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The Value of Values

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I remember the day.

It was Saturday, March 5, 1994. The phone on the wall in the kitchen rang (the kind with the rotary dial and a really long cord that was always in knots). On the other end of the line was Larry Dahl, the owner of Oilstop. He said, “Good morning, is this Matt?” 

I responded “Yes, it is."

Mr. Dahl then asked if I could come in for an interview at 8:45 am. I quickly responded that I could, and that’s the day I started working in oil change bays. The three-bay store in Rohnert Park, Calif., ended up servicing 95 cars that day. I was excited about everything: the fast pace, the team atmosphere, the smiles on our guests faces when they left and, of course, landing a job that could make money for myself.

Fast forward 25 years, and I find myself owning six oil change centers, a few car washes and that same excitement today that I experienced on that beautiful Saturday in 1994. But Instead of checking tires and registering guests into the POS system, I spend my time trying to figure out how to grow car count, reduce expenses, add new locations and grow leaders in my company to support current operations and future growth. None of these tasks are easy to do and there are no manual or quick answers on google.

After seeing a simple set of core values on the wall of a successful operator, I began the process of determining our own core values on a napkin at lunch one afternoon. The following week, I presented them to our leadership team. Everyone was really excited because although we already had a mission statement, the core values really helped clarify who we are and how we should operate our business on a daily basis. Once you define your core values you can hire, fire, reward and recognize people based on them. This was a liberating and exciting thought. 

I believe that this has changed our company, the way we do business, and the way we select people for leadership positions as well as hiring for entry level positions. There has been a lot written about the benefits of establishing core values. Jim Collins and Jerry Poras, the authors of “Built to Last,” spent six years researching companies that survived through depressions and recessions. They found that companies that defined their core values and built their culture around them fared much better than organizations who had not.

So, I believe I have made a strong case for why you should define the core values of your organization. Here is the process that I would recommend to make that happen.

1: Set aside a few hours with your leadership team (preferably offsite away from distractions). Create a list of all the characteristics of the most effective people in your company as well as any other qualities you personally feel should be on the list. The list will probably be long, but that’s OK. You want to consider all the possibilities.

2: Narrow down your list to three to seven values that are truly important. Debate this thoroughly and make sure everyone is on board.

3: Reevaluate these three to seven core values after you have thought them through for a few weeks. If everyone still agrees, sign off on them and make them official.

4: Communicate these core values with the team. Create a presentation and explain each one and why it is “core” to your company.

5: Live them! Your core values should become the guiding force in your organization. They should be incorporated into everything you do.


Joining the AOCA Board

As a new board member of the AOCA, I am honored and excited to serve along with the other board members in the upcoming term. One of the Core values of the AOCA is to enhance the competency of fast lube oil change owners and managers. This is key to the growth of your company and our industry.

If you have identified competency or proficiency among your values, it’s a great time to sign up and attend one of the upcoming AOCA management certification courses. This information is invaluable and is worth the investment. Another part of AOCAs mission is to work to create a favorable business environment to benefit everyone in the industry. This commitment requires strength in numbers.

There are many oil change operators who are not currently members. This is a good time to reach out to these folks and encourage them to join AOCA.

Let's all stick together. We can do this!

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