Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2000   by Auto Service World

MYOB: A Successful Business Owner Must Lead His People, Not Drive Them

Installers must learn that the days of the dictator are over. As a jobber, you can share their concerns over getting the best out of installers' most important resource: people.

The installer today has more challenges than ever before on top of products, equipment and modern technology to contend with. He must not only understand all these, but also understand business principles such as gross profit, sales mix management, balance sheet and expense management, along with client management.

The successful installer must learn to think about his business in a “vision form.” With that picture in mind, he should carry out his day-to-day routine towards that particular business’s goals. Remember however that “vision in business without action is merely a daydream, and action without vision is a nightmare.”

One area that is overlooked too many times is the topic of personnel management. This topic is one where the jobber and the installer can clearly work together to fortify an installer’s business and bottom line.

Installer management must change its perception of what its role as owner/manager is in today’s business. Too many installers still work on the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do principle.

I also know that many jobbers have this problem as well, but make this an opportunity to solidify your relationship with the installer by discussing the common problems shared by your businesses. The installer and jobber can discuss personnel development on a common, level platform in that it is important to the very success of each business.

Work with installers to help them understand that they must fundamentally change their role from one of a dictator to one of communicator. Management today must be the leader, the motivator, the one who can nurture confidence in his employees and one who shares and communicates his business’s vision. Through their views they can strive to create a team partnership, where a company’s management and staff operate and live within this association with pride.

As everyone knows, there is a huge shortage of competent technicians in our industry. To attract the very best it is absolutely critical that your installers understand and realize that you can buy a man’s time; you can buy his physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of his skilled muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy enthusiasm, initiative, loyalty, or devotion of hearts, minds or souls. You must earn these.

Rolling out the red carpet for employees can win more than just staff loyalty and mutual respect; it can fortify the bottom line. To attract the very best in the industry, installers should be very supportive of their employees’ well being, which simply means getting involved and understanding your employees thoroughly. Communicating with them, not at them, does this.

In the past, you’d hear people saying “Wouldn’t it be great to work for Company ‘X’ or Company ‘Y.'”

You don’t hear that any more, because in an age known for “slash and burn,” “downsizing,” and lean and mean management, the prevailing perception among employees is that there are few companies out there that truly value their people.

That feeling spills over into the installer business as well, and this is also easily perceived by technicians and other staff if management does not understand what they are doing.

The most important personnel management issue to clearly define and discuss with your installer clients is the following:

“The only sustainable competitive advantage in the future will be people. The competition can copy your technology and latest feature, but they can’t copy the skills, knowledge, judgement and creativity of your committed workforce. People will be the edge tomorrow.”

It is imperative, therefore, that the installer slow down, step out of the box, and clearly understand that competent staff are highly educated, skilled, focused, and proud individuals. It is therefore, extremely important that good staff are continually informed about issues of the business, coupled with being shown, and told, that they are valued. They like to be treated with respect (including in front of the customer/client), and have the opportunity, and room, to perform well. When you let people know they are valued, they will repay you with their ideas, and success in this new millennium will belong to those companies where ideas run rampant.

One additional issue to discuss is to talk to the installer about their facility in terms of being conducive to attracting the best technicians. The best want a clean, properly ventilated, properly lit facility. Nobody, in the real world that is, wants to earn their living in the “black hole of Calcutta,” after all; this is where they spend five-sevenths of their life. Dealerships may be known for not having the best attitude towards technicians, but it is hard to beat their physical facility for working conditions.

To fortify business, the jobber has to fortify his relationships with his chosen installer clients. Raise, discuss, and assist in resolving the real issues such as personnel management that help grow a business, and stop dwelling on the price of parts. The best installers don’t worry about parts pricing, as they know that can’t save their business from financial ruin. They are more concerned about real business issues and are looking for professional help anywhere they can find it. Be part of their solution, and watch what happens to your bottom line.

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