Sustained Shop Culture Leads to Sustained Success

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 | May 2019

Sustained Shop Culture Leads to Sustained Success | Complete Automotive | May 2019

To Mark Kiser, shop culture is a mountain that can only be climbed, never conquered.

“It’s about being positive,” he says. “Instead of, ‘I can’t,’ it’s, ‘What might I do?’ You never master that culture; continuing to work on staff buy-in is an ongoing goal.”

He cites the perfect as the enemy of the good and alludes to the New England Patriots.

“No one here is a Patriots fan, but we use their concept quite often—they look at themselves as a family and a team,” he says. “They have a system in place, and if you have the culture that goes with the system, you can’t lose. This year, they only had two people on the Pro Bowl team, but they won the Super Bowl.”

At Complete Automotive in Springfield, Mo., where Kiser has served as service advisor for the past three-and-a-half years, he says that shop culture is a combination of purpose, attitude, values, goals and habits.

“If a person comes in with a bad mood, I want to know how I can help them to get them back on the positive-energy bus,” he says. “One person can bring down the whole energy of the whole team. One negative attitude or comment can do that. When people like what they do, they’re going to look forward to coming to work, doing a good job, and taking care of people.”

Last year, Complete Automotive (which pumps out 280 cars per month with 11 employees and 5,000 square feet) finished as one of the top 5 places to work in the greater Springfield area, and Kiser wasn’t surprised—by taking care of its customers and stressing deliberate, quality teamwork, the staff of Complete Automotive can fulfill its vision of good service and make a difference in the lives of its customers.

“We offer the wow factor,” he says, “and I do care, we do care—is your family going to be safe in your car?” he says.

Find inspiration.

Kiser says the book The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, by Jon Gordon, is a major influence and active catalyst of the Complete Automotive philosophy. (Gordon was the keynote speaker at the annual VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo a few years ago.)

“We invite people to the ride; get on that bus!” he laughs.

The 10 rules from Gordon’s energy bus are posted around the office. Some of the more salient rules include:

Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction

Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead

Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride

“Don’t be an energy vampire!” Kiser says.

Analyze your culture.

You might think culture begins with the philosophy of the ownership, but Kiser knows better.

“Owners can say, ‘Hey, this is our culture,’ but everyone shapes culture. It’s not top-down—it’s bottom-up,” he says.

Think about it—the owner can’t be everywhere at once, if he or she is even in the shop at all. Culture exists wherever the staff treads—in the lobby or main offices, the shop floor, even the bathroom. When was the last time you assessed your bathroom to determine if it’s delivering a message—any message—about your shop? It’s the staff who’s there day in, day out that builds the business, interacts with customers, fixes the vehicles, and locks up. Sun-up to sundown, culture starts with staff.

“Everyone shapes it and contributes to it,” Kiser says, “and for a team to be successful, you need everyone thinking, talking, working and behaving in sync.

“And if someone comes in who doesn’t share those values, they’re not going to last very long.”

Put the team first.

Kiser says that “team-first” is a mentality everyone at Complete has to have, from the service advisors to the owners to the shuttle drivers and ASE-certified master technicians. What is right for the team?

“Customers won’t return if they encounter people who don’t want to be there,” he reiterates.

“You can have as much strategy as you want, but if you don’t have culture, that strategy will lose every time. We always stress culture over strategy. Culture leads to people. There is no strategy worth pursuing if your doors aren’t open and customers aren’t walking through them.”

Kiser doesn’t even see nearby shops as competitors.

“We make do with what we have,” he says, “and what we have is pretty good!”