Doing Right Things, Leads to Doing Things Right, Which Leads to...

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Some everyday questions asked by fast lube operators are: How can we improve car counts? How can we increase sales? How can we improve profits?

The questions are limitless and extend to every area of the fast lube operation. It’s been said, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” In your effort to improve results, in all parts of your fast lube operation, focusing your energies on the right things is essential. However, in the face of disappointing operational results, the tendency of many business owners is to focus solely on achieving better numbers.

In this column, we will analyze some numbers in our quest for improved performance. But in doing so, we will see if we can hone in on the one common denominator that produces improvement in every part of your business.

Right Things

Someone just looking at a set of numbers on a fast lube operations summary at the end of a business day will quickly reach a number of pretty obvious conclusions. For example, you might calculate the amount of labor dollars compared to vehicles serviced for the day and conclude they had way too much labor for that number of customers. Labor has to be cut.

Well, let’s consider that conclusion in light of our quest to do right things. In addressing higher than expected labor cost, the numbers on an operations summary usually don’t take into account the reality of the entire situation. For example, simple math doesn’t reveal the operational reality that there are days when a key staff member is simply unmotivated and performs less efficiently than normal. Yes, the math adds up to high labor, but cutting labor in response to that unknown factor does not address the real problem and is not doing the right thing.

Things Right

As a business owner, and leader, your primary responsibility is to do right things. It is the job of each one of your employees to do things right. With that distinction in mind, remember the numbers on your daily reports do nothing more than reveal how well both are being done.

As a leader, the most important right thing you can do is to provide consistent, daily, reliable reasons for your employees to do things right. If I listen carefully enough, I can hear your response as you read that. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, this is just one more person’s ramblings on motivating employees!” Wait! Do a right thing, and keep reading.

Most efforts to motivate employees involve dangling a carrot in order to elicit a particular performance in the operations staff. But the common mistake is believing the carrot has the same motivating influence for every member of the service staff. If your practice is dangling carrots, here’s a tip: forget the golden rule. Stop treating your employees as you want to be treated, and treat your employees as they want to be treated.

Remember, you are not in the business of dangling carrots! You are in the business of managing employee performance to achieve outstanding results. Dangling carrots has never achieved that for the long term, and it never will! The first question is, how do you develop a staff that does things right every day because they really want to and not because you’re constantly dangling carrots? It can be done, but it involves a process.

Performance Management Versus Reports Management

Managing the performance of the people who serve your customers, maintain your facilities, drive your sales and profits, in short the people who make your business what it is, is absolutely the most critical aspect of your business! And you should be managing it! Those people are the single common denominator in the results you measure every day, including sales, car counts, and profits.

That being the case, here’s the next question to be answered, is your time best spent managing the results you see on an operations summary or managing the people who produce those results?

A True Story

A technician, let’s call him Albert, reports to work under a new manager. First day on the job, the manager says, “Albert, you move too slowly! When you’re servicing a vehicle, this is how I need you to move around that vehicle.” The manager then demonstrates the desired process. After a number of days, and repeated coaching, the manager sees improvement. Seeing the improvement, the manager leaves a simple note in the Albert’s locker, “Albert, I really appreciate you moving faster from point. Great improvement! Thank you!”

A few weeks pass, and a similar process of coaching a variety of daily job-performances occurs. When improvement in each is seen, the manager always recognizes Albert’s improvement with a note or a comment. A few weeks turns into months. During that time the manager makes a point of listening to Albert talking with other co-workers, about what he enjoys doing, and discovers that he is a diehard fan of a particular NASCAR team.

At the end of a particular day, following months of continual improvement in specific areas, Albert stops in to the manager’s office to say he’s leaving for the day. The manager says, “Albert, wait! There’s something on top of the filing cabinet for you.” Albert looks to find a brown paper bag and asks, “What’s this?” The manager responds, “Open it.” Albert opens the bag to find a racing jacket from his favorite NASCAR team. The manager then cites the specific improvements Albert had made and says, “Albert, thank you! That jacket is not only for a guy who moves faster around the service bay. That jacket is for a great employee!” Albert made three stops on his way home that evening, his grandparent’s, his parent’s and his girlfriend’s. Albert said, “No one, especially an employer, has ever recognized me like this before!”

What happens when a manager understands how to do right things in response to statistics that only reveal a need for employees to do things right? Let’s take a look at the results. Following are the numbers for the first eight month’s under the new manager: 32 percent increase in car counts, 66 percent increase in sales and a 27 percent increase in profits. Why the results? The manager stopped managing reports and started managing performance. He stopped using the blanket motivation tactic of dangling a common carrot for an entire staff, each with different interests. He made it a daily practice to point out, for each employee, the needed improvements and the improvements they had made. He listened carefully and noted on a tracking sheet what was important to each individual member of his staff. And those were just a few of the steps in the process. But the days of dangling carrots had ended. And the days of managing performance, doing right things had begun!

Dramatically improved results over the long term, which show up on operations reports, have nothing to do with focusing on the numbers and everything to do with employees who give their best every day because they want to and not because they have to!

In my succeeding columns this year, I plan to provide you with the rest of the steps the manager took in doing right things. I hope you’ll join myself, the manager and the rest of the staff!

PAUL HALOULOS is a trade-marketing manager for BP Lubricants USA, Inc. He may be reached at: To learn more about Castrol products and programs in general, please call 888.CASTROL or visit:

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