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Building auto repair shop management discipline

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 08:00
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More than 30 years ago, Lirel Holt, my friend, mentor and the founder of CARSTAR, had determined that most shop productivity issues were related to a lack of management skills. He saw a real need to teach body shop owners and managers how to be great leaders and give them solid systems in order to improve their shop's productivity. The training that he built helped increase shop productivity and changed many shop owners' and managers' lives. The material is as pertinent today as ever.

The training was originally written for production managers, yet the management principles apply to anyone who is in a leadership role. Lirel determined that there were eight “disciplines” that the manager needed to practice in order to be a proficient manager. They are: General Management, Technical Knowledge, Goals and Objectives, General Organization, Documentation, Communication, Delegation, and Parts Control.  In this article I am going to focus on the General Management discipline and how Lirel incorporated the management theories of Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s classic business book, The One Minute Manager.

The general management discipline is the foundation to the successful implementation of the remaining disciplines. General management is about managing your team members and is a skill that most of us are lacking. There are four things that will determine the success or failure of our team members: Skills and Ability, Systems and Rules, Training and Proficiency, and Supervision and Correction.

The first slice is skills and ability. When you hire new team members, do you know what you are looking for? If I am hiring a body technician, I need to ask myself some key questions. Do I want a journeyman or do I want an apprentice? Do I have time to train from scratch? Or will I need someone who has complete repair capabilities and will just need to be brought up to speed on my processes and procedures? The same would be true of any role that I am looking to fill. In order to do this I would need a skills inventory for all roles in my business. Abilities are harder to identify as they are softer and would need to be determined through an interview.

The second slice is systems and rules. Systems would be your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Your shop should have written SOPs for all activities that take place in your business on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual level. SOPs are then used to train a new team member or a current member whose role is changing, and then troubleshoot and retrain if there is a failure. There are many sources available for general SOPs that are already written and can then be modified to fit your business. Your business rules (work hours, benefits, etc.) should be spelled out in your employee handbook.

Slice three is training and proficiency. What training do you have in place for your new and current team members? New team members need to be trained on the SOPs that they will be using, along with your rules and any safety-related items. This training needs to take place before they go to work. Other training requirements would be directly related to the team member’s roles and should be ongoing for all team members. If SOPs are changed or new SOPs are added, then the team members will also need to be trained and/or retrained. In order to measure proficiency, all team members need to have goals, and we as managers need to monitor and report back to our team members on a regular basis on whether or not they are meeting those agreed-upon goals.

The fourth slice is supervision and correction. If we have done a good job on the first three components, then supervision should be minimal as we have done great ground work. Correction will need to happen at times, but there is a right way and a wrong way to correct or reprimand a team member. Most of us don’t know how to do it.

The team member circle of success sounds great, but how do we train ourselves and our mangers to implement this in a busy shop environment?

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