Keeping Your Business Resilient

March 22, 2022

Learning how to bounce back quickly from financial or labor setbacks in your shop is key to your business's long-term success.

The past couple years have presented unique challenges to body shop owners unseen since the Great Recession, and that feeling of uncertainty doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

Battling through COVID-19 protocols, employee shortages, supply chain issues, high gas prices, and more, takes a resilient business with the ability to bounce back from adversity.

How does a business become resilient to these challenges and those of the future?

To begin, you need to have a level to bounce back to–that’s according to Mike Jones, a master trainer and founder of Discover Leadership Training.

Texas-based Discover Leadership, Jones says, promotes the idea that every individual human commodity within a business is going to affect its success or failure in a positive or negative way. In his work with large corporations to independent collision repairers, Jones focuses on the individuals within each business, treating them not as interchangeable parts but as individuals driving the engine for success.

“If I have a clear picture, in the midst of the storm, of what I’m supposed to bounce back to, it makes it easier to bounce back,” he says.

Read on for more from Jones on building resiliency into your business.

As told to Mike Munzenrider 

1. Start with People

This is the absolute foundation of resilience in a business–you’re not going to get to resilience if you don’t start with leadership and people. Creating an environment where no matter the circumstances, a pandemic, supply chain issues, economic uncertainty, if we have created a resilient team that can handle anything, we’re going to find a way to deal with it and the team will get stronger.

I’ve said it to plenty of people during the pandemic: You’re either going to get better because of it or you’re going to be bitter.

2. Build an Identity

A business, be it a small MSO or a single shop, needs a clear vision of what it is in order to build resilience. That clarity of vision allows people to know who they are, what they stand for, it allows them to do it the “ABC Body Shop Way.” Building a culture is a business’s way to determine if it’s on track or off. It makes it clear for employees, even if they did just fine at “XYZ Body Shop,” that they now know they have to go the “ABC Way.”

If employees imprint that way of doing things on customers–they finish a job, talk to customers, make it clear–then word will get out into your wider community that you do things right.

3. Empower Employees

Lots of shops we work with were built by one or two people from the ground up and have been managed with a command/control leadership style. These businesses will have production meetings each morning but they’re not meaningful because the owner or manager runs the meeting–employees need to offer their input to create a synergistic team. Understand that authority doesn’t mean leadership.  

4. Manage Expectations

Manage your expectations and manage the promises you make. You have to be clear about what you want out of employees, how they can fulfill that, how it will be measured, what happens when it’s fulfilled. Putting success just outside an employee’s reach because of unclear expectations damages trust–there’s no resilience there, nothing to bounce back to when times get tough.

5. Speak the Same Language

Talk about exactly what your business and team are trying to achieve. Those words create pictures and those pictures create meaning and energy and action and follow through. Create a picture of what everyone will be bouncing back to, what it takes to recreate that picture. Create your business’s jargon, know what it is to do it the “ABC Body Shop Way.” Strive for effective communications and speak the same language.

6. Build Authentic Trust

It’s important to develop authentic trust. Lots of leaders operate on “assumed trust” because they’ve done it so long, they think, “They trust me because I’m the boss.” We teach against that. Assumed trust only lasts until a boss gives an employee reason to drop it. Build authentic trust by doing what you say you’re going to do. People bounce back better when they know someone has their back.

Create an environment of resilience, a place where employees know they can make a mistake and the world won’t end. That’s so critical to boss/employee relationships, it’s at the heart of everything else that happens, being able to feel like the game can be played out full, where you can drop the ball but still have trust.

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