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Management Skills: On Being Professional

You must train to be a true professional business leader.

Very few in our trade were born with the skills and gifts needed to succeed in the automotive service field. You must train and practice consistently to gain the skills needed to perform business management well.

Lately I’ve had a few negative interactions with clients. One asked for a tire repair. When I agreed to take the job, he asked the cost of the repair. I explained the possible price range as it related to the type of repair we must do. I also made it clear that we don’t plug tires externally for professional and safety reasons. We remove the tire completely, use a proper internal patch and plug, rebalance the tire and guarantee the repair for the tire’s life. The service cost plus the time needed to repair the tire properly would be between $40 and $50; the job takes a minimum of 30 minutes. He said he normally only pays $10-$15 for such repairs and left in a huff!

Another scenario
On another day, we inspected a client’s car and found the rear calipers needed replacing. We made an estimate using quality calipers with a lifetime warranty. The time study catalogue suggested the job took between 1.6 and 1.8 hours. Given the age of the vehicle and the rusty brake assemblies, we estimated two hours of labour. He agreed to return the next day for the repair. Instead, he phoned and tore a strip off me stating we were “gouging” him and thought we were dishonest for charging too much. I tried to explain we preferred to use a quality part versus a cheap part because brakes are very important to vehicle safety. He didn’t accept my way of thinking! A day later, I called to ask if he’d reconsidered and would like us to look after him. He said he’d found a shop that allowed him to buy his own cheap calipers and they’d install them for a one-hour labour charge.

I’m frustrated by these two interactions! As any shop owner can attest, we go home thinking about clients that stress us out more than those that appreciate the honesty and professionalism we try hard to provide for all our clients. What frustrates me most is the reason these two ex-clients acted the way they did—there are shop owners in our area that charge $15 for a job that should take 30 minutes to perform properly. There’s also a shop that installs client-supplied parts charging less than a proper fee.

Business training
I strive to raise the level of our trade; I want to be able to pay a licenced technician a wage comparable to a teacher or firefighter. Too many shop owners lack the training or desire to see the light when it comes to proper management skills. I’ve learned from trainers who’ve given me the skills and confidence to achieve my goals, to operate a respected business in my community.

I wish taking business training was a prerequisite to owning and operating an automotive service shop. It would make life easier for some and create a happier life/career for many hard working technicians.

Most major parts suppliers have training programs for shop owners. Training will show you the way to be professional and ethical, charging properly for parts and professional time, attracting and keeping skilled people, managing technician time plus other important skills. If you’re among the shop owners who haven’t taken management training, consider doing so for your benefit, your family’s, your staff’s and your clients’… indeed the benefit of the entire automotive service industry.

Categories : Mechanical

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