What Business are You In?

Jan. 1, 2020

You can change oil on any make and model in your sleep. But operators know that's only part of the business. Columnist Lenny Saucier rounds out the job in this month's installment.

Running a shop is a pretty simple task. For those who have done it, you have probably figured out that the shop is just a series of math problems and patterns. You come into the shop (which is always there), and you open the point-of-sale, make sure everything looks great and then open the doors for your customers to come in and get your service.

Throughout the day you have a series of challenges and goals like difficult filters, difficult people and a set of numbers you are looking to hit (car count, ticket average, item sales percentages). As you make your way through the day you have tasks such as inventory, cleaning and reporting that keeps you busy.

All in all, this is an easy task to handle if you can just find the right rhythm.

But what if I told you that this is not what you were put in the shop to do? What if I told you that the job tasks that we listed out could be handled by anyone in the shop with the right amount of training?

What are you here for? What kind of business are you in anyway?

When I pose this question to a group during a consulting assignment, I get the normal answers: oil change, customer service and some get crafty enough to say the word “retail”. These are all true but that is not what you are here for. You are the leader (or you are trying to be). These particular business descriptions are made for your shop, not you. You are in the business of people.

The People Business

While the shop is simple to run and requires math and patterns, the people inside of the business are what will truly drive the business. In the mid 2000’s, Monty Montgomery challenged a much younger group of leaders to understand how our roles inside of the company shaped the outcome of the success of the business. 

His famous words, “It’s not about changing oil, it’s about changing people” have stuck with the culture of that group which has turned into one of the greatest companies in the industry. Even those who have departed from the company have been rewarded with much success. This is the true benefit of the leadership role.

Changing people is a very time consuming and rewarding process yet it is the most important job function of your leadership role. All people develop a predisposition on the outcome of a task or company based on past experiences or stories they have heard. Your job as a leader of your company is to alter those negative images and reinforce those strong images that have been formed. You do this by changing three people, your employees, your customers, and you.

Of course, we need to start with you. You are the most important one out of the three, you can not lead a movement if you can not stand out in front. To quote John Maxwell: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” 

Be the Example

You must put yourself in a position to show others how it’s done the right way and stand up and speak when things are not done correctly. This is not so you can look good, but so your team and your customers can be successful. This is called servant leadership. It is the art of providing a purpose and a path for others to be great.

Your employees must learn and understand what should be done and why it is done. They must learn it in such a way that they are passionate about what they are doing because you are. They take pride and doing things right and take offense when they go wrong. They begin to absorb your visions and pass it down to others as well. This is not an impossible task to achieve. It takes a strong leader who believes in each and every one of the people who are looking back at them for guidance.

In the automotive industry, the quick lube can be easily paralleled to the fast food industry. Because it is typically an entry level skilled job that attracts customers due to the quick nature and ease, your company can be considered simplistic. We all know how difficult vehicles, customers and changing specs can be. As a leader we must focus our team to deliver fantastic knowledge, service and education to our customers to break the idea that we are simplistic.

Over the next few months, let’s take a look at ourselves and our practices and understand that we all can do great things because we have opportunities and desires to do so. Until then, be great!

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