Stokes: Creating Opportunity for All

Aug. 1, 2022

According to columnist Aaron Stokes, this fall will be the time for shop owners to reel in new talent from other industries and build rock-solid teams for the long haul, starting with those already on the roster. 

With a looming recession and a strong industry, now is the time to place your bets on your own people

You've probably already done a lot of revenue this summer and things have been rocking for you. August is going to be no different, and September will be better than past Septembers. We're going to have a lot of opportunities to grow our businesses and to take on more than we ever have before.

I believe our industry is going to do really well, but there are other industries that are not. In those industries, employees are going to be looking for something new, and I think we're going to have the opportunity to hire some amazing employees as a result. On top of that, we have employees in our shops right now who are looking for opportunities. They're looking for ways they can move up and do more, and I believe we have what they’re looking for.

Creating a Fresh Start for Fresh Faces

Our industry is a great industry for people—a very steady industry—and it's not going anywhere. It's very rewarding, and I think employees are looking for something that they can connect with—something they can hitch their wagon to and know they've got a future. It's not a really sexy industry. It's not really popular. It's not really cool to say you work in auto repair, but you can make a lot of money, help a lot of people, and have a bright future because typically most employees are going to work for a small business, and so you move up way faster in a smaller company than you do a larger company.

Creating a Path to Employee Success

That leads me to this: I truly believe all of us need to ask ourselves what we’re doing to create more opportunities for our employees. Not just how do we get rich? How do we make our employees rich? How do we make our employees incredibly successful? It's not just about the opportunity we see for ourselves. I need to also be looking at the opportunity I see for my whole shop and the team members who are depending on me to make really good, smart decisions.

I think it can happen if we would view this differently. We have to see this as our responsibility. I've got to make sure that I'm thinking about how they can get a piece of it with me. It's not about leaving them behind. And I think that's the secret of why I've grown so much. I have not left my people behind … and we've done really well because of it.

Creating a Vision for Your Team

So, as an owner, if you don’t start thinking about opportunities for those around you, your employees will cause you to start thinking about it because they will leave you, and then you will go, "Oh crap, what am I going to do to start keeping people? I've got to get better at creating opportunity." The market is going to create opportunities for us this summer. What are we going to do with that to create opportunities for those who are behind you, who trust you, who believe in you, and tell you they believe in the mission and the vision, and want to follow you? Are you going to give them the opportunity—the tools—to go along with you? Will you give them the vision? I don't hire service advisors saying, “Hey, someday you could still be a service advisor.” I hire service advisors saying, “Someday, you might get to be a manager or a district manager.” Now they may not want to manage, or maybe they won't be good at it, but it doesn't mean I don't talk about what it could look like. That's how you need to think when you're leading a team. When you are employee focused, you're thinking "What's in it for them?", not just "What's in it for me?" A slight pivot in your thinking can create massive positive results.

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

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