Firefighters and Fire Preventers in the Shop

Oct. 15, 2020

In our line of work, as leaders, we must realize that we are firefighters that must go and handle issues, but our time is much better spent preventing the fires in the first place.

In one of my many jobs before getting into the automotive aftermarket, I was a firefighter for the great and very small fire protection District 2 of Madisonville, Louisiana.

This small waterfront town had three fire stations, two of which had paid firefighters each day. The calls consisted of mostly medical for elderly and some brush fires. Our days were spent rewashing the trucks, learning, and polishing up on skills and waiting for that call for your help.  

Perhaps one of the biggest tasks we were given was not to be firefighters—but fire preventers. We went out through the town looking testing water hydrants and looking for issues to catch before we were sent out at 2 a.m. (because that is the most popular time to do it apparently).  

In our line of work, as leaders, we must realize that we are firefighters that must go and handle issues, but our time is much better spent preventing the fires in the first place. 

I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. How can I prevent fires when I am so caught up in putting them out? This is not an easy or quick path, but it is indeed a path. Just like you learned in school: You must stop, drop and roll.


The first thing you need to do is simply stop the mentality that you cannot get ahead because you are too busy fixing things. 

I am a huge believer that we attract what we think about, and we fill our hearts and minds with hopelessness we receive only that. As corny as it may sound, changing your mindset on how you will attack your goals and your days will literally change your reaction to how you attack your goals. You go from, “Here we go again,” to “OK, let’s knock this out so we can get back on track.”


Your day is probably filled with tons of items that are executable in others’ hands. The pure stress of the amount on your plate can send you spiraling down into firefighter mode once again. You see all the stress and tasks building up that you drop right back into the fix-it mentality.

Instead, you should use your delegation skills to assign items that are in your control but not necessarily in your needed vision. Count on your team and hold them accountable for their successes and failures.  


As mentioned earlier, vision is extremely important. You must have an idea, dream, goal of what your success is going to look like. Once you have and truly believe in your success you can start drawing the path to get there. You must roll out your plan based on your path to everyone involved. The failure in most path plans is they always start out at the first step and then move forward. In reality you should look at your big red x on the map and work backwards.  

Let us say you want to have a shop that does 60 cars a day with a $90 ticket average (if finance is your goal). When you see that shop in your head rolling those cars and keeping that ticket average, what does that look like? Really visualize it. Visualize the crew and the customer. Then ask, “How did it get there?” 

We answered that by examining the shop, the crew and the customer. You can start to digest that. Start with the crew. How did I get the crew to push a high ticket average with so many cars during the day? They were properly trained and brought into your cause of course. How did I properly train them? I held daily meetings, short break product knowledge, AOCA tech academy, vendor learning management systems. 

If you break everyone of these items out, you will begin to see your path of short obtainable goals. These goals do not go away when you have fires to put out, these goals stay up there and are checked off on your path. If you need to focus your attention on the fire for a while do it. After this is done, go back to your fire protection plan and keep pushing forward.  

This is absolutely as easy as it seems. If you do not believe it will work, re-read this column under “Stop.” I will leave you with a quote from the only hockey player I even know about (I am from the south):

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.”

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