Ready Your Shop For The Next Generation

Aug. 1, 2017

By creating a line of succession, owner Judi Haglin has been able to prepare her staff for her departure and free up time to give back.

SHOP STATS: Haglin Automotive   Location: Boulder, Colo  Operator: Dana and Judi Haglin  Average Monthly Car Count: 291  Staff Size: 11  Shop Size: 7,000 sq ft (not including front of the shop) Annual Revenue: $2 million projected for 2017 

For 36 years, Judi Haglin and her husband, Dana, have not only been married, but have also owned and operated Haglin Automotive Inc. in Boulder, Colo. All of that togetherness may be a challenge for some people, but the Haglins have figured out how to work together by tapping into each other’s strengths. The ability to work as a team extends to the rest of their staff. Through a number of different methods, the Haglins have put together a team that they plan on entrusting the business to once they decide to retire.

The shop has changed drastically since the early days when Dana was the lone employee. Haglin quickly joined her husband after a bad economy rendered her unable to pursue her former profession, teaching. Since then, the couple has never looked back.

In the past 10 years, the Haglins have increased their annual revenue from $800,000 to a projected $2 million for 2017. In addition, they have added five technicians and four office workers to their team. Haglin says that although she and her husband do not plan on leaving the shop for at least another 10 years, they are currently working on their succession plan.

Succession planning seems like such a buzzword right now. We’ve been working on our succession plan for about three years now. In order to have a succession plan, you need to have a successful business. We’ve worked on growing that business. I know exactly how many dollars I need and how many people I need in order for us not to need to be here. By my calculations, we need to be doing $2.2 million per year and have four people up front and six in the back—so we’re close. We’re working hard at getting there.

Our hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Most days, we’re here that whole time. One of the things we’re working on is not being here the whole time, but it’s a hard habit to break. I recognize that so I’ve been working on coming in a little later. I have a great staff. There’s not a lot of day-to-day stuff that I have to do anymore. I’ve been setting it up this way so the staff has to depend on me less.

First thing in the morning, I go out and meet with everyone in the shop to say good morning and see how they’re doing. If a tech is out on a test drive or if I miss someone for some reason, they’ll come find me later in the day and tease that I didn’t say hello. They’ll say, “You don’t love me anymore?” It’s important to have that meet and greet every single morning to feel out where everyone is at throughout the day.  

After that, I’ll go over the day with Jay; he’s our manager and he also writes service. Right now, he’s our second in command, which is important to have for succession planning. Along with Jay, we have Rachel and Kip, who are service writers. We just hired Kip and we’ve added on another tech to get us through the summer.

Anyone that you hire, you should ask yourself if they can move up to the next position. For example, Rachel started out as a CSR, and now she’s a service writer. We’ve been building our core staff for 5–6 years. We grow our own.

For 7–8 years, we’ve implemented a personality test to each of our employees called the DOPE bird personality type test to figure out what motivates them and how they work best. It’s 18 questions resulting in four possible quadrants. There are doves, owls, eagles and peacocks. Doves and owls take time to think about things. Peacocks and eagles want to get it done quickly. Owls are very analytical; they want to know how things work and how to fix them. They make great technicians. Dana is an owl. I’m an eagle and very task driven. Everyone in the shop knows what type of bird they are. We joke about it.

This test helps us understand our staff’s personality and how to approach things. It helps us determine how they’ll fit in with the team and how to best manage them. This has helped us put together a team that I feel comfortable leaving the shop to. You know how they react under pressure and it also helps me figure out what motivates them. Motivation isn’t always about money. It can be time, recognition or a team-building event. We recently went to a race track and had a blast racing each other all night.

Between 9 and 9:30 a.m., I’m back in my office working on whatever needs work. Payroll is a big one. I also have one-on-ones with each of my staff weekly to find out how everyone’s doing and what they’re working on. It’s a 20-30–minute chat where I find out what their goals are. After I meet with whomever is scheduled for the day, I look at whatever goals or procedures we need to fine tune. Right now, we’re working on electronic inspections. We’ve been doing it for a few years but we’re implementing a few ideas that we picked up at the Automotive Service Association (ASA) of Colorado summit. I’ll also take this time to work on marketing, which I’m currently working on transferring over to Rachel. I’ve been training her on tracking where all of our customers come from, how our marketing dollars are being used and what the ROI is on those dollars.

When you’ve made the decision that you want to have a succession plan, there are so many little things that you need to consider. My whole procedure for this is that whenever anyone asks me how I do something, I have to figure out how to train them and create a procedure so that it’s not my responsibility anymore. It’s now someone else's. A good example of this would be ordering more coffee for the machine. I had to train someone and put a procedure in place for where you need to go online, the company name, the login and what exactly we order. A succession plan is more challenging than you ever could imagine.

We believe in family and banding together as a team. Most of the week, our staff has lunch together anyways, but on Fridays, it’s a special treat because we buy it for them.

After all of that, I’m not really needed up front anymore. The shop is running really well without me because of how we’ve set things up to prepare for us eventually leaving. Because of this, I’ve been able to dedicate this time to giving back to the industry. I’m co-chair for a 20 Group called Leading Ladies that’s made up of 20 female business owners who own automotive repair shops. We meet twice per year. That group is empowering and is making a difference. I also joined the ASA Colorado board last April. I truly believe that everyone should give back to the community when they have the time to do so.

The last hour of the day, we’re checking in to see how the day went. Right now, I’m making sure to check in with my new guy, Kip. I trained with Kip all week and he told me that he’d never worked at a place where someone cared how he was doing or whether or not he liked it. It’s important for me to say goodbye to everyone when they clock out for the day and see how everything went.

I wait until the following morning to look at the numbers. It always happens that whenever I’m ready to leave, Dana isn’t or vice versa. Some days, we can leave early. Other days, we stay until 6:30. It just depends on the day.

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