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It was unexpected and simply out-of-the-blue. Tom Bemiller couldn’t believe his ears.

Him? A bad leader? He had gotten an MBA. He had worked his way through a body shop, to the office, and then become the founder of an MSO. 

But, yes, he was hearing correctly. 

Bemiller’s employee had pulled him aside and told him that there was a problem in his shop. The rest of his team were scared to be honest. They thought Bemiller was being negative and when he was upset, was bringing his emotions into business meetings.

Bemiller sat there, and thought to himself, “Maybe I do need to change.”

Thus began a journey to personal and professional growth. He hired an executive business coach to come in every day and work one-on-one with him. He sought out podcasts, speakers, seminars and conferences about leadership. 

And, he picked up as many leadership books as he could, with his to-be-read list growing and growing.

One book, Scaling Up: Why Few Companies Make It...and Why the Rest Don’t, by Vernie Harnish, made a huge impact on how Bemiller dealt with cashflow, strategy, execution, and people. 

Bemiller is not the only MSO leader reading books and learning from books. Below, two MSO marketing experts share, along with Bemiller, which books have led to their most influential leadership changes. 

 

Book: Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman

Reviewer: Amy Anderson turns to a new marketing book when she has a new project she’s working on as Heppner’s Auto Body’s marketing manager. For instance, she recently was working on brand awareness for the company, so she turned to a book for more information. 

Reason For Reading: Recently, at the end of 2018, Heppner’s Auto Body, an MSO with six locations in the Minneapolis area, has added glass repair operations to the body shop’s services. Anderson had to change not just one logo but make a change to the multiple locations’ logos.  She changed the logo to say “Heppner’s Auto Body and Glass.” She contracted her graphic designer and had the tweak made. Then, she had the logo added to the shirts that the team wears and business cards.

Why You Should Read It:“The book talks about what different people have done when it comes to protecting their brand,” Anderson says. “I try to take care of my responsibility, which is keeping the brand the same across all six locations in Minnesota and keeping everything the same online.”

The simple tasks, like keeping the logo the same across all sponsorships or partnerships the shop participates in, can make a huge difference, Anderson says. 

 

Book: Scaling Up: Why Few Companies Make It… and Why the Rest Don’t by Vernie Harnish

Reviewer: Tom Bemiller never thought he would form his entire business career in the collision repair industry but soon he had worked his way to be the CEO and founder of the Aureus Group, an MSO with three locations in Pennsylvania. He saved his business by turning to one book that made him re-evaluate his company culture. 

Reason For Reading: Bemiller’s shop culture was not up to par with its profits and success. He realized that, at one point, as a leader he was treating every employee as if their sole purpose was to come in, work and help make more money for the shop. When, in fact, that’s not the case.

After reading Scaling Up, Bemiller realized the biggest aspect of his shop he needed to change was the strategy and execution of procedures. In order for strategy and execution of daily tasks to improve, he needed to form a clearer business vision.

Why You Should Read It: Bemiller says that Harnish’s book reads more like a textbook. And, he eventually read it 10 times. 

Since reading the book, Bemiller changed the shop’s vision. Now, the team focuses on “Repairing the repair process.”  The vision helps the team grow beyond simply repairing cars. It also helps Bemiller’s team decide if they want long-term careers in the industry.

“One of my guys came to me and told me that he didn’t want to be in the industry anymore, so I actually helped him leave the company,” Bemiller says. “I helped to transition him out of the company in three months, find him another job and get him on his way with education to his desired career path.”

Business strategy and execution cannot be successful without removing obstacles that are preventing employees from being successful, he says. 

 

Book: The Four Agreements by Don Miquel Ruiz

Reviewer: As director of marketing and community outreach for The Body Shop Collision Repair, Jessica Rattan tries to maintain a positive outlook, along with personal and professional growth in her career. After being handed The Four Agreements when she was living in Los Angeles, Calif., with her friend telling her, “You need to read this,” Rattan has spent the rest of her collision repair career recalling takeaways from the book.

Reason for Reading: Rattan grew up in the collision repair industry and has spent years working alongside her father, who is the owner of the body shop’s three locations in Texas. While the body shop team operates more as a family than coworkers, she says that one of her biggest learning curves in her professional career was not taking anything too personally. 

“That’s definitely a challenge—working side-by-side with your father—but I’m always up for a good challenge,” Rattan says.

By working on developing a thicker skin for receiving feedback, Rattan is following the book’s agreement No. 2.: don’t take anything too personally. The three other agreements are: be impeccable with your words, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. 

Why You Should Read It: After finishing the book, Rattan also has tried to follow the agreement to not make assumptions. She says this can help a leader avoid unnecessary tension and arguments in the workplace. Instead of assuming she knows why her coworkers acted the way they did, Rattan makes sure now to communicate and ask questions to avoid misunderstandings. 

“You just have to ask,” Rattan says. “People don’t think the same way you think.”

 

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