Updated: Oct 3, 2022
I will be the first to admit that during my 25 years in this crazy auto repair industry, I spent the first 20 years micromanaging. I would have a lot less grey in my beard, less wrinkles in my skin, and a less shiny forehead had I learned some very basic management concepts earlier in life, but I am grateful for what I now know.
During what I now refer to as my “earlier” years, I followed in my father’s footsteps and work hard, really hard. Our auto repair shop kept growing and growing so we kept working and working. It never really dawned on me to take a step back out of the action, formulate a plan, write it down, and properly enlist a team to help. I was too busy working in the business to ever feel like I had time to really work on the business.
Our business grew so fast without any real plan of growing to a particular size that I always felt one step behind. Not much was discussed and written out as far as clear goals or even clear processes. It was all in my head. With it all being in my head, I really didn’t know how to let others on my team take over needed tasks. I had my hands on every moving part of our process and was definitely the source of most log jams.
Thankfully, a vendor reached out to me with a management class that was coming to my area. I am also thankful that this vendor caught me at a perfect time so I actually listened and signed up. This would be the first automotive training I would receive that was not on the technical side. I remember it being very painful for me to leave the shop for two straight days and go sit around in a classroom but after about 1 hour of class on the first day, I knew my life was about to change drastically.
Over this two-day class, the instructor hit on almost every struggle that I was currently having. On top of that, the solutions to these struggles were so simple that I almost felt silly that I was so blind to it. I am proud to say that now 5 years later I have dozens of classes under my belt and am on the right path. Our shop is doing amazing. I am blessed with a team that is very easy to lead and that exceeds my expectations every month. And most of all, my family and I are enjoying life now more than ever.
I tell you all this for very specific reasons. No matter where you currently are in your career, don’t forget to take a step back out of the action and triple check your priorities. Life is too short to work it away. It is all about having the proper work/ life balance. The auto repair industry can very easily disrupt that proper balance if you allow it. Proper leadership and management is the key to happily balance career and family life.
I am very passionate about leadership and management. In order to keep this an article rather than a novel, I am going to hit on the basics:
The Basics of Management
As the leader you must know exactly where you are going and even more importantly, you must know Why! You must live, sleep, eat and breathe it. If you are not 100% in, you will never get your team to come even close.
Once you know exactly where you are going, you must break it down into bite sized goals. There are some basic rules you should follow with these goals. Goals must be written! Goals should be very specific. By this I mean what the goal is, who is going to do it, when will it be done, how you are going to measure it and why you want to accomplish this goal.
Once leadership and management has come up with clear goals, it is now time to gain agreement from the staff. I have found that the easiest way to gain agreement for my team on a specific goal is to discuss the why. Everyone needs to know what the benefit to them is to put 100% into achieving a goal. Once you have gained agreement from your team on a specific goal, it is time to take action. During the action, it is very important to measure results that are very clear for all involved in reaching the goal. The last basic piece of management is to review and provide feedback. Feedback can be negative or positive based on the results. I would encourage you to focus on the positives more often than not but regardless of the results, make sure you are following up with the team.
Like I said, the above 3 bullet points are very basic. There are a lot of tips and tricks within these headlines that can be learned. There are podcasts, articles, books, and classes that you can spend days learning from. Don’t get too caught up in the details and remember the basics!
By following the basics above, it is now easy for me to have a clear vision of our future and explain it properly to my team so they will buy in and follow me. I have gone from working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to not having a daily role in the business so I don’t even have to go in unless I want to. My team is happier than ever and my stress levels are the lowest they have ever been. This allows me to be the leader, husband, father and friend that the people I love the most deserve to have around.
I want to end on a quick note about micro managing. I have been in our auto repair industry all my life. I have been around a lot of technicians, advisors, managers and shop owners. We all share many common traits and one that stands out the most is the obvious passion for what we do. Now this passion often leads to being somewhat of a perfectionist so it is hard for us to release our tight grip on many tasks involved in our shops. This leads to micromanagement.
The easiest way I find to avoid micromanaging is to simply manage the results only. What do I mean by manage the results? If you have a clear written goal that meets all the criteria, give the person assigned to the action the tools they need to succeed, and get out of the way. They may have a very different way of doing things than you, but as long as it produces the end result of the goal, it does not matter. Now there are a couple rules to this of course.
There does need to be processes and procedures in place as well as ethical standards, but the point is to give your teammates some freedom to put their own spin on things as long as they can produce the results. If you nitpick every single move and decision they make, you will not have a team to manage. They will no longer think for themselves and make things happen. They will come to you for every single decision that needs to be made. This is not a good thing. You will no longer be a leader or a manager. You will be a fire fighter running around putting out fires all day rather than calmly working on your business.
Remember the basics, take care of your teams and have the well-balanced life your family deserves!
Tom Lambert, Owner of Shadetree Automotive