Proper Goal Setting
Thirty-year-old Danny Szarka has grown from sweeping the floors at age 17 to becoming a shop manager at 21 to running a 40,000-square-foot, 40-employee, $8-million-per-year dealership body shop, Russel Automotive Collision Center in Baltimore. And he credits setting and achieving goals as the reason behind his quick rise to leadership.
“As a director and a manager, if you want that role and you want to thrive and not just survive, I think it’s important to have your own individual goals,” he says.
While Szarka touts the benefits of setting goals, actually doing so isn’t always that easy. He notes that proper goals are tangible, measurable and require thorough plans for achieving them. Szarka outlines his strategy for setting goals—both for employees, himself and the body shop—that are attainable and help set your business up for success.
You need to have certain set goals that ownership wants to see. You need a certain set of goals for you as an individual. And you need a certain set of goals delegated to your team. That way your team is motivated. It’s really important to follow something like the SMART system: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Take care of your people, then set goals for yourself. Then, if you’re at a dealership like I am, you set the goals for the executives.
As far as setting goals for technicians, you almost have to give them report cards. You have to let them know they’re doing well. We let them know what their goals are, which we create by sitting down with them and saying, “What are your average bi-weekly flat-rate hours that you feel like you should hit?” That could be 10 percent. As far as how we start it, it depends on each tech’s skill level and his or her certification level. You can’t have six quarterbacks on your team, because then you have to worry about everyone wanting to start. You have to have your quarterback, your second string, your linebacker. Everybody is different and you need to set your goals based on that.
They’ll get a spreadsheet every pay period that outlines efficiency and how close they are to their yearly goals. It works out great because they know what their year-to-date number is.
When you have a fresh hire, you can’t push that goal initially. You have to set the expectations of quality and customers first, and money following that. I don’t want to push numbers and goals initially because I don’t want to set that mentality of money first. We’ll give them six months to see where they’re at and at that point, they’re usually asking me, “When am I going to see where I sit compared to everyone?”
When it comes to goals for myself, I look at my gross profit and labor, paint sales, sublet sales, parts sales, average RO. How are we going to grow those numbers? If you’re setting tangible and realistic goals, it’s easier to hit those goals and drive yourself to hit those. I think setting goals for yourself is a frequent problem because managers don’t have that support. You’re at the top of the food chain. You’re in charge of 30 people’s incomes. But how are you going to push yourself to do better so they can do better? You have to be your own entrepreneur.
When it comes to setting realistic goals, I don’t like throwing darts at the board. I like a sure thing. I’m not a gambler. I’ll look at my personal schedule, my family’s schedule. I know there are certain times of year that are slower or busier, which dictates how much time I have to work on the business versus in the business. I think time of year has a lot to do with it. In the summer, it’s a lot harder for me to be in the backside of the business because people are gone. You have to look at that kind of stuff so you can be realistic because otherwise you’re putting so much pressure on yourself with the goal and you’ll be way off. I also try to involve my peers for feedback on whether or not a goal is tangible or realistic. Sometimes people more removed have a better insight. For me, the peers I solicit feedback from are other managers at the dealership. But, that could also be other industry peers or mentors you may have.
Sticking to those goals comes down to setting a date for completion and checking in along the way. As the manager, you have to push yourself to the limits. It’s like going to the gym and having a spotter who’s pushing you to do three more reps. As the manager, you’re not only the guy lifting the weights, but you’re the spotter, too. You have to continually push yourself to say, “I’ll get that done by the end of the year.” Once you put a date to it, you’re more prone to follow up on that. Make sure to write down your goals, both for yourself and the team. It’s important to provide your team with accurate, frequent data so they know if they’re on the mark.
If a goal fails, you definitely have to take ownership for it. Own up to it, get your team together and look at why we didn’t hit the goal. Is the goal still realistic? We have a team meeting, we throw everything at the wall, see what sticks and go from there.