Howes: Sharing The Dream—Personal Dream Sheets

July 19, 2022

For shop owners, having a dream for your business is only one part of the success equation. Teaching your team members how to have dreams for themselves within your business is the other. Ratchet+Wrench columnist Bruce Howes explains.

"You can't always get what you want, " goes the old Rolling Stones song. And for all of us, that old bromide is quite true. None of us get 100 percent of what we "want," which sometimes might be a good thing, while others can be a bitter disappointment.

Keys To The Universe

Somewhere along the line, you decided you could run a shop better than the person you were working with. Or maybe you just up and left another career field and thought automotive service was the next step. No matter how you got here, you got here, and you did that by consciously—or perhaps subconsciously—setting goals. Small ones at first, and then larger ones later on; until you succeeded. You didn't quit. You didn't give up (at least not for any length of time). You pushed and regrouped, and once it was rolling, it became easier every day. 

The Choice Is Yours

So, you know this incredible power system, but do your team members? Do they set goals and measure them often? Do you collaborate with them in a structured way to help them achieve their goals? They're helping you with your business goals. It seems only fair to help them with their personal goals. 

I know there is this temptation to say, "Hey, I pay them. It's up to them" or "That's their business," which, perhaps to some, may be well and right. But what about that younger tech struggling to pay off his toolbox, buy his first house, and still have free time to spend with his family? Or the more seasoned tech thinking about winding up his career now when he's the most valuable to you? How can you help him and help your business?

More and more each day, one thing that is clear is how tightly team morale and company culture are tied to happy and fulfilled employees. So, here's a simple and easy way to start. We call it a "Personal Dream Sheet," and we encourage every team member to fill one out as part of the onboarding process. 

Start Here 

So, how do you introduce this to your team? I start with a question. It goes something like this: "What if I told you that there is something that you could start today on improving your life's success and achieving your dreams for yourself and your family? Would you be interested? No, this is not some sort of Faustian bargain. It's much simpler and requires, at the most, paper and a pencil." 

I haven't had one person say no to the initial question, so we move right to our Dream Sheet. Following is the header from our "Dream Sheet," and it is an excellent intro to the process. Chances are you'll need to remind them a few times, but the results are worth it. You're investing in your team, paying attention to their dreams, and most likely showing them more personal regard and concern than any previous employer ever thought about doing. 

The details are on the worksheet I shared, and you can use much of the verbiage on the first page in your presentation to your team member. As I mentioned, you may need some handholding and perhaps some chasing to get it turned in, but it's worth it. The team member will see that you are just as interested in their goals as you want them to be in yours. The critical thing is to be authentic: to sincerely care about helping your team member's success, not just check off boxes. They'll see that, recognize it, and respond. 

Some Hints

Make it a joyous time, not a burden. You may need to help them fill out parts of the worksheet and maybe coach them, but I would encourage you to do this exercise with every team member, starting with the new hires. 

On our monthly technician lunch program, one of our service advisors buys a tech lunch at a local restaurant. Once the operations and feedback are reviewed, we talk about the Dream Sheets and their goals. Ideally, every tech meets with a service manager at least three times per year on tech lunches; this process is ongoing, and we get to celebrate each and every success as a team!

Start Today!

I’ll leave you with the worksheet we have developed. Feel free to use it as a template for your own. Reach out to me if you need an editable copy. I'm happy to supply. A new month will soon be upon us in a few weeks, and it's the perfect time to start your own team Dream Sheet project! Start making an authentic difference in the lives of your team, and the culture of your business—today.

About the Author

Bruce Howes

Bruce J. Howes is the owner and founder of Atlantic Motorcar Services, a multi-location European specialty shop in Wiscasset, Maine. He is a 35-year veteran of shop ownership, with a fondness for process maps, literary quotes, and Ernest Hemingway books.

Bruce also works in emergency medicine as a second career and is a nationally registered Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (A-EMT). He serves as a board member at the Maine Maritime Museum and various local nonprofit organizations.

A strong advocate for continuing education, as well as peer-to-peer coaching, his shop recently established a dedicated in-house training center for technicians and shop owners, and hosts a new technician apprentice program. He can be reached at [email protected].

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