Running a Shop Leadership

The ABCs of 1-on-1 Meetings

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SHOP STATS: Fast Eddy's Havoline xpress lube   Location: Meridian, Idaho  Operator: Steve Eddy  Staff Size: 22  Shop Size: 6 bays 


Steve Eddy has had lots of employees. From his first quick lube in 1994, he’s run networks of C-stores, car washes and shops over the intervening years.

Now he’s back to one location in Meridian, Idaho—a 5.5-acre plot that includes all three business operations with around 69 employees. The car wash-quick lube side alone has 22 employees.

One thing Eddy’s doing differently in his newest operation is taking an active role in holding one-on-one meetings with employees. From entry level to managers, he says that he’s tapped into an effective strategy, even though it’s often a strenuous scheduling effort.

“It’s the new way,” Eddy says. “The problem with that is there's not enough hours in the day. You’re just going around nonstop. It is what I believe sets us apart—I try to do that regularly.”

What he’s found is that employees, especially younger ones, are responding well to that personalized, thoughtful feedback from someone at the top of the organization. 

The result is a workforce that’s more in tune with the goals of the business and feels more involved in its success. That should affect the customer experience, which Eddy says is the lens through which his management decisions are made.

“You have to deliver a higher experience,” he says. “And I think that’s what this whole industry is going through. The consumer is going to go where they get the best experience. And that experience is going to be driven by your workforce.”


(A) Positive Experience

When Eddy began conducting his one-on-ones with employees, he sensed a bit of concern. It has the perception of being pulled into the principal’s office.

“At first, when I started doing this, most of them thought, ‘Oh, no, what am I in trouble for?’” he says.

It wasn’t long before that perception wore off in the shop. He knew that the first thing staff members would ask each other after a meeting is some variation of: “What trouble were you in?” After a few times with no issues, it got around to staff that the meetings are designed more for building success rather than scolding failures.

At any rate, disciplinary meetings are set up differently.

“We’ve been really fortunate,” Eddy says. “We don't have a lot of issues. We don't have a lot of turnover. When those things come up, we always have two (managers) present to go over whatever we need to modify.”

For the one-on-one meetings, it’s important to set the employee at ease. Do that early on in order to get the most out of the interaction by the end. How does Eddy do that?

“I think the biggest thing I try to do, which is hard, is first let them tell me what’s bothering them,” Eddy says. “Usually it’s hardly anything to start. And then I go into things I see, and then I get a pretty good feedback session.”

Both parties should leave the meeting with a better perspective on their role in the overall business and where things can improve. And the employees should be more comfortable to talk to managers in that collaborative atmosphere.


(B)e Mindful of Customer Time

Eddy says that he has meetings with managers sometimes before the shop opens. But for his normal one-on-ones, he’s not a fan of scheduling something right at 8 a.m. Cars might be lined up for service, and that’s not something he wants to interrupt.

That means that one-on-one meetings don’t follow a strict schedule. They’re important, but they have to take place when it’s not affecting normal business.

“You have to go back to the customer,” he says. “If you’re busy, you don’t do it then. I try to do it when we get caught up and you can see that you have the 15-plus minutes that I can pull somebody and do it.”

As for when he meets with a particular person, Eddy will try and make time with an employee when he notices something to talk about— an “as needed” basis.

Eddy tries to see a few people for one-on-ones each week. But as a shop gets busier, they can weigh on his schedule. He says that he’s exploring ways to delegate some of those meetings to shop managers, but so far he’s found great success when the person at the top of the organization shows interest in the day-to-day staffers.

“They just get a different feeling from the owner than the manager,” he says. “I think to keep them happy, it’s showing me more than ever that you have to do that to keep them engaged.”


(C)ultural Shift is the Cause

In Eddy’s experience, one of the reasons that he’s seeing increasing success with the owner-employee one-on-one meeting is that his workforce is getting younger.

“What’s really changed is the millennials who come to work for us,” he says. “They need the one-on-one. They out-perform when they get the one-on-one from the owner versus their manager.”

It’s nothing against the managers—Eddy says that his operations have been fortunate to have effective managers on staff. He just finds that by holding the meetings himself, the employees are more engaged in the ideas and are more motivated to act on those lessons.

Experts on multigenerational workplaces have said that younger workers want to feel motivated by an organization’s culture to succeed. Warren Wright, the president of Coaching Millennials, told NOLN back in October that in small businesses, access to leaders can be an important motivator. And that’s certainly possible in a small business.

“I think millennials are attracted to that,” Wright says. “It’s personal, because they know the owner. They can talk to the owner.”

Eddy agrees with that assessment. He’s able to explain to his employees that they’re an important part of the operation, and there’s no higher authority to provide that motivation.

“I just think they feel more engaged, which helps with their work ethic,” he says. “Helps with cleanliness of the site. They care, and ultimately they treat the customer better. And that’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen from it.”


(D)evelop the Process

One challenge that Eddy sees in the process comes for owners of larger operations. While he’s confident in his one-on-one meeting system, he has the benefit of having his entire operation on one site.

He says that he’s exploring ways to expand that effectiveness for other facilitators in the business.

“There is a need to figure out how to get that manager connected at our level with those employees, so they feel that same comfort feeling and that same quality feeling from them for the owner or the franchisee of the business,” Eddy says. “They just feel engaged at the same level. I’m still searching for how we do that.”

But through his meetings, he’s found that employees take more pride in the Fast Eddy’s brand and the work that they do. And they feel more connected to the organization, which forms a stronger bond than just a paycheck.

Because of that success, Eddy says he’s going to keep making time in his schedule for one-on-one meetings.

“I think im going to have to continue, because I think it makes that much of a difference,” he says. “The value is there to continue.”

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