Auto Service World
News   December 13, 2022   by Adam Malik

Traps to avoid as a shop owner

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A shop that is run well should rarely ever need the owner to step in for an emergency. However, many owners fall victim to traps that pull them in when they could delegate the task, according to an executive coach.

Speaking to a group of shop owners at NAPA Expo 2022, workplace author and speaker Brandon Smith observed how usually only 10 per cent of all emergencies should require the owner to step in. The shop owner should have trained their staff well enough to handle run-of-the-mill emergencies without having to be called in.

However, there are many ways “we screw this up,” Smith said. The biggest trap is what he called ‘the hero trap.’ This is where the owner is tempted to be the hero, swoop in and save the day.

“When rescuing our teams, were stunting their growth and creating a co-dependent relationship,” Smith said. “It feels good to put on that cape. It feels good to swoop in and save the day. And they thank us for it. But the only person there who’s really working is us, right? We’re the only ones getting stronger.”

He equated to a personal trainer at the gym who does all the workouts while the client sits and watches.

“If you want to move yourself to truly be a leader, you need the right system so others can fix the problem.”

The second trap is fear or failure or loss of control. Some may fear that giving direct reports more control to solve problems will lead to failure, or that the owner is losing control of their business by giving more to others.

Recognizing that growth comes from failure and that there are multiple ways to solve a problem can help overcome this trap, Smith said.

“This is one of the most common kinds of ‘founders dilemmas’ — this idea that I like it done my way and my way is the only way to go,” he added.

He used the example of a shop owner who at first refused to hire a service writer because they were afraid the job wouldn’t be done as well as they could do it. They finally gave in.

“I would say to myself, ‘No one could sell the job like I could.’ Trusting others to interact with customers was huge for me. The first couple of service writers that we had weren’t great at it. I had to have the faith and let someone else do what I do,” he quoted the shop owner as saying.

“So a lot of this is trust and faith.”

Finally, owners need to avoid the bait-and-switch. What Smith means is, tricking the owner into coming up with a solution to the problem. An employee will commonly pull this off by asking, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?” Other variations include, “What would you do if you were in my position?” and “Can you tell me exactly what you want?”

The employee has now turned the tables and asked the owner to come up with a solution, which goes against the owner’s desire for the employee to do this as a way to grow professionally.

When we hear those phrases, our first move usually is to jump in and solve it for them. But pause before you answer, Smith advised. Tell them to take some time to think about it and come back in an hour, or even the next day, to talk about their ideas to solve it.

“Don’t take the bait, is my point,” Smith said.

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