Bunch: Growth vs. Control

July 15, 2022

Trust is one of the hallmarks of competent leadership. If you're a shop owner, learning to let go and to trust your team with the jobs you hired them to do will get your business further faster. 

“Control freaks will seldom build a big business or accomplish monumental tasks.” 

This was a quote in an email I recently got from another business owner and coach. I have noticed in my career and being around many shop owners and managers over the last 20 years that “growth” and “control” have an inverse relationship.

I recently read a survey from shop owners across the country, stating that 66 percent of shops have less than 10 employees. I can tell you from my experience and research that it’s because 7-10 employees are the maximum a “control freak” can handle.

Lots of us who started our businesses as technicians did it so we could have complete control from how we repaired the vehicles, to how our customers were treated, to what parts we used. When we looked to hire people, we looked for “helpers.” People who could be in a supporting role, not anyone who would be “better” than us.

Holding on Too Tight

I look back 21 years ago when I started my shop out of my garage and still wonder how I had so many customers from day one. It was a good problem, but I found myself quickly running out of hours in the day, as I was a one-man band. I was full of fear regarding hiring anyone. I didn’t have any reserve capital, not great working conditions, or any benefits to offer. I also didn’t trust anyone would do it as well as I did.

My first hires were my wife at the time and a friend who needed a job. Neither had any experience, but they were willing to work and help me, and I desperately needed it.

The business continued to grow, and we moved out of my garage and into a commercial building. I was working 12 hours a day, six days a week when I received a call from my parents that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. With them living four states away, I knew something had to change if I was ever going to be able to visit them.

With only my two inexperienced employees on the team, nothing would happen if I wasn’t in the shop, and I couldn’t afford to close the shop to see my parents.

I decided I had to grow the business enough to have employees who could run the shop in my absence, even if it was only for a week. As I added staff, I quickly realized they were not me. Customers were not treated the same, estimates were not built the same, and we started having comebacks. The people I hired to make my life easier and free me up were making my job harder!

It wasn't until years later through lots of frustration, a fair amount of turnover, and always feeling like a professional babysitter, that I realized the only way I would ever be free from the day-to-day operations was for me to train and delegate properly. The other revelation was that I had to change my mentality from hiring people to support me, to hiring people more talented than me. 

Learning to Let Go

Most shop owners will not push past their comfort zone and release enough control to grow their business past where they are currently. They will not take the time to develop people, delegate to them, and let them make mistakes. I can tell you it takes an element of faith. Some people will rise and pleasantly surprise you, while others will disappoint you and make you want to retreat to what’s comfortable. So, you must keep pushing through knowing you will never reach perfection, and it will be an ongoing challenge.

If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would have taken the time to document my vision as my very first step. Then, I would have built our systems and processes and developed training and accountability programs to support my vision. I would have looked to hire people better and smarter than me for whatever job I was hiring them to fill. I would work harder at coaching and developing and letting people learn from their mistakes rather than swooping in and “saving the day.” 

Good for the ego, not so good when you want to grow! 

If I had had someone teach me and hold me accountable to that formula earlier on my entrepreneurial journey, I would have a lot more than the six stores, less grey hair, and more money in the bank!

Like most of you, I am still a work in progress, as are my companies. As a recovering control freak myself, I have to work hard to not go back to my old ways and continue to stretch and grow myself and my teams if we are going to dominate our market and change the auto repair industry for the better! You are destined for great things, don’t let being a control freak hold you back from building something bigger and greater than yourself.

P.S. My mom survived her fight with cancer, and I make it a point to visit my parents regularly.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic; please feel free to email me at [email protected]

About the Author

Greg Bunch

Greg Bunch is the founder/CEO of Aspen Auto Clinic, a six-shop operation in Colorado, and the founder/CEO of Transformers Institute, a training, coaching, and consulting company for the auto repair industry.

Sponsored Recommendations

Download: Lessons in ADAS

As ADAS systems become increasingly popular, understanding proper maintenance is crucial. This eBook explains the importance of staying current on proper ADAS calibration processes...

Establish and track your KPIs: Gross Profit on Labor

WHAT IT IS: The difference between the revenue of a job and the cost of completing it as it relates to labor, excluding all overhead costs. HOW TO CALCULATE IT: Job (or repair...

Find the right shop management system to boost your efficiency

Find the right shop management system to aid in efficient scheduling, communication and payment processing

Craft a strategic marketing plan

Develop strategies and communicate them to your staff to keep you on track