Running a Shop Columnists

Staying Motivated in an ‘Off’ Year

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Obviously, 2020 has been an off year.

It’s been tough to keep my fire going because all the normal things that keep it lit—my 20 Group meetings, charity events, meals with the team, travel—have been put on hold.

And even though we up in Alaska have been social distancing for the last 150 years, sometimes we need to get out. I’d normally head to the lower-48 at least once a month, but my only business trip was in January (I missed half the trip because of a charity event, go figure).

The change shows up in my numbers. I spent $27,000 on travel in 2019, and this year, I’ve spent $5,000. It would have been less had a couple of my guys not travelled for some work. It’s not that leaving Anchorage is an issue, but it would be the quarantine on the way back in.

I thrive on face-to-face interactions. I’ve sat through some Zoom calls—with emphasis on the sitting—and it’s just not the same. Whenever I head to industry events I come home energized, with pages of notes and a head full of ideas.

One of the ways that I made it through the summer, keeping my fire lit, was through tackling a huge project. Late last year I started negotiations to purchase the largest shop in town, a 27,000-square-foot facility, and we closed on it in late March. That was the same day the city announced it was shutting down due to COVID.

The plan was to open the new shop, my fourth, and have all the shops operational throughout the summer, and then to close my original shop come fall. Instead, there was no rush to get the new shop going and we were able to remodel, switch over the phones, at a less hectic pace. It helped occupy the first several months of shutdown, keep it motivated, keep it different.

As fall changed to winter, the fire needed stoking again. Early on as a shop owner someone told me something that I still think is true: it’s lonely at the top.

I’ve found I have a significant need to talk to other shop owners, just because they’re the people you can lean on, you can really vent to them. They’ve lived the life I live and the career I’m going through. If I have a bad day, I can’t really lean on my employees or my family, because they don’t have those same experiences. It’s taken its toll.

I depend on my 20 Group, Business Council No. 1 with Mike Anderson, and this past year has only proven that to me more. We travel all over to meet in major metros—it’s not a country club, we’re just looking for easy flights—and at those meetings I boil down my business and compare it to what everybody else is doing.

I started in the industry young and didn’t know what I was doing. When I got into a 20 group it was just, “Holy cow”—in short order I knew so much and I had a leg up on the rest of the collision repair industry in Alaska.

One of my recent 20 Group calls started with a call to action that should carry over well into 2021: “Shake this COVID crap off you and let’s have a good meeting!”

I’ve already been through 9/11 and the 2008 recession, so for these latest challenges, we’ll make it through and I think we’ll be stronger. Keep leaning on your 20 Group, take on projects to keep the fire lit, and link up with like-minded people to share ideas and motivation when it’s possible again—we'll make 2021 an “on” year.

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