Writing The Plan: If You Fail To Plan You Plan To Fail

Dec. 1, 2018
Someone, somewhere, said it first: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is important to write out your training for the technician positions and create a plan for growth.

Someone, somewhere, said it first: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Google it. You will see a bunch of people assigned credit for it. But more importantly, you will also see this phrase has been credited to many great leaders — leaders who were not just tasked with being accountable for a project, but accountable for starting movements. Walking into a business, shop or life event without a plan is no more useful than hanging the cash drawer key on a hook next to the register. The idea of securing you funds is ruined by the idea of simplicity and convenience.

So far, you should have a pretty good idea that I am all about people and culture. I have talked at length about making sure you have set your system up to support people, so you can execute your plan. So, fill your team up with great people, and let them know you are going to lead them to greatness. If you don’t have a laid-out plan, you will inevitably have a team of zombies staring at you for substance. They want what is in your head. They joined your team to excel. Don’t let them down.

Tech Training

Last month, you were tasked with looking at your specific positions within the shop. Most technicians can be broken up into four or five categories.
  • Courtesy: Drives the vehicle, cleans windows, airs up tires, checks lights and applies the window sticker.
  • Hood technician: Inspects the fluids, air filters, belts, hoses and adds oil.
  • Pit technician: Changes the oil and filter, checks and services the gearbox, differentials and services the chassis.
  • Service writer: Brings the customer through the oil decision, service reviews and cashing out.
This is basic Section 4-8 of the AOCA Tech Academy stuff. It is important to write out your training for the technician positions. We know that most of them will not read it, but you must have a reference point. Otherwise, you are stuck with the statement, “I thought we did it this way.” When writing this section, be sure to cover the following areas:
  • Safety: What are the dangers in this part of the job?
  • Tools: What tools are needed to do the job?
  • Why: Why is it done/how does it benefit the customer?
  • How to do it: How do you want it done, including call outs or commands?
  • Completion: What does it look like when it’s done properly (including time)?
Your checklist should go right along with the training material and would be a signed off guide to your work. It can be as simple as a using a excel sheet:
Task Date Trainer Employee
Identified the safety hazards 9-5-18 Erik Forrest
Identified the proper tools and how to use them 9-15-18 Erik Forrest
Located the correct psi and filled/extracted to the correct PSI 9-15-18 Erik Forrest
It may seem tedious, and you may say that this would take too long to write. This is a common mistake when you attempt to simplify the training process. Do not shortchange your wallet with the idea of simplicity and convenience. Your processes are your bible. Processes must be detailed, or they will be eroded by your crew. There are several training plans out there for purchase to customize, if you do not wish to build your own. Here are a few things to consider:
  1. The more detailed the plan is, the lesser the chance of them “doing it their way.”
  2. If brought to court, training records can be subpoenaed. You can make a strong statement with detailed training reports.
  3. If you don’t want to write it, consider hiring someone who likes to write training materials. The chubbier the writer the better! (Wink, wink.)

Ladder Training

Once you have accomplished procedural training, you should prepare your employee to start climbing the ladder. Showing a growth plan and teaching them new skills will quench their thirst of being needed and help them to see the bigger picture. This is a great retention point for the millennial employee. The promotion ladder may include steps like lead technician, assistant manager and manager. This may be challenging if you are a single shop or a shop without much turnover. However, you should still strive to teach them as much as possible. If the opportunity comes up, you want to make sure you have someone ready to fill the spot. Plus, cross-training is always a good idea.

Study what you want your hierarchy to look like. What does each one of those positions entail? Just as you wrote the procedures for your technician, you’ll want to write the procedures for your closers, openers, leads, etc. There is one difference. If I were to hire a technician, I would hire him as a technician and train him how to do the job. If I were to promote a technician to an assistant manager, I would have already trained him to do the job before he took it. Consider any sports team; you do not start a team member and then show them how to perform their duties. Also, the second string does their job and stands waiting for their time to shine. You may lose a few along the way, but we will cover that in another section. So, after your technician training is complete, start the process of training them to be a lead tech. Once they are promoted to a lead technician, start your assistant manager training.


Being Christmas time, I am going to let you off this month with no homework. Next month will be a new year, and we get to look at how we react to others and how we should react to others — kind of a New Year’s reflection. Next month we’ll cover personality profiling, and it’s one of my favorite sections.

Decide that you can really make a difference in your team, and then read my next few articles. Or, think your people skills are top-notch and watch your people go to the competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet after all. Until then, be great!

About the Author

Lenny Saucier

LENNY SAUCIER has been serving the automotive aftermarket and its future leaders since 2000. He serves as director of retail training at Fullspeed Automotive. He can be reached at [email protected].