Running a Shop Leadership How To Lead Strategy+Planning

Off to a Good Start

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The Big Idea_0717

Whether you're a morning person or a night owl, there really is no substitute for getting off to a good start every day, both personally and professionally. Let’s take a quick look at both of those.

On the personal front, it is important to develop a cluster of habits that give you energy and not just sap your energy. Stephen Covey wrote about this a long time ago and coined the phrase in his succinct chapter on self care with the phrase “sharpen the saw.” He drew that from the old adage about trying to chop with a dull axe and its diminishing return as the blade becomes duller. On the flip side, if you take a few minutes to sharpen the saw, the return on that small investment saves a lot of time and effort in the long run.

There are four major categories where it’s important to sharpen the saw and developing a morning routine that hits all four can be a powerful way to start the day:

  1. Physical. What is something you can do first thing in the morning to get your blood flowing? Maybe it’s a short walk or simply taking some deep breaths. Or perhaps, if you’re like me, you need to stretch your muscles. Find something that returns energy to you and doesn’t simply deplete it.
  2. Mental. Our minds are like muscles and they, too, need to be stretched if they are going to work long term. For me, this looks like reading something for 10-15 minutes that gets me thinking—so not the newspaper or social media! Those things have their place but the goal here is to stretch your thinking a bit. Perhaps there’s a challenge you’re facing at your shop and you want some expert advice. There’s no better—or less expensive—way to get advice than the price of a good book! I’ve really been enjoying listening to audiobooks on my morning commute lately through an app on my phone called Audible.
  3. Relational. Who can you connect with and encourage through a short email that expresses gratitude? Or perhaps you’re more old school and like the pen-and-paper route. No matter how you do it, taking those few minutes to encourage someone else and express gratitude will not only make their day, it will make yours, too!
  4. Spiritual. Connecting spiritually can be something as simple as sitting in silence for a few minutes or reading a sacred text and praying. Of course, this one will vary from person to person based on personal beliefs. But what is important here is connecting with something (or someone) beyond yourself. At a minimum, reviewing core values and your vision of what your life could be like is important.


Now, professionally. I recently interviewed someone for a manager’s position in one of my shops and I asked them, “What are the first five things you do every morning after getting to the shop?” This question tells me a lot about their understanding and ability to lead a shop. I really liked the answer he gave and it gave me a sense that he knew what he was doing. I know many of us like to think that we have developed the best, most innovative way to lead a shop, but really, it comes back to executing consistently on some fundamentals. Those fundamentals are fairly consistent across all successful shops, with some variation based on local circumstances and the leader’s personality.

Here are my “first five.” I’d love to hear yours, as well!

  1. Print and go over the roster of every job in the shop by talking to each body tech individually. Some like to do this part as a team and both have advantages. This tells me where every car is in the process, if there are parts or sublets needed, and what’s heading to paint or detail.
  2. Meet with the paint department and build a paint board of cars that need to be painted that day. This can be a little predictive based on what the body techs tell me they will be sending over to paint that day.
  3. Build a delivery board based on all the input I’ve gotten from the above that is visible to all managers, CSRs and detailers. This board operates as a road map for the day. These are the cars we want to deliver and drives a focus on getting these cars out the door on this day.
  4. Meet with managers and estimators briefly to go over results for previous day and week, or even month to date. This is a short meeting and a quick way to know if we’re winning or losing against the measures and goals we currently have for touch time, revenue and closing ratio. This is also an opportunity to discuss any jobs that might be off track or need some special attention.
  5. Respond to any urgent emails. This might be a customer concern or one of our referrals partners needing something.

Creating these grooves in our day, both personally and professionally, ensures that we are consistently getting to the important work of taking care of ourselves and running an efficient operation. I’ve also found that on the days I do these basic things really well, the rest of the day tends to go much smoother.

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