Saeli: Change is inevitable. Learn to Welcome it! 

July 5, 2024
Change is a constant in business and life. Those who embrace the challenge of change can create a more sustainable shop culture.

I’ve been working in this industry for more years than I can remember (OK, over 40 years). I love it. There is nothing better than talking with shop owners. I used to be one, and now I’m taking that knowledge and helping the industry. If there is just one thing I’ve learned it’s that to have an awesome shop culture (you can check out my recent shop culture columns here) there is nothing better for a shop owner than knowing that change will happen. Both good and bad. However, looking at change as an opportunity is a key component for a successful business. 

Let’s face it. Change will happen. It’s a constant in business and life. It’s often driven by technological advancements, shifting customer preferences, or economic ups and downs. For small business owners, adapting to change is not just an option; it's a necessity for survival and growth. I’d like to dig into here why small business owners must embrace change, the challenges they face, and strategies to effectively navigate and leverage change for long-term success—for you, your family, and your crew. 

Learning to Love Change 

Technological advancements have transformed how businesses operate. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence and automation, technology offers tools that can significantly enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer experiences. Shops that adopt these technologies can gain a competitive edge, streamline operations, and better serve their customers. 
The behavior of your customers is constantly evolving, influenced by trends, cultural shifts, and new generations of buyers. They expect more personalized and convenient services. Small businesses that stay attuned to these shifts and adapt their offerings accordingly can capture and retain a loyal customer base. Ignoring these shifts can lead to becoming outdated. 

Economic conditions are inherently unstable, with periods of growth often followed by recessions. Small businesses, typically more vulnerable to economic downturns, must be agile and adaptable to withstand these fluctuations. Embracing change allows shops to pivot their strategies and build resilience against economic uncertainties. 

“The Measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein 

Challenges of Embracing Change 

While the need to embrace change is clear, small business owners face several challenges in doing so: 

Change can be unsettling—both for the owner and your employees. This resistance can stem from fear of the unknown, comfort with the status quo, or concerns about the potential impact on jobs and roles. Overcoming this resistance requires strong leadership and effective communication. Getting the ‘buy in’ from your team is crucial for any change in the shop. Make it clear how the change will benefit them as a member of your team—meaning WIFM or ‘What’s In It For Me’ outlook. 

Change inherently involves uncertainty and risk. Shop owners may be hesitant to embrace change due to the potential for failure or negative outcomes, or maybe an experience with change can make you apprehensive. Balancing the need for innovation with risk management is a delicate task that requires careful planning and execution.

The rapid pace of change in today’s world makes it challenging for small businesses to stay current. Trends can emerge and fade quickly, and what works today might not work tomorrow. Small business owners must continually educate themselves and stay informed to effectively navigate the changing landscape of owning a successful repair shop. 

“Change before you have to.” - Jack Welch 

Strategies for Embracing Change 

To successfully embrace change, small business owners can adopt several strategies: 

    1. Creating a shop culture that encourages innovation and continuous improvement is essential. Business owners should foster an environment where employees feel empowered to suggest new ideas and improvements. This can be achieved through regular meetings (at least once a week and ideally each morning) and by recognizing and rewarding successful suggestions from your crew. 
    2. Ongoing training and development are crucial for equipping employees with the skills needed to adapt to change. Is your service advisor up to date with the latest sales techniques? Do they know best practices on how to handle phone price shoppers? Plus you, the owner. It’s important that you keep up to date and continually attend training sessions on the latest technology to improve your business (e.g., the newest marketing tactics or the best steps to hire a great tech). All of these areas of your business require you to keep up to date.  

    3. Embracing technology is a key driver of change. Small businesses should invest in technologies that streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and provide data-driven insights.  
      A structured change management plan can guide small businesses through the process of implementing change. This plan should include clear objectives, a timeline, resource allocation, and a communication strategy directed to both your customers and team. And to reinforce here …that ‘buy in’ from your team on any change cannot be overstated in its importance. 
    4. Shop owners must stay informed about industry trends and technological advancements. This can be achieved by attending industry conferences, subscribing to relevant publications, newsletters, and websites plus networking with fellow shop owners. Flexibility and agility are also crucial, allowing businesses to quickly pivot in response to new opportunities or challenges.

    5. Understanding customer needs and preferences is vital for driving change. Regularly engaging with customers through surveys and on your social media platforms can provide valuable insights. This customer-centric approach ensures that changes align with market demands and enhance customer satisfaction.

As I mentioned above, networking with other shop owners is a key component of embracing change. Don’t think you’re the only one experiencing the issue at hand. Others have dealt with it successfully. Learning from others and how they managed change in their shop is valuable to any shop owner. The collaboration and support received will be a game changer. 

Ready for a change? 

Don’t fight change. It’s going to happen. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your business. An opportunity to bring more profits into the shop. And an opportunity to improve your shop culture. The changes you make and how they are managed will set your business apart and will ensure your long-term success. 

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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