Maintaining a Balance

Jan. 25, 2023

Running a shop shouldn't be your entire life.

The old phrase, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" once warned that a person could risk becoming bored from their job, and as a result become a boring individual. Today, focusing too much on the business may not just make you boring, it could impact your family relationships, and even your health.  

Recent studies have found that working too many hours can result in tiredness that never goes away; as well as health problems that can often include ulcers, headaches, backaches, and even lead to increase use of drugs and alcohol. In addition, all those hours at the office could mean that family life simply passes you by.  

Even the most dedicated shop owners will tell you that there needs to be a work-life balance. What good is all the success in the world if you can't enjoy it? 


Take Some Time For Yourself 

Too often, there is always oil to drain and bills to pay—but don't wait until then to have a good time, advice even the most hardworking individuals in the industry will advise. 

"You may be talking to the wrong person, everything you said is exactly what I do," admits Steve Bouldin of Raceway Quik Lube in Covington, Tennessee. "I've been doing this job for 27 years, and finding time to get away is something I've not been all that good at." 

That doesn't mean that even Bouldin, who describes himself as a true workaholic, doesn't know how to unwind. As a self-confessed car guy, he would also be the first to admit that as much as he loves what he does, he still doesn't quite live by the saying, "if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life."  

You can love it, but it is still work. 

"If I didn't love it, I wouldn't be doing it," Bouldin continues. "But after working on cars all day, and running the shop, I can go for a ride on my Harley motorcycle and I suddenly feel a lot better." 

Those little moments can be so very important.  


Working Long Hours Isn't Efficient  

There are certainly those who have been led to believe that success means burning the midnight oil, but working long days can often mean you're not working smart. If it creates conflict at home, those problems will simply come to work with you the next day. 

"If you have responsibilities with the family at home, you'll never be effective working if those people feel neglected," warns Jud Cook, owner of three Christian Brothers locations in Riverview, Florida. "You have to take care of those important people in your life. That, in turn, will allow you to be extremely effective when you're supposed to be here." 

It is still true that in the early days of running a new business, or opening a new location, that extra hours may be required. However, dedication to the business should never come at the expense of family or other personal relationships. Kids are only young once, and those important moments in life can't be repeated because paperwork couldn't wait until the next day. 

For Cook, when he opened his first location as a franchisee he worked alongside his employees as a service writer. Afterward, he was able to hire the people to do the floor operations so that he could start working on the business. That may seem counterintuitive to some, but it actually allowed him to determine the workflow, and find the right people to get the job done. Now Cook says he must make sure that the managers aren't the ones burning the midnight oil as well. 

"I think the number one thing is that making sure people are accountable during the day, and staying on task, so that we can close up the shop and not have to be here late," Cook says to NOLN.  

His three locations are open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Cook explains that most days at 6 p.m., they're locking up. It helps keep the employees focused because they know they're not going to be stuck late watching life pass them by. 

"Now it wasn't always like that, but we try to make sure that's how most days end," says Cook. "When people think they need or 'want' to stay late, it is important that leadership is there to convince them they shouldn't do that." 


Not Working Weekends 

For too many Americans, before the pandemic, weekends were all too often the days you ran errands and finished the projects you couldn't do during the week. That was also the time many consumers might head to get their oil changed, but anyone heading to Cook's Christian Brothers locations will realize they'll have to find time at lunch during the week. 

"Our shop hours are Monday to Friday," says Cook. "We really feel that everyone needs to enjoy the weekends with their families. Not being open on Saturday is significant in this industry, but it gives me a leg up in hiring the staff. Most of the employees haven't had that opportunity in their careers, but they're happy they have the weekends with the family." 

That in turn helps to create a better shop environment, as employees don't have to squabble over who is working a particular weekend. In addition, it helps the bonding process as employees often become friends and spend those days off together. 

"I've seen technicians getting together on the weekends to go fishing or to a sporting event," says Cook. "That helps create a healthy atmosphere in the shop." 

To help maintain the camaraderie, Cook and his wife try to wrap up each week by sponsoring lunch for the crew. Sometimes they even have a cookout, while other times it is bringing food in. It allows additional bonding that ensures loyalty among the staff. 


Having Pride in the Business  

For those shop owners who do log the long hours, what often makes it feel a lot less like work is having a dedicated team that becomes part of the extended family. Bouldin tells NOLN that making the employees love the job is an important part of the work/life balance 

"There is absolute pride and joy that the business brings me," says Bouldin. "I know the employees are here for the paycheck, but I want to make sure every one of them likes it and enjoys what they are doing. That pays off because I don't have to stand over them when they're working, and I have confidence that they're doing everything correctly." 

Cook says he tries to get to know the employees during the interview process. "I try to ask about hobbies, so that when we're hiring someone we can relate to what they do outside of the shop." 

That can then include tickets to a sporting event, passes to Disney World to take the family, or gift cards to buy fishing gear. 

"We all have interests outside of the shop, and allowing people to enjoy their time off makes sure they're back on Monday ready to work," adds Cook. 

A similar strategy has paid off Bouldin at Raceway Quik Lube.  

"I have been able to maintain a good relationship with past hires who have moved on, and I know I could go to many ex-employees if I need them," explains Bouldin. "They would help me, and that could include filling in for someone who was sick, or stepping up if vacations overlapped. This isn't really that complicated, it is about treating everyone with respect, paying them well, and getting the job done."     

Bouldin shares a final thought, one that may resonate with many shop owners: "I don't really think about retiring, because I don't know what I'd do. I sure hope I'll be here for a long time to come." 

As long as life doesn't pass you by, and you love what you're doing. Maybe you really don't have to work a day in your after all.

Illustration 222605849 © Ernest Akayeu |
Photo 159601790 © Andrii Yalanskyi |
Radiant Reflections Photography
Photo 27375598 © Choneschones |