Cut the Culture of Over-Management
When I started out in the business, I looked at other body shops that were growing and they had a shop manager, a guy that was just in charge of production, another guy that was just in charge of estimatics, a general manager of all the facilities, and then owners. So, that’s exactly how we were structured. And that’s when we started our culture of over-management. We had managers on top of managers thinking that would solve the problems: estimating managers, location managers with their own production managers, office managers, all the way up to corporate production managers, corporate front office managers, corporate general manager and then me. But, it wasn’t like I had all these managers and I never had to go to work. I was working more than I ever was before.
Thanks to some inspiration from my 20 Group, we got rid of some of our upper-level managers and decided to focus on the culture and empower our people to do that actual work. Before, every manager had an office and a company car. Those are all gone. I used to tell my managers that their job was to find all the problems and bring that to the organization. Now, we’re team based, both administratively and technically. That means we have team leaders––but they’re working team leaders. They make decisions when needed but they’re not there to sit and crunch numbers.
I’m careful with how I title people, too. We just hired a guy recently that ,by many people’s eyes, would be the general manager. His job is to work with the team, he’s a people person, so we titled it “director of performance.” We chose the title and we chose it together by looking at what our goals are. Our goal is to up our performance, both for our customers and for ourselves, so let’s have our title based around that. Before we signed our paperwork, I said, “The most important thing to me is that when you come on, you’re not taking any power away from the staff. You’re going to help them find the performance that we need but when it comes to an everyday decision, they have to be empowered.” The verbiage is moving us closer to our goals.
My philosophy is when I empower the people to do the work, 99.99 percent of the time, they know the right answer. They just don’t have the power to make the right choice. But empowering my employees to make decisions didn’t become a focus until all of my managers were gone and I went to Idaho on an elk hunt (I’m a big hunter) and one CSR said to me, “Who’s in charge? Let’s say we have to put a customer in a rental car; who’s going to make that call?” I said, “Do you know the right answer?” She said yes, so I told her, “You’re going to make the call.” I left town and knew that was the direction I had to go. They knew what to do, I just hadn’t given them the power. We all think you have to have this person who makes the decisions but in actuality, it limits us in growth and the speed of business.
Next, I used every opportunity where someone came to me with a problem to start that journey of empowering them and coaching them through problems. I tell my staff to look at it like a judge would look at a court case. The judge isn’t emotionally involved. He’s looking for proof of who’s in the right or wrong. You have three sides to take into account–-your customer’s, the insurer’s and ours––but you always have to lean toward taking care of the customer. We’re a big organization and one part or one rental car is not going to kill us.
I did have a hard time at first letting go. I had to come to the realization that they’re not going to do it the way that I would do it and I have to back them up, no matter what. You can coach them not to do it that way next time but you can’t go and yell at them.
Through several years of doing that, we were able to start finding ways that people could use their strengths. My team knows, if we have an upset customer, we have certain guys that are really good at calming them down. They use their talents appropriately to get the job done. At this point in my career, I only deal with a customer every three months––maybe.
On the other hand, sometimes you encounter employees who don’t have the confidence to make decisions on their own. It takes me saying, “You got this. What are your thoughts?” and not giving them the answer. They’ll build that confidence pretty fast. That typically comes with newer employees who aren’t used to that style of management. They don’t want to make the call because they don’t want it on their back. Once they realize you’re not going to come and hold it over their head later, they start gaining confidence.