Build a Better Future: Advice and Best Practices on How to Build a Better and More Positive Shop Culture

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Spring 2023


Honest Wrenches Automotive Repair Management & Staff

A positive culture within the workplace is a contributing factor to the success of an auto shop. The positive culture ensures that employees perform to the best of their ability and are happy to be there. Happy employees lead to a more cohesive team, enabling shops to communicate better, make fewer mistakes and please customers. Travis Troy, co-owner of Two Honest Wrenches locations in Des Moines, Iowa, and mentor of 30 employees, sat down with MWACA to advise on how to build a positive shop culture.

A big contributor to positive workplace culture is how leaders invest in their teams.

“You’ve got to be able to identify where the breaking culture is, and you've got to repair that,” Troy said. “Sometimes that means investing in your team and helping them through challenges in life, not just challenges at work.”

To repair a broken culture, it is essential for those in higher positions within the workplace to know their employees and what they are going through.

“There are so many outside problems that employees bring into the shop,” Troy said. “So as leaders, mentors, and owners, it's important that we focus on helping them with their outside life before we even worry about what happens inside the shop. Once you invest in that and start making improvements, you'll discover that there's not a whole lot of investment you must make inside the shop. When you fix problems outside of the workplace, it fixes many of the issues inside the shop.”

Travis Troy posing with a staff at Honest WrenchesBUILD A RELATIONSHIP

To invest in employees, a leader must create an open relationship. They must ensure that their employees feel comfortable coming to them with problems. This relationship starts at the beginning, when employers first meet candidates.

“It stems from the interviewing process,” Troy said. “When you initially interview your team members, be an open book. Throw it all on the table. Say, ‘Hey, I know that we all have underlying outside issues. I just want to be fully transparent with you. This is an open-door policy. We will discuss your life outside of work. Because knowing what’s going on with you is important for your success here, and it's important for the success of you in your outside life.’”

Once the relationship is established, leaders must nurture that relationship.

“We do monthly one-on-ones with every team member,” Troy said. “The first thing that we go over in these meetings is how things have been going on in their outside life. How is their life at home? How is life outside of work? How is life with the kids? All that is very important to make sure that we're fulfilling our employees ‘why.’ When we identify a problem within that one-on-one, we dig deeper into that and we create goals."

Troy has found that investing in his team has helped solve many of his shop's problems.

“We're investing in them, and it helps our employees feel fulfillment,” Troy said. “All we must do is identify that and come up with a solution and help get them out of whatever situation they're in, and that fixes it all. It's crazy. When you think about culture, you think it's coming in and giving high fives and kudos, but that results from hard work. Now we have smiling faces and a team that wants to be together in one boat, rowing in the same direction.”


"We reinforce positivity inside the shop by meeting every Monday morning as a team — we call it ‘Motivational Monday,’" Troy said. “Each week, one team member must devise a motivational video to play for our team. When that's done, we go through, debrief on the previous week, and talk about what we're going to do well this week. Then we picked whoever had to decide that week, and they choose the next person to bring that motivational video.

“Motivational Monday encourages everybody to work together,” Troy said. "It also forces them to watch motivational videos. You might watch 10 of them before you find one you like, but doing so effectively changes our employees’ mindset.”

Troy also has other scheduled team meetings within the workweek to encourage team building and a shop with fewer mishaps.

"Right after lunch, we all meet as an entire team and review things such as: Are we getting parts on time? Are we getting tickets delivered to us properly? Are we getting the right parts? Are there any issues that we're having in the shop?” Troy said. “We don't brush that stuff under the rug. We want to address it, stay ahead of it, and do it politely."

Even though Troy's team is discussing complex topics, he has his team talk positively about them.

“We do it in a manner that allows us to fail but not get shunned by it,” Troy said. “If we fail, it's, 'Hey, you know, service advisor, I keep getting these wrong parts. Let's ensure we get the right parts the first time because it makes it easier for both of us.' That opened the service advisor's ability not to feel that he was bugging that technician; it became an unasked question. It opens the door for communication and relationship building."

Travis Troy, co-owner of two Honest Wrenches locationsUnfortunately, sometimes there are outliers within a work environment. Some people prefer to remain independent. To maintain a positive culture, occasionally, you must weed out the outliers.

“When you have a strong culture, not everybody's going to want that culture,” Troy said. “You've g
ot people that want to be the broken spoke, the one that breaks that culture down. You must identify that and make those changes, or else you'll never get your culture where it needs to be."

By establishing, investing, and reinforcing positivity with his employees, Troy has created a better culture within his workplace. His employees now look forward to coming to work; they want to be there. His team works more cohesively, which results in fewer flukes and problems for the company.

“I'm confident that our culture today has never been stronger,” Troy said. “I'm proud to say that we've got an amazing team and when they come into work, they're giving each other a hard time all for good, having fun, and giving high fives. I'm proud that everybody lines up when I walk into the shop, and I’m given fist bumps all the way through. It's just what we do.”