Silverstein: Motivation: What Gets Your Motor Running? 

June 24, 2024
Is your business motivated by an internal desire to succeed, or a fear of failure and falling behind?

There are many opinions about the types of motivation that people experience. At its most basic level, motivational influence can be reduced to simple forms: External (known as extrinsic) and internal (known as intrinsic). External motivation can be awards, bonuses, gifts, promotions, and prizes. It’s something outside of a person that is usually, but not always, accompanied by some action. An external influence that seeks to get people to behave in a certain way. Examples include a coach, mentor, or at an extreme, a drill sergeant. 
Intrinsic motivation is personal and comes from an internal desire. Studies show it’s usually more successful. It’s that inner voice you hear that drives you. It can be manifested in personal satisfaction resulting from growth, achievement, and connecting with coworkers.   
So, why bring this up now?  

I’m seeing a resurgence of fear-based motivation in online discussions (not uncommon for an election year). People are worried about the economy and its effects on business. According to a new Guardian/Harris poll, 56% of respondents believe our country is in a recession. 
In a previous column, I posed some questions shop owners should ask themselves about whether they were truly transparent in their business. This time, I’m going to ask you to consider if you run a fear-based business and to evaluate what that means and what can be done to change.   
Are you afraid your business will suffer and may ultimately fail if: 

  • you charge more than your competitors? 

  • you don't install customer-supplied parts? 

  • you charge more than dealer list price for parts?
  • you perform a multi-point inspection of a car because you may be accused by its owner of “fishing for business” or worse, up-selling. 

  • a customer threatens to leave a bad online review. 

  • you don't offer discounts (e.g., fleet, teacher, police, firefighter, military). 

  • you tell a customer, "No, I won't do that." 

  • you don't provide estimates via email or telephone without first evaluating the car at your shop. 

  • you don't 'adopt the ‘Just say, yes’ strategy of always taking more work in, irrespective of your commitments to your customers and the work already in the shop. 

  • you don't open early and stay late (extended hours) because your competitors have extended hours. 

  • you are not open on Saturdays because your competitors are open. 

  • you don't give your customers your cell phone number or forward the shop phone to your cell to be answered whenever they call. 

  • you discipline an employee because he or she will likely quit and leave you short-staffed 

  • you fire a technician that you will not be able to hire another because of the tech shortage. 

I respectfully submit that if you answered many of these questions with a “yes,” you may be running a fear-based business where fear of failure may compromise your ability to make the best decisions for your business. 
Fear of failure can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, fear of failure and its consequences can drive us to work hard and push ourselves to go above and beyond our competition. It can cause us to increase concentration and our focus on attention to detail. This is the beneficial side of fear as a motivational tool.  
On the flip side, fear can lead to analysis paralysis where nothing is accomplished for fear of making a mistake. It can cause anxiety, self-doubt, stress, and health issues. It can lead to creative tunnel vision preventing us from seeing new ideas and techniques.  
So, what can be done? First, recognize that you are not alone. Others have been in your shoes. Find a mentor with the same business model as you and ask for their help.  Check your area for a chapter or S.C.O.R.E (the Service Corps of Retired Executives) at It’s a free resource. Recognize, too, that most of your fears aren’t grounded in reality but in your imagination.  
While it’s important to acknowledge our fear of failure we should always remember that it’s a tool in our ‘toolbox, one of many to be used in a secondary role. We must first remember to focus on the positive things we can control and always remember to set our course on growth and an affirmation of success.  

About the Author

R. Dutch Silverstein | Owner

R. “Dutch” Silverstein, who earned his Accredited Automotive Manager Certificate from AMI, owns and operates A&M Auto Service, a seven-bay, eight-lift shop in Pineville, North Carolina.


Dutch was a captain for a major airline earning type ratings in a variety of aircraft including the Boeing 767/757, 737, 200, 300, and 400 series, Airbus 319/320/321, McDonnell Douglas MD80/DC9 and Fokker FK-28 mk 4000 and 1000. After medically retiring, he transitioned his part-time auto repair business into a full-time occupation.

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