Running a Shop Leadership How To Lead Strategy+Planning

Play to Win

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Do you remember that first day you took over your shop, or moved into a new managerial role? Do you remember what you were thinking? Do you remember how you felt that day?

I’ll answer that for you: Just like I did with my own shop, you felt ready to take on the world. You were fired up. You knew, at that moment, you would go to any extreme to ensure your business’s success. After all, this was your business now. You’d waited your whole career for this; to do it your way. You were playing to win, right? And you were going to win—no matter what.

That’s the way we all start out as business owners and operators. But let’s be honest for a moment, my friends. How many of you still feel the same way you did on that first day?

OK, I’ll answer that for you, too: not many. 

Yes, you’re still passionate about your business and you’re still focused on success. Maybe you’re growing. Maybe you’ve reached levels you didn’t think possible when starting out. Maybe it’s all a struggle still. I know the stories of thousands of shops across the country. I might know yours. And most of them start out with that play-to-win mentality and it puts the life into that business. Then, people tend to reach a point where, maybe they have a handful of strong DRPs or a great dealership relationship, and it boosts the business to a new level. Then, they do everything they can to maintain those relationships. They begin to cater to someone else. They don’t want to do anything to harm what they already have. They don’t want to rock the boat; ultimately, they become scared to try new things. And that play-to-win mentality is gone. They’re playing not to lose.

I get it. You’re business is far too valuable to take a chance, right? Well, there’s also the other side of that, and that’s by playing it safe, by staying in your comfort zone, you get stagnant. The business will decay. It’ll die a little bit. Think of it like this: You comfort zone is one big circle around you, and in there, everything will remain the same if you don’t rock the boat. But, as it stays the same, as your business stays the same, everything outside of the circle is pushing forward, is innovating, is achieving new things. And you’re stuck. 

Greatness is found outside that circle. If you want to achieve greatness—and this goes for anything in life, not just your business—you need to crave the chaos, take on uncomfortable challenges, and take a chance. 

I delivered a keynote on this topic at the FenderBender Management Conference back in September, and I called it “The Three Cs.” The idea is that you need to make a choice to take a chance to make a change. This isn’t about taking on unnecessary risk. It’s about shifting your mindset. It’s about getting out of that playing-not-to-lose mode and starting to play to win again. And, let’s face it, you need to win. Your business and everyone it supports depends on you winning.

Here’s a story for you: Oregonian Dick Fosbury won the Olympic high jump gold medal in the 1968 Mexico City games. What makes this special? Well, the “Fosbury Flop.” Trust me, you’ve seen this before; it’s the way every single high-jumper has cleared the bar (head-first and backwards) since, you guessed it, 1968. He was the first jumper to do it. People thought he was crazy. It looked crazy—at least back then. People said it wouldn’t work, and you know what, if it didn’t work, he’d have looked pretty dumb. But, dig up any interview Fosbury ever did, and you won’t hear anything about him worrying about failure, worrying about what others might say about his failure. He did it because he knew it was his best chance to win. He made a choice. He took a chance. He made a change. And the rest is history.

Another story: In the inaugural Indy 500, driver Ray Harroun had an idea just days before the race. At the time, each driver rode with a passenger, referred to as their “mechanician,” who acted as a co-pilot and monitored the vehicles behind their car. Harroun’s idea was to leave the mechanician behind. Drop the unnecessary weight. Everyone thought he was crazy; that he was putting himself in an extremely dangerous position. But he had a plan: He and his team built a small mirror that he positioned at the top of his windshield. The first-ever rearview mirror. Harroun invented it. Oh, and he won the race, too, in dominant fashion.

Both Fosbury and Harroun heard the negative stories many of you might hear in your own heads when you think about taking a chance to improve your business. You can’t listen. Don’t tell yourself negative stories. Don’t let the possibility of failure stop you from achieving greatness. Play to win.

Maybe you’ve had an idea for a new pay plan, or a new shop layout, or you want to overhaul your production workflow; maybe you want to take on a certification, get aluminum-capable or grab a large DRP. Whatever it is, take that step. Prepare. Plan. Be ready and confident. And don’t let the possible risks weigh you down. Focus on the positive outcomes and what you and your business can achieve through this change. Feel more like you did on that first day of business; feel ready to do whatever it takes to succeed. We all have that choice to make, and you need to take that chance if you want to see true change.

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