Using numbers and feedback for improvement.
When Crystal Forth recently had a review with one of her employees, they asked to take a particular course.
“As much as I’d hate to lose that person in the position they’re in, we all need to improve ourselves,” explains Forth, the Managing Partner at Tirecraft Cambridge. “If it was something they want to get into, why not let that person take this course and promote from within, so at least they stay in the Tirecraft group?”
In all her reviews, Forth asks staff if they are where they want to be, and if they are happy. “We all want to better ourself,” she notes.
Tirecraft head office compiles a KPI report for all their stores on a weekly basis, outlining where each store is doing for parts and labour, and what the average repair order is worth. Much of it is geared to the retail side of the business, but in Forth’s case, it also covers the medium trucks and industrial vehicles her store handles.
Within the report, Forth can see how productive her team is, and whether they’re fulfilling their numbers. It also provides accounts receivable figures, inventory turns, and where reductions might be necessary.
Her store is involved in cross training. “Today, we’re training a manager from another store,” Forth describes. “That’s the nice thing about the Tirecraft group, it’s so large, we have resources everywhere.”
There’s monthly training, especially for the staff involved with the commercial vehicles. Monthly meetings are also a big factor, where even the weather is discussed. “At the beginning of the winter, we’ll talk about working in the cold, what to look for, if your fingers start to get numb,” explains Forth.
Striving for better productivity is ongoing, amid a friendly competitive environment. Team members wants to see their numbers, trying to beat what they did the year before. “Everyone is on board and wants to do better,” reports Forth. “It’s nice to see the drive.”
At Fountain Tire, there’s been a productivity and efficiency reporting system in place for several years. It’s helped to better understand where there may be challenges that may stand in the way of doing better, whether at an individual level or across the entire work environment.
There are two formal mentorship programs to provide associates with training and management to build skills for long-term success. One is a management training program called DRIVE, that combines one-on-one coaching, educational courses, hands-on experience and mentorship from successful store owners. The other is a Management in Training program, for those with management experience outside the organization.
“We have one Manager in Training who started with our IT technical support team but decided he’d like to transition to a store management role and eventually become a store owner,” says Shad Smereka, Vice President, People and Customer Experience, Fountain Tire. “Having a safe and supportive culture can have very positive effects on productivity.”
The Fountain Tire corporate office supports store managers with marketing, product support, accounting, HR, IT and legal to empower store managers in focusing on exceptional customer service. “We also believe it’s important to have a solid understanding of any barriers to success for our associates, to be able to report on them, and be willing to remove the barriers so our team members can do their best work.”
Scheduling flow of business
As Darryl Croft’s Etobicoke OK Tire location went through the pandemic, it enabled him to get a micro-view of where staff were best utilized in his store. “We had to focus on essential services, and essential times,” Croft describes. Any basic mechanical and running repairs had to be done, but now clients had to make appointments.
Previously, customers had been able to drop in any time, but that wasn’t possible with the pandemic. The number of customers waiting in the showroom had to be reduced. As a result, the flow of business became more scheduled, and more productive. “It’s the last minute people who rush in for emergencies that can really throw off your productivity,” explains Croft. “You’re pulling someone off a job to tend to something else and go back, they forget where they started.”
Many customers also chose to drop off their vehicle, or to have it picked up. It turned out to be a very successful service, and allowed staff to be more productive, bringing vehicles in as it worked in the schedule. It took pressure off the staff, and made better use of everyone’s time. As a result, it’s a change that’s going to become permanent.
Croft had joined an industry group to discuss productivity and analytics to improve productivity, but the metrics became somewhat irrelevant during lockdown. “When things picked up, we saw the return to productivity again,” notes Croft. “We had less capability, less manpower, fewer operating hours and fewer staff. On a proportional basis, we knew our staff were being productive.”