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Auto Repair Shop Owners: Are You Hurting Your Team?


Are You Hurting Your Team? by Rick White, President 180BIZ

In this episode, I will talk about how shop owners are hurting their teams. I have Brandon sitting beside me for a very specific reason. I will ask Brandon a question really quick. “Brandon, if you come to me with a question and I give you the answer, what did you learn?” Brandon replies, “Nothing.” Here's what Brandon learned. He learned to come to me again for the next question. So, what’s the big deal?  The answer that I give him today may not work in this situation tomorrow. He doesn't learn anything. He'll come to me more and more and more and more asking me question after question after question. Why should he have to think things through when he can just come to me, and I'll give him an answer.

And that's what you are doing, as an owner, to your team. You're hurting your team by giving them the answers. Now you're probably thinking, “Rick, I need to get stuff done at the shop.” Absolutely you do. But when you give someone an answer, it's like giving them a fish. You will only feed them for a day. It’s better to teach them how to feed themselves for a lifetime. And that means helping them to think through the situation. When you give someone an answer, they don't get the gift of understanding the thought process. What goes behind that answer? So the only thing you're teaching them is to come to you for more answers. The other thing it does is it just demoralizes them. The goal is that you hope they learn from the answer that you give them, but they really don't. They run off, they do what you tell them to do, and then they're off to the next thing.

So, there are three things you need to do in order to turn this around.  

  1. EXPECT. What do I mean by that? You must expect more from your team. You must expect that they will grow and become bigger and better than they are now. That's really important.

    And it's funny because we were just talking about this last week at our shop owner's round table. We talked about setting goals and minimum levels of acceptable performance.  Our Shop Owner's Round Table meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM Eastern Time. I would love to see you there.

    Share that expectation. I'm talking about this because I was living what I call daddy syndrome. I had more people coming to me every day with question after question after question after question. It was infuriating because I couldn't get any of my own work done. And here's the other thing that happens when you allow that kind of behavior in the shop. You build that model in your shop, where you are the one with all the answers. Come on, let's be honest.  It feels good, right? It means we bring value. It feeds our ego. It means that we're supposed to be the guy or gal with all the answers, right? And that's absolutely untrue. Do you know what you end up with? You end up with a shop where you're never able to leave. It comes to a grinding halt when you do leave for a while. Your team becomes completely dependent upon you for their success. But there's a better way. Start with EXPECT. Set expectations internally for your team. Then share the expectations with them.

    Now, this happened in my shop. I finally sat down with the guys. I said, “When you come to me with a question, I will answer you with another question. I will lead you to figure this out on your own. And I will do it by asking questions. But you are going to learn the process, not the answer. Does it take a little bit longer? Yes, but this is what's called investing in your team.
  2. ENGAGE. The way you engage is by asking questions. Ask questions forever. For example.
    a. What makes you think that might be the issue?
    b. What else could there be?
    c. Can you tell me what goes on in that circuit?
    d. Let's say we're talking about, a drivability issue. It's running rich.
         What are all the things that could cause it to run rich? And what else?
         And what else do you see?

    Remember, stick to your guns. I know sometimes you're busy and it feels easier to just give the answer so you can go back to what you're doing. But you are creating a dynamic that is poisonous and toxic to your business.

  3. ENCOURAGE. Encouragement is simply your belief in them, verbalized. It's all it is. Let them know you believe in them. Yes. It's tough. Yes. It's hard. I'm making you think this through. But you will thank me for this someday. I was a teenager working in my dad’s shop, I spent 10 hours a day as a glorified dishwasher. At 15, 16, 17 years old I was pulling transmissions apart and washing them up. Then what does my dad do? He throws me a book about three inches thick and says, “Start reading it, boy.” So I started reading that book and I started learning the different components. And then my dad would walk by, and he would pick up a part and ask, “What’s this? What does it do?” I replied, “That's third gear. It locks the sun gear, and it keeps a one-to-one ratio going out to the drive shaft.” When he was satisfied he would put it down a walk away.

That's what this is all about. I thank my dad every single time because if I have a situation, I am going to find the answer on my own. I'll get advice, but I draw my own conclusions. And I thank my dad for that every day. Be the mentor to your team. EXPECT, ENGAGE and ENCOURAGE.

Stay safe, have fun, and go make some money.


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