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Avoid the Effects of Holiday Stress

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What effect does holiday stress have on your business—on how your phone is answered, on how prospective customers are greeted, on how people are treated when they call to ask about the status of their vehicles or on the overall impression customers get when they pick those vehicles up?

People who are stressed out are not generally very friendly or accommodating. The smart shop owner or manager knows that to keep customers happy and business booming, it’s vital to keep stress out of the workplace as much as possible. Keeping it light and being willing to laugh rather than have a heart attack at the occasional absurdity of human behavior: These are ways to keep stress from building up to the point where it’s destructive.

So what do you do with that hostile energy? Sadly, it often gets misdirected to the wrong place.

Stress is simply misdirected energy. One shop manager struggles to shape up a poorly performing front desk receptionist instead of getting a really competent worker and paying him or her well. Another keeps hiring and firing estimators who perform badly instead of biting the bullet and paying a bit more to get a reliable estimator who’s trained to do the job right.

Another keeps hiring incompetent body men who do shoddy work and multiply customer complaints—often just because incompetents will work cheap. This shop owner refuses to face up to the fact that paying a bit more can get well-trained technicians who will save him money in the long run.

Redirecting that energy into building enough business to pay for the best will generally result in far less stress and much more success at the same time.

Wasted Resources Cause Stress

I would venture to say that there isn’t a single production facility that doesn’t have hidden and unused resources all over the place. In many body shops, I see thousands of dollars of miscellaneous products stacked in back rooms or overhead areas, many of them simply unreturned inventory. I see additional thousands of dollars in materials wasted and half-used. I see many shop owners literally giving money to vendors by not requesting refunds for products or supplies that are not needed or were shipped incorrectly.

And I see many owners and managers overcharged for products or supplies from vendors because they don’t bother to carefully check whether they’re really getting the discounts they were promised. I also see these same business people complaining that they don’t have the money to hire more efficient personnel, for example, or mount a really effective growth campaign. The lack of better personnel is causing them unnecessary stress, and the lack of an effective growth initiative might be losing them business and causing even more stress.

Lack Of Control Causes Stress

Today, shop owners are under attack from many directions. Regulatory agencies continue to pile on rules and regulations that cost owners time and money, and every regulation adds to the burden of managing and making a profit. Perhaps you, too, have felt the stress when a regulator forced you to spend a huge amount of money to comply with some arbitrary regulation—but there was no one to strike out at and no way to vent your anger and frustration, so it came back at you in the form of stress.

So what do you do with that hostile energy? Unfortunately, it often gets misdirected, either inward at oneself or outward at employees and possibly even customers.

The accumulation of stress can eventually stifle your urge to grow, and soon you begin to retract—to pull in rather than reach out. Your focus then shifts to conserving, rather than expanding; that is, conserving energy rather than directing it outward to expand your business.
To regain your full drive and enthusiasm for business and personal growth, it is necessary to redirect that stress—that frustration, that bottled-up energy—toward eliminating or adjusting the elements that cause even more levels of stress. The guy or gal with no drive, no purpose or no concern for improvement might feel no stress, but for those of us who do care enough to excel, perhaps it’s best to just channel that stress by simply redirecting the powerful energy that is already there.

Tom Franklin, author of Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth, has been a sales and marketing consultant for more than 40 years.

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