Any good shop is an excellent shop in progress. That is to say that improving the operation is a process with a nonexistent endpoint. Once a bit of progress is made, it’s just time to work toward improving again.
The result along the way could be better car counts, higher ticket averages or simply happier customers and employees. But to get there, changes have to be made. It could be new equipment or software. It could be a new process in the operation or a small change in the way customers are checked in at the bay.
How these changes are rolled out can make or break even the best new initiative. This is especially true for operators who oversee a network of quick lubes. The investment is bigger, the impact is greater and the challenges are multiplied by the number of locations in a chain.
That’s why a solid game plan is preferred.
“For a multi-shop, company-wide initiative that you’re going to roll out, the first thing is you need to do a lot of research and a lot of planning,” says John Wafler, an impact group facilitator with RLO Training. “Because a mistake gets amplified dramatically when you’re dealing with multiple operations.”
In his work leading independent shop peer groups through RLO Training, Wafler has seen the rollout phase happen, whether it’s an operator testing out something new as a guinea pig or when other shops follow suit and learn from each other.
The bottom line is that new initiatives need to be team efforts. The entire operation will likely change something to make way for a new improvement. Having the right people and processes in place will make it go smoothly, and those plans take place before the actual rollout.
That’s what Adam Tatum found among his network of Jiffy Lube shops. As the director of operations for Virginia Lube, an 11-location network, he worked to implement a couple of new tech improvements at the shops. Tatum is also NOLN’s newest columnist (see p. XX for his debut).
As Wafler shares his expertise on managing change among multiple shops, Tatum offers insight on the success of his new initiatives as they happened.
Golden Rule 1: Designate a Point Person.
Depending on the size of a shop network, there might be one owner leading the charge on a new initiative. For bigger chains, a district manager or similar person might be in charge of his or her respective unit.
No matter the setup, Wafler says that there needs to be a strong point person—or persons— who knows the new initiative inside and out and can make sure things keep progressing.
“Somebody or maybe a small team needs to take the lead on any of these initiatives to change,” he says. “And they kind of have to be an expert and get a lot of training to be able to train the people at the store level to roll it out.”
That’s also where the most investment in training needs to be. In some cases, like with new equipment, a vendor or manufacturer will offer training. Whether that’s extended to everyone or not, it’s important that the point person gets the most training and can be relied upon for answers from within the company.
That might not be a short-term proposition, either. Whether it’s equipment or other strategy, updates and tweaks are common, and the point person needs to be aware of any developments.
“There’s a lot of technology there and a lot of different things that you need to know,” Wafler says. “And updates happen. So, you need to make sure that whatever training is available, you have somebody that’s staying on the leading edge of that, who can disseminate that throughout your organization.”
Being the point person also means being a proponent of the change, Wafler says. That leadership role isn’t just about imparting technical knowledge on a team. It’s also about inspiring them to believe that the change will improve the operation and help everyone succeed.
So while there might be a designated leader in this case, the initiative shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
“You need to get your ground-level people involved in that purchase decision, or whatever it is that you’re going to change,” Wafler says. “So, you don't just come in and plunk the new piece of equipment down or install the software and say we’re going to begin using it now.”
Tatum says that while corporate training was available, there’s still a learning curve to actually putting new technology into practice on the ground level. Tatum and his team went one shop at a time and moved on to the next. No need to rush—they started with the point person and branched out.
“I’m going to learn how to use it myself, and I’m going to teach one person how to use it,” he says. “And then both of us will teach one other person. And once we have four or five people who know how to use it, then we set up our training program for other employees.”
If there was a persistent issue, Tatum says that there’s a group of Jiffy Lube franchisees that can workshop it.
Golden Rule 2: Utilize Peer Performance.
Particularly in independent shop circles, there’s always one that will have to be the guinea pig. Those operators who assume the risk want to be on the cutting edge. Wafler says they also play an important role in helping others learn from their challenges.
“Talk to other shop owners that have whatever you’re looking at doing in place and get their feedback,” he says. “The salesmen will tell you what you want to hear. But other shop owners will tell you what you need to hear.”
Wafler promotes full transparency among his group members. Prices, financing and strategies are all laid out for the benefit of the group— that’s the peer support model after all.
Those figures also serve another purpose: They’re the baseline for a success metric. How many services are needed to break even on an investment? How much quicker should a service go with a new piece of technology?
That’s key to understanding how successful something is. Wafler says he’s seen operators who take on something new and just “wait and see how it goes” for a while. It’s those who track performance and set goals based on those numbers who really see results.
“This piece of equipment did this. If we upgrade that piece of equipment to the newer one and it saves us time, we should be able to do this many more services ,” he says. “And come up with a number that represents a good return on investment in that situation.”
An operator should be able to pull existing key performance indicators to do this.
Being a Jiffy Lube franchise, Tatum’s organization had the benefit of corporate support. He says that Jiffy Lube had test sites that tried out new technology first and helped to work out any bugs. And franchisees knew it was coming because the company gave periodic updates. That was his peer learning experience.
For the point people at Virginia Lubes, some of their first experiences with the mobile bay and service checklist systems were through training modules.
“When it comes time to roll it out, what I’ve seen was they actually put the computer-based training on first,” he says. “So, I was able to get managers to go and get on and do the sections for computer-based training for what they were about to see.”
Later on, the training was incorporated into the computerized program for new recruits. But Tatum says that having that initial training program, which was based off of test rollouts elsewhere, really helped the process.
Golden Rule 3: Create Ripple Effects.
Managers of multi-shop networks need to be able to have good people in place at each location so that they’re able to focus on big-picture initiatives, Wafler says.
“Whoever is doing that, whether its an owner with fewer locations or an operations manager with more locations, they always stay focused on the higher level priorities, and they don’t get dragged down into the day-to-day putting out the fires,” he says.
Giving full focus to a top-level initiative, like rolling out a network-wide initiative, helps organize the entire organizational structure down the line. And it ends with the customer, who is the beneficiary of the added efficiencies.
The two initiatives that Tatum rolled out were tech-focused. One was a mobile check-in system, and the other was a digital inspection and service review program.
After Tatum and his managers trained up on the programs, success at the shop level depended on getting techs used to the systems in real-world settings.
“That was a process. It’s breaking habits. And if you've been doing the same thing, for some of our employees, 20 years, now you've got this computer in front of you,” Tatum says.
There are new habits that needed to be learned, too. For example, the safety check portion of the service review program needs to be fully completed before moving on to finishing and checking out a customer. Those steps aren’t malleable, like a paper form might have been.
“We practice it over and over again so they get comfortable. And once they are comfortable, they're ready to go,” he says. “Most people learn better hands-on. You can tell them all day long, ‘This is how you do it.’ Or a computer screen can tell you all day long. But our industry, our employees, are mechanically inclined.”
While employees get more familiar with the change, it’s time to start tracking that performance progress. As Wafler says, it’s important to have some kind of measuring metric ready to gauge the progress. In Tatum’s case, the shops track the time of service from start to finish, because the mobile bay system is supposed to speed up things.
And because the new service review is supposed to be quicker and better for customer engagement, he says they have a few sales KPIs that indicate how they’re doing on that front.
By the time operators reach this phase—working out the kinks with techs and customer service reps—much of the leg work should already be finished. It’s that initial plan that keeps the process uniform and organized across a shop network.
The specific process is unique to each operation. The result, hopefully, is a more efficient and quicker quick lube.
The end result of a successful rollout is a more customer-focused operation.
“It’s moving forward. Everything now is mobile,” Tatum says. “It’s quick, even in marketing. You do not see the same impact like with the postcards, emailers, flyers, the drops that you used to do. But if you have a mobile coupon, they’ll bring that to you all day long.”