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Take Flight

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I have had the fortune of taking some incredible trips over the years—and paying next to nothing for them. I’ve flown in first class many times and usually pay well less than $100 for the flights. I’ve also been able to stay in some amazing hotels—all for free.

My favorite trip was flying first class on Korean Air to Seoul, South Korea, to visit our son, who was stationed there at the time. The experience was top notch from beginning to end. We were treated to meals that were better than most restaurants we go to, they provided pajamas, and the bathroom was bigger than my home bathroom. All this for $82 each. How? I began taking advantage of signup bonuses from credit cards, and as a result, racked up over 2 million free points just for signing up for new cards.

Whenever I share this with someone, I usually get the reaction that it’s too difficult to use points or they never spend that much to earn enough points. I can relate, as I used to think the same way.

Then, I found an entire online world dedicated to sharing tips and advice on how to earn points quickly and maximize the use of the points. That advice completely changed my vacation habits and experiences.

I could go on about all the other experiences I’ve shared, but the reason for writing about this is there is a parallel to be applied to our industry: a little extra effort usually pays huge dividends.

It can be easy to fall into a routine of showing up to work each day and checking off the boxes that need to be done in order to keep the business going. There’s always a fire to put out, a difficult customer to deal with, a dispute to resolve, and an insurance company reminding you that they’re being charged too much. All those things can zap our energy and take away the joy of the experience—kind of like going to the airport, waiting in long security lines and counting down the minutes until you get off the plane. Something that was enjoyable has now become burdensome.

Just like flying in coach keeps getting worse, doing things the way we’ve always done it is making it harder to earn a profit and continue growing in our industry. It’s starting to feel like we are sitting in the middle seat and the captain just told us there will be a two-hour delay while we sit on the tarmac.

It’s time to start making the extra effort to turn the experience of managing a shop into an enjoyable and profitable one.

Listening to an insurance company say they don’t pay for something, or—better yet—that you are the only one charging for that, happens every day in our industry. This is an area where making a little extra effort pays huge dividends. We don’t take no for an answer when it comes to billing for the items on our estimates. Sometimes it takes just a little resistance and the insurance company, which is typically not used to that resistance, backs off. Other times it requires a little more effort: digging into an OE website to document the reason we are charging for a particulate procedure; or talking to a supervisor to explain again why we charge for a certain line item. Those conversations with supervisors can go a long way, impacting many claims with that insurer down the road.

But this concept applies to people in our shops, too. Sadly, another status quo in our industry has been to ignore issues with staff members when things aren’t going the way we want. We usually avoid the “crucial conversations” (see Kevin Rains’ column) and we hope the issue will resolve itself. Whether someone isn’t getting along with a coworker or they’re just plain under-performing, we usually subscribe to the theory that time heals all wounds.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to take the easy way out and avoid those conversations. But, the times I’ve decided to sit down and talk about the issues at hand are the ones I can look back on and see how much growth happened, on both sides, as a result of making the extra effort to help improve our team.

Running a business has always been hard work, but enjoying the fruits of your labor can be a little more difficult today. The best way to get off the hamster wheel is to find a way to put in effort that will pay big dividends. I’d suggest starting by making that effort to get paid for all the line items on your estimates and taking the time to have the difficult conversations with your staff. You might be surprised at how much the return will be on those investments.

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