As much we like to think we’ve always been at the top, no one is born a boss. Before you became an auto repair shop owner, you probably held other positions and had someone else bossing you around. Think back to those bosses, and how you felt about those jobs.
You may have had some bosses who you didn’t like. Their leadership style might have been too aggressive, or maybe they didn’t take the time to show you the ropes.
But hopefully, you had at least one boss who helped you get to where you are today. Typically, good bosses:
- Strongly support your career growth by encouraging you to gain new skills
- Understand when you have to take some time off or shift your work hours
- Trust you to get the job done instead of micromanaging you
- Show you they value your contributions to the team
- Effectively communicate instructions and priorities to you
If you had a supportive boss who championed you at work, you probably went above and beyond—you knew they valued your work. Your former boss’s great leadership qualities probably set an example for you, influencing how you run your own shop today.
We’re willing to bet you’re already an excellent leader, running your own shop in a way that inspires your team, just like how your previous bosses might have inspired you. But, just like you expect your employees to grow in their roles, your employees expect you to continue growing as a leader.
By fine-tuning your leadership skills, you can bring the absolute best out of yourself and your team.
The Impact of Strong Leadership
Reflecting on your own experience, you likely already know the impact of strong leadership in the workforce. But what do the numbers have to say about it?
According to Gallup, “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.”
You might be the main manager at your shop, or you might have a shop manager who reports to you. In addition to enhancing your own leadership skills, think about how you can help your shop manager—or anyone else on your team who is formally managing other employees—do so as well. When employees are led by strong leaders, they’re more likely to bring their best selves to work. Everyone benefits.
According to the same Gallup report, managers and employees who “apply their strengths” at work are:
- Six times more likely to be engaged at work
- Three times more likely to say they have an “excellent quality of life”
- Six times more likely to strongly agree that they have the chance to “do what they do best every day”
Of course, you want your employees (and yourself!) to be productive, have a good life, and do what they do best. When your employees feel like they’re using and refining their strengths at work, your business can really grow. Also, according to Gallup, teams with highly engaged employees:
- Are 17% more productive
- Have 41% less absenteeism
- Have 59% less turnover
- Have a 10% increase in customer ratings
- Have a 20% increase in sales
And what’s more, Gallup found that added together, “the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.”
So, high employee engagement leads to better business results. You’ll save more money and time because you won’t have to regularly deal with the expensive, lengthy process of hiring and onboarding new employees. You’ll also make more money because your productive employees will lead to repairs getting finished faster, which translates to happier customers. So, let’s take a look at how to do these things.
Finding the Balance Between Micromanagement and Good Leadership With Software for Auto Repair Business Leadership
You might be wondering: “What’s the line between good leadership and micromanagement?”
Micromanaging essentially comes down to over-focusing on small details and getting in the way of your employees doing their jobs. Leadership, on the other hand, is about focusing on the high-level aspects of running your business, trusting your employees, and only getting involved with minor details when necessary.
It can be tempting to fall into micromanaging mode during the day-to-day of running your shop, especially when you’re analyzing your shop’s metrics, talking with your employees, monitoring operations, and more in your path to become an even stronger leader.
However, according to experts cited in the Harvard Business Review, you can avoid turning into a micromanager by taking several steps, such as:
- Telling your team what your expectations are for communication
- Showing your team that you trust them
- Knowing when it’s appropriate for you to be more hands-on (like in the case of having to make sure a new hire is properly trained)
Refining the chain of command at your shop can also help you avoid micromanaging. You can have a shop manager handle most of the on-the-ground elements of running your shop each day. Of course, be sure to get them up to speed on how to avoid becoming micromanagers themselves!
So, instead of you walking around the shop and asking service advisors and technicians for updates on repair orders once an hour, you can set expectations, show them you trust them to do their respective jobs, and only check in with them once a day, entrusting your shop manager with the rest. Or, instead of standing behind technicians while they work on repairs, you can stay at your desk and tackle high-level business tasks, trusting that they know how to get the job done and that your shop manager will step in as needed.
Not being a micromanager also benefits you as a shop owner in another way—it gives you more time to focus on the high-level aspects of running your business, like expanding your shop, planning to open a second location, or fine-tuning your five-year business plan. You’ll be able to function more like a visionary.
Of course, you don’t want to change course and become a boss who’s so hands-off, your employees forget you exist. That’s where software for auto repair business management can be super useful.
Tekmetric enables you or any other shop managers to keep an eye on your shop without getting in the way of employees. You can see exactly which service advisors and technicians are working on specific repair orders. And because Tekmetric is cloud-based, you can stay in the loop anywhere you have internet access, such as a networking event at ASA, an airport lounge, or even at home while you’re waiting for a plumber.
Ways You Can Enhance Your Leadership Skills As a Shop Owner
There’s a wealth of opportunities in the auto repair industry to enhance your leadership skills as a shop owner:
- Attend Conferences: Conferences like AAPEX and Shop Hackers offer opportunities for you to mingle with other shop owners and learn about their management tips and tricks.
- Join Associations: Associations like MWACA and ASA provide great networking opportunities like webinars, workshops, and other events you can attend with fellow shop owners to enhance your leadership skills.
- Read Industry Insights: Industry insights from sources like Auto Service World and Tekmetric’s own Shop Spotlights are a convenient way to gain leadership wisdom.
- Use Software for Auto Repair Business Management: Software for auto repair business management enables you to fine-tune your leadership by giving you access to data and other tools.
You can, and should, encourage your shop manager or anyone else in a management role at your shop to explore these avenues, too. After all, when everyone in a management role at your shop enhances their leadership skills, the benefits will multiply.
Six Key Areas to Focus on to Strengthen Your Team
Leadership doesn’t just encompass one thing. If only it did, life would be easier! To be strong leaders for your team, there are six key areas you, your shop manager, and anyone else in a management role at your shop should focus on.
- Employee Recruitment and Hiring
When it comes to recruitment and hiring, first impressions go both ways.
From the moment someone applies to work at your shop, they’re getting a sense of what it will be like to work there. And you’re giving them a first impression in terms of what your standards are for professionalism, teamwork, and growth.
If you have a straightforward, timely recruitment and hiring process, you’re more likely to leave a good first impression with candidates and effectively communicate your professional values.
Chances are you have a solid process for recruitment and hiring, but it’s always good to re-examine your methods and see where you can improve. A great way to get this information is to gather feedback from your current employees. Depending on your comfort level, you can gather this feedback anonymously, or just chat with employees on their breaks. Of course, you should let them know you won’t hold anything they say against them.
Maybe one of your team members suggests that you and your shop manager should follow up with candidates a bit more promptly. The life of a shop owner (and shop manager) is a busy one, and you two might not be able to respond to candidates within a day. But, you could achieve a balance and set a goal to respond to new candidates within three business days.
But before you even get to the actual steps involved in recruiting and hiring, you have to first determine if:
- You need to hire more employees
- You can afford to hire more employees
From there, you can figure out which roles you need to hire for, and how many employees you can afford to hire.
Tek-Tip: Sometimes, some shop owners decide it’s time to hire based on feeling out the day-to-day at their shop or asking their shop manager. But, there are situations that call for a more data-driven approach. That’s where software can step in.
Your shop’s metrics are a great way to determine if you need to hire more employees, if you can afford to hire more employees, which roles you need to hire for, and how many employees you can afford to hire.
With software for auto repair business management, you can analyze your shop’s metrics and get the answers you need before you hit “publish” on that job post. Tekmetric gives you quick access to your shop’s metrics in a given time range, including:
- Car Count
- Close Ratio
- GP Dollars
- Total Efficiency of Technicians
Once you review your shop’s data, you can make educated recruitment and hiring decisions. For example, if you see that your shop has had double the car count this year compared to last year and that your technicians’ total efficiency has been a bit lower over the same time period, you might conclude that your shop’s current repair levels are too high for your current technicians to manage, and you need to hire another technician or two.
- Employee Management
It goes without saying—part of being a leader is, well, leading your team. How you lead your team makes a huge difference.
Take an objective look at how you and other managers at your shop have been leading employees. One great way to get this information is to send out an employee survey to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you have the survey results, you can take action. Maybe more than half of your employees indicated that they don’t feel like you’re invested in their career development. To turn this around, one thing you can do is create an employee mentorship program. Or, maybe a quarter of your employees expressed that they don’t have a clear grasp of how their performance at the shop is measured. To improve the situation, you can have a chat with your shop manager and help them set clear expectations for employees.
Tek-Tip: Surveying your employees will give you a good understanding of where you and other managers at your shop stand with them, and what steps you all can take to enhance your leadership skills. Another piece of the employee management puzzle is knowing how well your employees are doing, so you can identify areas where you can help. That’s where software for auto repair business leadership can lend you insights.
Tekmetric’s Employee Reports give you detailed insights into your service advisors’ and technicians’ activity within a given time range. You can see information such as technicians’ total efficiency and service advisors’ total sales. Additionally, you can give your shop manager and other leaders at your shop access to these reports.
Tekmetric’s Employee Profiles can give you baseline information about your employees, such as their phone numbers, addresses, payroll types, and more. So, if you need to look up an employee’s address to send them a gift basket congratulating them on their new child, you can do so in a flash. Or, if you want to clarify if one of your employees is salaried or hourly, you can easily look it up.
- Employee Motivation
Think back to a time you felt motivated, like when you were starting your auto repair shop. You probably spent countless hours saving up money, putting together a business plan, finding technicians and service advisors, and more. You were driven to succeed; that motivation fueled you.
Chances are that one of the key things that kept you going was seeing, in real time, how everything was coming together. You found the right building to lease, finished your business plan, started recruiting, etc. You were seeing your hard work pay off in front of your eyes.
And now, as a shop owner, seeing your team work hard probably motivates you to work hard, too. When people work together on a task and are treated as partners, their motivation rises.
Two ways you can keep your employees motivated are by:
- Showing them how their hard work is paying off
- Making it easy for them to collaborate with each other, even if they aren’t in the same part of the shop
To show your team how their hard work is paying off, one thing you could do is send out a daily email with your shop’s key stats, such as the Car Count and ARO of the day. This will help your technicians and service advisors see that they’re working toward a common goal and that they’re the ones making those stellar stats happen.
To make it easy for your technicians and service advisors to collaborate with each other no matter where they are in the shop, you can use a digital workflow management tool that shows everyone which repair orders are currently open, which technician is responsible for each repair, and more.
Tek-Tip: Make motivating your employees a breeze. Tekmetric gives you access to your shop’s key stats, such as Car Count, ARO, and GP Dollars, which you can share with your employees, showing them how their hard work is benefiting everyone, and that they’re all part of something bigger.
Tekmetric also offers two digital workflow management tools. With the Job Board, you, your shop manager, and your service advisors can get a bird’s eye view into the different stages of the repair process for every repair order at your shop. And with the Tech Board, technicians can see exactly which repairs are on their plate and can time themselves as they work on tasks—and service advisors can know who to assign upcoming repairs to, and how far along each repair is.
- Employee Pay
People are motivated by their teammates, feeling like they’re a part of something bigger, and knowing that people in their professional lives care about them. But there’s no denying it—everyone loves money.
As a business owner, you’re always balancing investing your money between your shop and your team. There’s a fine line between the two—if you never give employees raises, they’ll leave. But if you constantly give them raises, you won’t be able to afford other business priorities, like getting a new bay or adding a second location.
By finding the right balance and setting up a process for employees to get paid more, you can financially motivate your team. How you set up your process for raises depends on various factors unique to your shop, such as how you pay your employees (hourly or salary) and how much profit your shop is generating.
Based on your shop’s unique circumstances, you might decide to bump up the hourly rate or the salaries of employees by a certain percentage with each year of tenure at your shop. If your shop is doing exceptionally well in a particular year, you can give your employees holiday bonuses, too. Or, you might decide to take on a commission-based approach, where the more work service advisors sell, and the more issues technicians uncover during inspections, the more money they make.
Setting up a commission-based payment structure doesn’t have to be complicated.
Tek-Tip: Tekmetric’s commission tracking tools make it easy for you to set up a commission-based payment structure at your shop, so everyone can be motivated to work toward a shared goal.
You can create individual pay structures for individual job categories based on various factors—hours sold, gross profit, percentage of parts, and percentage of labor. You can set up a fixed commission structure, too. And, you can do all of this while keeping the details confidential between employees.
- Employee Mentorship
We know, we know—we keep making you recall memories. But, bear with us for another trip down memory lane.
As you were rising through the ranks of the auto repair industry, did you have a mentor who was invested in your professional development? If you did, you know how big of a difference that mentorship made.
And that’s not just the nostalgia talking. Research backs up the advantages of mentorship. A 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey found that:
- 91% of workers with a mentor were satisfied with their jobs
- 71% of employees with a mentor said their company gave them excellent or good career advancement opportunities
- 40% of workers without a mentor said they’d thought about leaving their jobs in the past three months
By mentoring your service advisors, technicians, and other employees, and encouraging your shop’s other managers to mentor their direct reports, you can empower everyone to grow in their careers, and make your shop a better place than ever to work.
Tek-Tip: Good mentorship starts with you and your managers getting to know your employees and their strengths and weaknesses and learning where they want to go in their careers.
Like we mentioned in our “Employee Management” section, Tekmetric’s Employee Reports make it easy for you and your managers to get a good understanding of your employees’ current progress at work before you sit down with them to talk about their goals. By using Tekmetric’s Employee Reports, you all can gather key information about how your employees are doing in a given time range, such as technicians’ total efficiency and the sales service advisors have made.
From there, you or your shop manager can have one-on-ones with your employees to review how they’ve been doing, discuss their career goals, and develop an action plan to help them get there.
You might notice that one of your newest technicians needs some help becoming a more efficient worker, and you can have them work alongside your most tenured technician so they can fine-tune their skills. Or, your shop manager might see that one of your service advisors hasn’t been making as many sales lately; they can meet with them to see where they’re at emotionally and support them in their role.
- Employee Work-Life Balance
Which of these two situations would you rather be in?
- You spend 90% of your time at work, or dealing with work-related matters once you’re home. You’re lucky if you can sit down at the dinner table with your family once a week.
- You spend a pretty even amount of time between work and home. Sure, sometimes you have to deal with work-related matters once you’re home, but it’s once in a blue moon, and you’re able to spend quality time with your family at dinner each day.
We’re guessing you picked option two—the choice where you have a great work-life balance. Work-life balance is important for you and your team because it keeps your stress low and enables you to tend to all areas of your life, not just work.
One way you and other managers can nurture work-life balance at your shop is to enable employees to take time off, both in the short term and the long term. Some ways you can go about this include:
- Encouraging your employees to actually take their lunch breaks (and other short breaks during the day), so employees can take a breather and refresh
- Creating a PTO and sick day program, so employees can take time off when they need it
- Focusing on employees’ productivity during the day, versus the hours they work
When you and your managers help your employees achieve work-life balance, they’ll be more energized and productive. They’ll also be happier and less likely to quit.
Tek-Tip: You know what they say—knowledge is power. You can get a pulse on how your employees are doing in terms of work-life balance with the help of some data.
You can use Tekmetric’s Employee Reports for work-life balance purposes, too. Specifically, you can view Employee Timesheets and see how much each employee has been working and whether or not they’ve been taking breaks. And with the Technician Hours Report, you can see your technicians’ total billed time, total actual time, total efficiency, and Car Count.
Growing Your Business Is About Growing Your People
At the end of the day, growing your business is about growing your people.
Attending industry conferences, joining associations, reading publications, and using software for auto repair business management are all great ways to enhance your leadership skills and become a more well-rounded leader. However, in the midst of doing all these things, don’t forget about connecting with your employees on a human level. You don’t always have to pull up a metric or discuss a workflow tip when you touch base with them—nor should you.
Instead, make it a point to check in with your team members for the sake of checking in with them. Ask them how they’re doing, how their families are doing, if they ended up adopting that new pet, etc. Be invested in them as human beings, not just as employees.
After all, they have goals outside of work, too, and by knowing what those goals are, you can help them achieve them, even if they aren’t related to auto repair! Maybe they want to adopt a dog, and you know the perfect animal shelter to refer them to. Or, maybe they’re thinking about buying a new home, and you have a friend who happens to be putting their home up for sale.
Maintain a culture where every employee feels supported and valued. You can throw some fun in the mix as well, like attending baseball games together, hosting movie nights, having employee-family picnics, and more.
Here are some of the creative ways some of the shops that use Tekmetric celebrate their employees:
- Tim Suggs, Co-owner of Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive: “The employees that we’ve attracted and retained over the years are a part of our community. We’re always hanging out at the shop after hours and on the weekends. A few of our employees have even formed their own band.”
- Bryan Jewett, Owner of Casey’s Automotive: “Every January, we do a goal-poster day. Every employee that works for us writes down their goals, no matter what they are—professional or personal—and then I go out and buy a hundred different magazines. They get poster boards, cut out pictures that represent their goals, and they glue them to their poster board. That way they can track their goals.”
- Aaron Smith, Owner of S&S Auto Repair: “We started an apprentice program here, where we’re training up the next generation of automotive staff. They’re growing in their knowledge and their experience. But I know that if I want to retain those individuals, then I need to grow myself.”
When you grow your business by growing your people, things will fall into place. Your employees will be happy to show up to work each day, knowing that they’re working toward not only their own goals but the common goals of the entire team. That happiness will shine through to customers; they’ll notice your smiling, energetic technicians and service advisors. Customers will walk away happy, ready to refer your shop to everyone they know. And before you know it, your shop will be one of the best places for people to work—and get their cars repaired.