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The Value of Embracing Change

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I have to kick this month’s column off with a confession: I’m feeling the pressure. One of the toughest parts of deciding what to write about is that the magazine has such a diverse group of readers. This article will be viewed by grizzled 30-year veterans and someone spending their 30th day in the industry, feeling their way around. Not to mention, I attended the FenderBender Management Conference last month and it was yet another reminder of how many intelligent people there are in this industry. That’s all to say that I’ve had an especially difficult time choosing a topic to write about this month. I even scrapped my first idea! 

Trying to come up with something of value to that diverse audience has challenged me. But, it also got me thinking. No matter where we are in this industry, we are all facing challenges. Whether you are planning on growth and acquisition, or planning an exit strategy, both are uncertain roads you haven’t traveled down before. You might be reading your first-ever DRP scorecard, or prepping for a meeting with a DRP you’ve worked with for 20 years. Regardless of what lies immediately ahead of you, we are all in the same boat: We’re facing unique challenges.   

The best news is this industry is full of experts who handle new challenges all the time. Beyond all the changes coming to our industry, at its core, it’s impossible to perfect the process of repairing a vehicle. No matter what target we are focused on, it is always moving. So, naturally, the industry attracts problem solvers, and I’m sure you are no different.

But that doesn’t necessarily make dealing with change any easier. There are so many changes coming to our industry, and frankly, it’s easy to get stuck complaining about these things. But staying in that cycle isn’t to your benefit; it’s actually a one-way ticket to burnout. 

At the FenderBender Management Conference, one of the keynote speakers was Cindra Kamphoff, the sports psychologist for the Minnesota Vikings (rough gig). In Cindra’s address, she said something that all of us can use when facing challenges. She talked about how she interviews the new rookies each year after the NFL draft. During the interview, she can almost always tell if the player will make the team by what they talk about. If they harp on the aspects that are out of their control, like what round they were drafted in, they usually won’t make the team. If their focus is on what is in their control—like what their workout routine needs to be before training camp—they usually make the team.

The message? Control the controllables.

So, how can we apply that lesson with the challenges we currently face? To be successful in tackling the challenges we have ahead of us, we need to focus on what is in our control. Here is a current example of how I used this: This past week, our CSR was on vacation, and I spent the week handling phone calls and walk-in customers. We had an extraordinarily busy week with tow-ins and we were also dealing with the lack of GM parts, to which I’m sure everyone reading this can relate. During the past month our work mix was skewed heavily with GM vehicles. 

I hit a point during the week where I just wanted to turn off the phones and lock the doors. I couldn’t remember a time in recent years where I felt more overwhelmed. And then it hit me: I was focusing too much on what I couldn’t control. I had zero control over what parts from GM were available. I did, however, have control over my communication with our GM customers. While we stay in regular contact with them normally, I decided to talk with each GM customer individually and explain the situation. Most customers understood our dilemma in getting their vehicle repaired, and were very understanding.  

After finishing those conversations, I was amazed at how the stress I felt before had lifted. I could go back to facing my next challenge, which was checking in and staging all the current work that had just showed up on our lot. After I got through that process, I looked at the amount of work I had in front of me and it suddenly seemed very manageable. I went from feeling totally out of control to being in complete control just by turning my focus on the things I could impact.

Regardless of the challenge you’re facing right now, there are going to be aspects that are in and out of your control. Make a list, if you need to, and then only focus on tackling the items that are in your control. I think you’ll be surprised at your new perspective on the road ahead. 

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