Running a Super-Fit Business

June 26, 2024
How to cross-train employees for success.

The difference between running a shop that idles or accelerates often boils down to people. Your employees, to be exact, your relationship with them, and their level of commitment. 

Once you achieve buy-in, you’ll be left with the most loyal and dedicated of the pack. And you can put them pretty much anywhere, in line with their skills and personalities—according to two successful owners—and see positive results. 

How can you achieve this feat of cross-training employees for success? Here are four smart steps. 

No. 1: Get to know your people. 

Nestor Gutierrez is the owner of Rancho Express Lube in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and a 2023 NOLN Best Workplaces winner. He says he has learned a key tenet from successful business owners over the years—one he has taken to heart. That tenet is that top-notch shops will consistently display committed employees. 

“When your team shows up motivated and knows their purpose, it puts your business on a whole different level, and you are unstoppable,” Gutierrez states. 

The Rancho Express Lube owner gets to know his team—their needs and strengths—very well by holding bi-monthly meetings with each person he hires. 

“I do one-on-ones to get to know them personally,” he describes, through a process he calls PPF. “We talk about anything going on in their lives that I can help them with, professional, personal, and financial.” 

Once Gutierrez has insight into his team members’ lives, he says he can help them if they’re willing to put in the work. 

“They must have their own goals, or they won’t buy into yours,” he notes. “Then when you really help them out and they see results, you will see loyalty in return.” 

For Brian Ross, owner of Crystal River Fast Lube & Repair in Crystal River, Florida, regular meetings are also essential in getting to know the whole team. These meetings are also a great opportunity to let employees see what makes you tick as an owner. 

“We have monthly meetings to discuss how to talk to the customer,” he says of cross training his team, many of whom will eventually come face-to-face with car owners, whether or not that’s part of their day-to-day roles at the shop. 

When it comes to finding out if an employee you intend to put at the front desk is truly up for the task, Ross observes them in action. “For a courtesy position, as a greeter, you can tell in the first couple of weeks if somebody will be good up there. We have one guy who’s an excellent technician, for example, but who will always stay in the pit.” 

No. 2: Evaluate team members’ unique personalities. 

When it comes to letting his team’s natural personalities shine, Ross found a versatile diamond in the rough among his team at Crystal River Fast Lube & Repair: Jackie, a female tech. “Hiring her is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” he states. 

“Her customer service abilities are beyond even mine,” Ross says. “People look for Jackie when they come in. And if things get messy and people are being tough, she likes to deal with them.” 

For Gutierrez, finding people’s strengths is accomplished by administering a Tony Robbins (business coach, author, and speaker) personality assessment test. Robbins’ version of the test is a modern interpretation of personality analysis based on DiSC, which stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. 

“From the DiSC test’s results, you can see strengths that line up with what you want the employee to do,” he says. “I did a test, too.” 

From there, Gutierrez can determine who’s likely to be a good fit for a particular role and for multiple functions, perhaps. 

No. 3: Create a rock-solid shop culture. 

Gutierrez keeps his business culture in top shape by remaining in regular contact with his employees at set intervals throughout each week. 

“People won’t be committed to what they’re not used to,” he reasons. “But if you say, ‘Mondays and Fridays we’ll meet at this time,’ for instance, it becomes normal to them.” 

Gutierrez holds his mandatory meetings at Rancho Express Lube each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and he focuses on sales growth. 

“We focus on honest sales with the customer,” he emphasizes. He will identify his top two salespeople and have them bring along two more to train in the area of sales skills. 

From there, each Friday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Gutierrez’s employees know to expect a business-wide end of week meeting.  

“Friday meetings start with three positives—what we did good that week. Then we get into improvements we need to make and how we can do things better,” he says. 

He adds that all throughout the week he and his team are writing things down that they’ll share in the meetings. For example, if a customer didn’t buy something that was recommended, they’ll jot down why. And the answer to that question can help the shop provide even better service next time, the owner finds. 

For Ross' shop, team culture involves him being on the floor and in the trenches with his employees—who then get a real-time glimpse into the cross-business abilities of their leader. 

“I’m the owner and the manager and I’m involved day to day,” he notes. This is an organic way in which he is visible working alongside his staff—working both lube and repair—and dealing with customers, as well. 

From this vantage, Ross and his team are “all in” on what customers need and what it takes to run Crystal River Quick Lube and Repair in the best manner possible. 

No. 4: Make sure employees understand the mission. 

Employees need training, cross-training, and they need to understand the targets and goals a shop owner wants to hit. 

For Ross, that looks like sharing invaluable resources and articles he finds with his employees. “I have some articles from NOLN that we use as guidelines,” he states. 

Gutierrez’s approach to training looks like this: “On the technician side, my mechanics train three times each week, which ties into our three times per week sales training.” He relies on videos as well as training for specific certifications, he says, to keep his team up to date on what’s new and trending that affects his express lube business. 

Big-picture, Gutierrez says, “If only the owner knows the target (for growth), it’s hard for employees to hit it.” 

He adds, “I can give employees more money and help them reach the goals they desire by giving them an idea of how much we have to sell to be able to do this … it helps them understand.” 

Gutierrez actually talks to his employees about where the shop is sitting financially and how much will be left over after payroll, taxes, and other bills. And this is how they shoot together for a specific target. 

“I paint that picture for them, and they see the traction and the progress,” he describes. For both owners, the result of their business’s cross training efforts is to create a healthy, profitable business where each highly qualified employee sees themselves as a crucial team player—in any position they play. 

About the Author

Carol Badaracco Padgett

Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta-based writer and NOLN freelance contributor who covers the automotive industry, film and television, architectural design, and other topics for media outlets nationwide. A FOLIO: Eddie Award-winning editor, writer, and copywriter, she is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and holds a Master of Arts in communication from Mizzou’s College of Arts & Science.