Quick Lube Q&A: Deanna Baumgardner of Employers Advantage

April 12, 2024
Employers Advantage Founder Deanna Baumgardner shares how to stay on the same page as your team.

For every business owner, maintaining an organized workplace is essential to things running smoothly, but that is often easier said than done. Organization is not something that happens naturally but is a result of deliberate strategizing and planning.

In this Quick Lube Q&A, Deanna Baumgardner–founder of human resources consultation company Employers Advantage–spoke with NOLN on effective leadership strategies business owners can implement and signs are of both a thriving and struggling workplace.

NOLN: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Deanna! In your experience, what do you see business leaders struggle with the most when it comes to organization of their company?

Deanna Baumgardner: What we see a lot of times in small businesses is not identifying who is responsible for what, and what the overall expectations are for each role and/or each person in the company. It’s not uncommon in small companies for people to just pitch in and get the work done, which can work, but that comes with a little chaos.

When there aren’t clear expectations or definitions around job duties it can create an atmosphere of disorganization: nobody knows who to go to for what, nobody knows who they are supposed to talk to about certain things, or what policies they are supposed to be abiding by. When that structure isn’t there, people will be left to do what they believe or think they should do, and more times than not, it doesn’t align with what the shop owner or manager is looking for.

In this scenario, it’s hard to identify where any overlap may be and if the work that is being done is an efficient process or not. Also, they will probably do the minimum of what they know without the structure and framework to follow, and that will negatively impact productivity, and ultimately the bottom line.

Outside of that, from an HR perspective, we see small companies not having any organization with their Human Resources practices, which starts in the recruiting process and moves through the entire employment cycle, all the way through to separation. This includes the basics of paperwork for employees, how to manage time off, any employment laws that apply to the company, performance management, and compensation.

NOLN: What strategies can shop owners implement to promote efficiency?

Deanna Baumgardner: They first need to figure out what the ultimate result is that they are looking for and then work back from that. What do they need in place to meet that goal? If we look at foundational pieces, it’s identifying the shop’s needs for roles and identifying the scope of those roles, who reports to who, what level of responsibility each role has, and who they go to with questions.

Identify what areas technology can be implemented and utilized. But be careful to not implement technology for the sake of implementing technology–it needs to make sense, save either time or cost, or value add to employees and/or customers.

Create and foster a work environment of open communication and a focus on rewarding good performance versus punishing bad behavior. For example, create an initiative around something like safety or waste. Meaning, have a goal of reducing waste of materials or re-work by 10% and have that somewhere visible, tracked on a regular basis, and identify what the “reward” or recognition is for meeting the goal.

This can be any initiative that is presented to employees to get them involved in the overall operation and invested in how the business operates. This also creates engagement and gives employees an opportunity to showcase other skills or ideas they may have.

NOLN: What are some habits that promote an organized workplace?

Deanna Baumgardner: Lead by example and make it a part of each person’s role. As a manager or shop owner, you can tell employees what to do all day long, but the real impact comes from them being able to see you doing the same thing. Making it a part of each person's role gives employees responsibility for having a bigger impact on the overall operation of the business.

It also helps to regularly review your processes and ask why they are done that way and if there is a better way to do it, from the people that are doing the work. Soliciting feedback from employees that are hands-on doing the work and on the front line working with customers are going to have the most insight into what’s happening, what’s not happening, and opportunities to improve.

NOLN: What are some ways leaders can ensure they and their team are on the same page?

Deanna Baumgardner: Document and communicate. Without documented processes and expectations, they essentially don’t exist and it’s hard to be able to share that information and make sure that everyone is getting the same message. It’s also a way to hold people accountable and ensure that they understand what is expected.

Reinforcement of the ultimate goal and intentions of the company are also a good way to keep everyone on the same page. When everyone is focused on a common goal and knows why they are doing what they are doing, it creates a cohesiveness and better understanding more so than being told to do something just for the sake of doing it.

NOLN: How does a business benefit from implementing organization and structure?

Deanna Baumgardner: Having organization and structure alleviates the stressors of not knowing what’s going on and what needs to happen next. That type of environment can be very chaotic and lead to turnover, perceived employee issues and disengagement, lack of productivity, and loss of revenue.

In any situation, knowing what to expect and knowing what to do gives you confidence in what you’re doing and confidence in the leader who established the organization and structure.

Imagine having to drive around a new city that you’ve never been in before without any GPS or map to use–it’s the same thing. When we have a GPS to follow that organizes our route and exactly what we need to do, we are much more confident in driving where we need to go and can get there efficiently. Without the GPS or a map, we are randomly driving around, wasting time and gas, completely stressed out, and have no idea of what to do. Every business needs a roadmap.

NOLN: What are some signs of a disorganized workplace?

Deanna Baumgardner: Some signs of a disorganized workplace are lack of productivity, lack of documentation, high turnover, and employees who are not engaged or concerned about the work.

NOLN: What can be some useful resources or tools for keeping track of things in a shop?

Deanna Baumgardner: Whatever can be streamlined or secured with technology, do that. Even if it’s tracking within an Excel spreadsheet or something like that. There needs to be tracking, ownership of the tracking, and ongoing management of it. Everything from parts, materials, labor, accounting (payables, receivables, financials, etc.), operational processes, organizational reporting structure, employee files, payroll, insurances, customer data; the list goes on.

There are so many small business-friendly technology options available–now more so than in the past. It’s a matter of finding what your shop needs specifically and making sure that it fits your budget.

NOLN: How can shop owners understand what leadership style works best for their team?

Deanna Baumgardner: Leaders should understand each employee on the team as an individual and what works for them. A leadership style with one person might not work for another person on the team. It depends on what each person responds to, what motivates them, and what’s important to them. Once the leader determines that, they can then adjust their leadership style to support and empower their teams to be their best.