Leading Through Tough Times

July 17, 2019
How to see the silver lining of difficult circumstances.

On a rainy day, driving from one shop to another shop, I got the call that we all dread receiving. It was my sister and the first thing she asked was, “Are you driving?” I said yes and she told me to pull over right now. That was my first indication it wasn’t good news!

Once pulled over, she let me know that I needed to get on the first flight out of Houston and that our dad had a massive heart attack and was in surgery. The next hour was a blur as I rushed to call airlines, shops, hotels, get clothes and got out of there. I was fine and got stuff done until the moment I finally got on the plane. That’s when it all came crumbling down. I finally stopped and absorbed the situation and was terrified of what would happen by the time I landed.

Thankfully, when I landed at midnight, the ICU nurses were gracious enough to sneak me in so I could just see my dad for myself, which was the best gift in the world.  

Over the coming weeks we had a lot of lessons to learn and a lot of eye-opening events to look at in the business. As many of you know, my dad was my first mentor and best friend. He’s the one who taught me how to run shops, work on cars, coach people and pretty much everything about this business.

He not only started his first shop in Georgia as a Mr. Transmission, but he also brought me, my brothers, cousins, and uncles into the business. He changed more people’s lives by serving as a national operations consultant and shop advisory board member (on his own free time). Today, he still goes into one of the shops everyday because he loves what he does.

However, once Dad was out of commission for a period of time, we had questions about what do we do with the business, what to do with the real estate, who will run the front, how we handle the back that was understaffed. In that first week we really pulled together. My brother, Mark, helped to run the front, my brother, Rob, ran the back and I worked with Mark to figure out bills and payroll. The shop had a record week (there was a lot more help than this from family, staff and friends but too many to mention).

It also allowed us to see that changes and decisions needed to be made. First, we knew that the front house manager needed to be trained to really run the front, manage production and handle margins. Second, we needed another good technician to handle the additional work in the back. Next, we needed to plan for the future regarding real estate and the business.

Today Dad is healthier than he has ever been—great news for all! He has a manager that can completely run the front of the shop and has been trained on how to handle it with or without my dad there. He has a new technician to handle the additional work in the back of the house and improve efficiencies in the back of the shop. Next, we have two people trained to take care of all financials and payroll if it’s ever needed. Finally, there’s a firm succession plan for real estate and the business in place.  

This one-time tragedy opened all of our eyes to really look beyond today and plan for tomorrow!  The other thing that came to light is that, for years, the shop ran because Dad did it all and this was the first time he was able to really empower his team and focus on training them how to run the business. It has resulted in happier employees, happier dad and a double-digit business growth (which was amazing to start with). We are all just blessed that we were given this second chance for family, life, business and preparation.

If you haven’t made your own plans for this, trained your team, let go of the reigns, then it’s time to really look at yourself and your operations. It’s time to empower your team and family to be ready to take the reins, do their jobs, and also the upside let you enjoy being a successful owner as you should.

I just want to say in closing to my Dean Bingham - I’m so proud of all you have done for your family, team and the industry! You have changed so many people’s lives, coached shop owners to reach new levels of success, served on leadership teams to help other owners, been a leading innovator but most importantly to me you have been my teacher, mentor, father and best friend!              

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