Purpose: The Current of a Thriving Shop Culture

April 1, 2018

How to inspire a team toward greatness.

We all long for a deeper purpose than just going to work day in and day out. Purpose answers the “Why?” question. Simon Sinek in his popular TED talk speaks about the golden circle. During the talk, he draws three concentric circles on a whiteboard starting with the outer ring of “what.” What we do in our industry is fairly set. We fix wrecked vehicles. There is little variation in the scope of things. Sure, you might fix large trucks and the guy down the street might focus on smaller vehicles. But, all in all, our “what” is pretty straight forward. The “what” among the three circles has the least to do with differentiating us from all the others in the industry.

The next circle, a layer in, is the “how.” How you fix vehicles can vary from shop to shop. While this is not a huge differentiator, it does start to separate one from shop from another. Some shops follow a very strict documented process that might involve checking OE procedures while others more or less wing it. Differences also start to show up here in how a shop relates to insurance companies. For some, this has always been a strained and at times hostile relationship. For others, they tend to see insurance companies as important partners. Our “how” also shows up in our customer relationships. How one shop treats their customers versus another can vary from shop to shop. We all say we’re in the customer service business but how that gets expressed varies from shop to shop.

Our “why” is the one thing that is so personal and specific to each business that most clearly separates shops. Our “why” is the reason we get up every morning and go into the shop. For some, this is as simple and important as providing for a family. For others, there may be an overarching mission to create a positive change in the world. For still others, it is just the personal challenge of trying to do great work in an often demanding and challenging industry.  

And our “why” can change, grow and evolve. I discovered as I looked back that my “why” has a  unifying theme, but the context and specificity has changed.

I came back into this industry reluctantly. You see, I had another dream I was pursuing—a calling, really. I had prepared my whole life to be in ministry and at the time I re-entered the family business, I had been a pastor in a local church for almost a decade. At first, I returned as a way to support my family and the ministry. It was truly a means to an end. I wanted to continue doing what I was doing in ministry but needed some financial help so I wouldn’t be a burden on the small congregation I was serving.

What I came to discover was that I was a much better business owner than I was a pastor. At first, I found that really hard to admit. But over time, I embraced it and the shop thrived. To my surprise, the shop became a great platform to do what I wanted to do in ministry: serve my neighbors, support my family, and make a positive difference in the neighborhood I lived. I found that what I really loved was using the revenue from the shop to support fledgling non-profits that were starting in my neighborhood.

So, at the heart of my “why” is generosity and it has become not only a foundational value in our shops’ culture but a core part of our family’s mission. My wife and I recently had a family meeting over dinner with my now two adult children, their significant others, and our youngest daughter, who is 12. We decided together that we want to give $100,000 by the end of 2020 to orphan care and adoption. Our family has been deeply blessed through adoption and we want as many children, parents and families as possible to experience that same thing. In a sense, my “why” has grown from providing for my family, to now providing for other families who want to grow through adoption.     

What is your “why” and how might that be expressed more fully in your shop’s culture as a way to inspire your team toward a purpose beyond the day to day? I’d love to hear about it online in the comments section or even emailed to me so we can cheer each other on.

About the Author

Kevin Rains

Kevin Rains is the owner of Rains CARSTAR Group with locations in Cincinnati, Ohio; West Chester, Ohio; and Lexington, Kentucky. He is also an industry consultant. He can be reached at [email protected].

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