Lobsiger: Breaking the rules?

Aug. 22, 2023
When you see something that needs fixing, sometimes the rules hold you back.

Are you afraid to break the rules?? A few years back, I saw a video with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was speaking about his Six Steps to Success. Funny how one of his steps was about breaking the rules.

He for sure broke some rules after coming from a poor family in Austria, then immigrating to the U.S. while barely speaking any English. Then with years of hard work, he became a seven-time Mr. Olympia body building champion and then earned over $400 million as a movie actor! After all of that, he entered politics and became the governor of California. Anyway, in Arnold's six steps, he spoke about how we must be willing to "Break the rules, but not the law, of course." To piggyback on Arnold's six steps, here is a quote from Henry Ford: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

In the body shop industry, it always seems like we have a bunch of unwritten rules. That could be how we interact with insurers or how we pay our employees or whether we should or shouldn’t charge a customer for a short pay. As an example: How about total loss fees? Last I checked, shops don’t total cars; insurance companies do. When we spend four hours on a blueprint and the car totals, it’s extremely expensive to the shops. Just my shop cost per hour is $2,100+. This is why we must charge for all the labor for remove in the R&I in software, inside storage, outside storage, admin fees, parts racks storage fees, pre-scans, OEM procedure lookup, crash wrap, hazardous waste, etc.

Another one of Arnold’s steps discusses how we should never listen to the naysayers! So, here is a real-life example: Let’s say most insurers in your market are paying $60 per hour and your current door rate is a whopping $64. You suggest to your employees that you move your door rate to, say, $85 per hour for non-specialty vehicles. A few in your shop snicker and say, "Yeah, right. That will never fly!" Well, without giving you our exact rates, we tried it at my shop. And guess what? All the self-pays are paying our door rate, and a few smaller insurers are paying it also. Where else can we get any skilled labor business outside of collision repair to charge us any less than the example $85 per hour? Nowhere, right? We don’t get if we don’t ask, folks. Last I checked, my name was down as owner of my business and not an insurance company or customer. So, start breaking some of the rules and don’t cave when you hear, “No one else charges for this,” either!!

Here is another example: How about our CPAs? Let’s say you discuss with your CPA about changing some things in your P&L to manage your business better. Your CPA says, “Well, we could make those changes, but it really won’t tell you a lot more.” Bingo, time for a new CPA. We pay the CPAs; they don’t pay us, so break the rules and fire them! Let’s say there is that one appraiser, and we will call him Dreadful Don. Maybe he shows up acting like the almighty and thinks you must bow to him. Dreadful Don puts everyone at our shop on edge and of course he always shows up unannounced to try to ruin our day. Time to break the rules and call his supervisor to give this time and life vampire the boot. Just tell his supervisor that Dreadful Don now has a no-trespassing order at your shop, and he needs to find a different appraiser. Oh, what a relief it is when we take control of our business and break this unwritten rule. FYI: I had one of those Dreadful Dons.

How about your top producing employee, that knows what time the team meeting is every morning. As an example: Funny how this person likes to show up fashionably late. Well, it's time to break the unwritten rule and call them out. Just remember, everyone is very expendable, including ourselves. We come to work to work; it’s not playtime! How about the tool truck guy who shows up every Friday and likes to camp out while stopping each technician from working and onto their truck for some enticing tools? It's time to break the rules and let Mr. Tim the Tool Man know he has 25 minutes every two weeks at an agreed time and day to collect payments and sell any tools. Be in control or be controlled; there is no in-between, folks. So, hopefully something I said will stir some thinking. Leaders must do one thing very well, and that is to LEAD! I will ask the same question from the beginning again: Are you afraid to break the rules?