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