Managing Change In Your Shop

Wednesday, June 15, 2022 | June 2022

pencil image of a head looking out an open door

Have a plan for all possibilities.

CRAIG O’NEILL AND I RECENTLY HELD A CLASS at the 2022 VISION Conference on managing change in your auto repair shop. Change is a topic that few people want to dig into but an important one, as we need to be considering change at all times. We discussed the main framework to change as outlined in the book Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life. Those keys are referred to as the three Rs: relate, repeat, and reframe. It is a simple concept, but as they say...not easy to implement.

Let me first state that change is not a dirty word. Oftentimes, it is suggested that a word other than “change” be used: the idea being that a better word would be less likely to turn off our team members when we are looking to implement change. An attendee even made this suggestion during our session. The approach that Craig and I take is a lot different. It leans into the fact that change is a struggle. Frameworks like the three Rs or CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model) don’t seek to avoid that struggle; they serve to help us manage, acknowledge, and affirm it.

Of the three keys, “relate” is the most crucial. This key is all about new, emotional relationships that inspire hope. We presented this in two ways. First, by focusing on those who inspire us, and second, by learning how we inspire others. To illustrate the three Rs, let’s look at someone wanting to

get better at public speaking. Most people would say they intend to get up in front of a room whenever they can to improve their speaking skills. After one or two attempts, reality and frustration typically sets in very quickly because of the obvious need for help and improvement. Enter Toastmasters, a worldwide organization that helps individuals become better communicators.

Toastmasters is made up of a group of people in your area who want to also improve their public speaking skills. People you can relate to. These people are professionals from all walks of life and ages with the common goal of the group being to help each other improve. The first speech that you give is called the icebreaker, where you tell the audience about yourself and give the other members a further chance to create a relationship with you. Many of us as shop owners join Twenty Groups, business coaching groups, and mastermind groups with the whole purpose of relating to other shop owners and wanting to know what they know and improve what we can. The second R, repeat, is all about forming new habits. Toastmasters organizations meet repetitively, and, at every meeting, each member is challenged to speak. It takes 60+ days to create a new habit or to solidify that change. Depending on your desire to become a better communicator, you can accelerate your change by visiting other clubs or taking your time over a few years to hone your craft.

The last key to change is reframe, and, once again, Toastmasters creates the opportunity to reframe your speaking at every meeting. After you give your first ice breaker speech, the work begins. In the next speech, there will be better and harder objectives to achieve like eye contact and learning to scan the room as you give your speech or presentation. Your speeches are always evaluated, which constantly helps to reframe your speechcraft.

Toastmasters seems to fit the change framework perfectly. I have been in Toastmasters for many, many years now and have seen the improvement in myself as well as others over the years I have been involved. Another important thing about change is making sure your ego does not get in the way of the change you are trying to make. There is another great book called Ego is the Enemy that has become a must-read that I suggest often to others.

We should be careful to understand that our ego protects us from things we fear. As owners and leaders, we don’t want others to see that we don’t know everything. We fear others seeing us make mistakes or bad choices or as not knowing what something is about or means. We use our ego to say we don’t need whatever that thing is. We should strive to be more curious and become perpetual students. We should want to know what others know regardless of the status or title the other person holds.

Take for example creating KPIs to help run your business. A lot of people know what a KPI is while others don’t. A KPI is a Key Performance Indicator and helps businesses guide themselves to a goal. I have run into many people who at first think that KPIs don’t make any sense to use, implement, or create, only to find out later they didn’t understand the power of numbers and how you can truly only manage what you measure. KPIs can be simple or very complex; regardless, they are a great tool to use in running a business. Too many times, I see shop owners succeeding by accidental success. Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly where I started. Eventually, we owe it to ourselves and our teams to know what success looks like and how to replicate it.

Just be aware that your ego can very much get in the way of any change you may or may not want to make. And, that ego can also flow downhill to your team. You may be creating an environment where others don’t want to listen or change because they too are a reflection of you and your lack of desire to change.

Our industry is changing all the time, but when you look closely, we’re most heavily focused on the tools and technology to improve the ways we fix vehicles and less on the tools and the skills to manage people. Ask any shop owner what their greatest issues are, and it has to do with their people. Either they don’t have enough, or they are afraid of losing the ones they have. Managing change in your shop sometimes can be a huge challenge. In auto repair, we are typically stressed over the amount of work we have OR the amount of work we don’t have. A lot of times, this business is feast or famine due to not being able to schedule when your customers’ vehicles will break down. We need to understand that to change our shop’s culture for the better, we have to practice our skills of adopting change. Make sure you are looking for the opportunity to relate to others, repeat the process to make it a habit, and reframe the process to improve over time. Also, make sure your ego is not holding you back from being the change you want to see.

Chris Cloutier is the co-owner of multi-shop operation, Golden Rule Auto Care, in the Dallas, Texas area since 2011 and founded to solve communication gaps and reduce wasted rack time. Both a twenty-year Toastmasters veteran and software developer, Chris enjoys speaking and training engagements to help fellow shop owners move forward with adopting technology.

Craig O’Neill was always looking for ways to make a difference in his family’s transmission shop business from a young age, though his greatest interest was in technology. With his passionate vision to promote a professional image of the auto repair industry, Craig joined the team in 2018 as the VP of Training.