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Effective training can keep you from repeating past mistakes

Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 01:00
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Tony Passwater

If you have ever successfully competed in any sport or serious game, you must have realized that the mental part outweighs the physical requirements. All the physical ability means very little unless the mental side is on track. You must believe you can, or you have failed before you begin. When one gets into the mindset that all is most likely will be lost. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or can't, you're right."

Working with shop owners and technicians, I often find many are not up to the new challenges, rules or technology. They hope that things will stay the same so they can get ahead again, or times will change and go back to how they remember them to be during the "good old days." It sounds as if they are hoping to win the lottery or have 10 hailstorms hit in the next three months. That's not a sound business plan.

I often am challenged to find a way to inspire these good-natured owners, managers and technicians to rekindle their drive and entrepreneurial spirit. Why do so many want to get out of the business when so many others want to get in?

Today the expansion of shops, in both size and numbers of new locations, is staggering. It's equally jarring to look at the amount of consolidation taking place. You can look at almost any top-100 metropolitan market and see expansion by some while downsizing and distress by others. Why?

What's the secret formula?

Today, many in our industry see only insurmountable problems while others see opportunities. Do they have a secret formula? Is lean manufacturing, ISO, TQM, TPS, TOC, Six Sigma or Kaizen the solution?

While these systems provide clear direction to improve your business, they aren't a magic cure-all.

I have implemented concepts of many of these systems with clients and believe they can provide a great deal of benefit.

But having worked with clients worldwide has allowed me to see one fatal flaw in many business practices. Business owners are normally not accountable to anyone but themselves and – they like it that way.

Each day they have the flexibility to change the rules, the deadlines and the plan. They often do not hold themselves accountable for their own actions or deadlines as they do with their employees, or even their own family members. They often do not exercise the power of leading by example, and do not spend the time to advance themselves to be better owners, managers or just be better prepared for the future of their business.

I realize there are many shop owners who do the right things for their businesses, but this group is a minority. Unfortunately, some believe that the only way to accomplish this is to do it illegally, or by compromising the sacred three: quality, service or value. That's not the way to go.

To succeed today requires that the owners, managers and technicians believe in providing the proper quality and service at a good value. But how can any improvement be made if no one knows the information or has received the training needed?

I challenge you to look at your training costs for the last three years. Did it reach 2 percent of your sales? How about 1 percent? I doubt it did, as most shops I have analyzed do not reach even 1 percent, and that is sad.

Training should be an important investment in your business. Technical training is critical for your technicians just as management, financial and sales training is to yourself, managers and the office staff.

Many of these key needs often are overlooked. Technicians and managers can't compete only with the same knowledge and skills they've had for 20 years. They are seriously disadvantaged and will be challenged to survive. If you are living in the past your business will suffer. Make a difference this year and commit to training – before it's too late.

Tony Passwater, president of AEII, has been in the collision industry since 1972.


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