Hello Shop Owners, Sunil Patel, Co-Founder of Tekmetric here. I’m writing this blog because I believe it’s both an honor and a duty to be a leader in business. Recently, I was awarded by Houston Business Journal as a Most Admired CEO of 2020, and this got me thinking about the leadership principles that have helped me along the way and made Tekmetric what it is today.
Not only do I lead a team of great talent, but I also speak with and have the pleasure of doing business with many strong leaders, whether it be shop owners, other entrepreneurs, or even other leaders within the company.
The fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t have been able to build a robust shop management software without my team. Watching them succeed and set each other up for success is hands down the most rewarding part of my job. It’s a privilege to work with talented and innovative individuals that make me proud each and every day. Playing a part in helping them grow and flourish makes me feel like I have served a purpose larger than simply building a product or making money.
Inspired by the HBJ honor, I took the time to sit down and outline a few of the leadership principles that I have always relied on. They focus on listening, learning, and recognizing everyone as an individual. I hope they help you and your team grow as people and as a unit.
Good leadership relies on a strong feedback process. Listen to your team, whether it’s an idea or how they’re feeling so that they know you care not only about their contributions but also about them as people.
Once a week, I sit down with the leaders of different departments and simply listen to how things are going. What are the current challenges they’re facing? What are some successes they’re proud of? What do they feel they could use more support with? Giving them the room to voice their concerns, their desires, and their victories provide them with a model for being the best leader they can for the people they lead. Even when we’re hiring new team members, we like to get input from our current team to make sure we’re considering all voices in the process.
No idea is a bad idea. Even the ideas that you never end up using still have value because they can spark other ideas, show your team a new perspective, or simply show the person who voiced them that they were included as part of the team or project.
Internal feedback is important, too. That’s how I came up with Tekmetric. When I owned and operated an auto repair shop, I realized that there was no easy way to check on things when I was away on vacation or at a conference. I either had to call someone and ask them to read me the numbers or use a VPN and brute force my way into my own system. I thought, “This should be easier.”
I took note of those challenges, then asked myself how I might be able to solve them. I began developing a cloud-based shop management solution that could be accessible from anywhere. My business partner Prasanth and I were able to develop a system that worked, but I realized I could keep innovating and make it better with feedback from other shop owners.
When you have a growing team, you start to notice the different strengths and tendencies of the people you work with. Sometimes you have people who are capable of filling a whole marker board with ideas in a short amount of time. Other people are much more measured and reserved, but when they say something aloud, you better listen, because they have powerful insights. Your technicians know how to get to the heart of what’s going on with the vehicle, but one technician might do it a little differently than the next. Your service advisors all know how to make sure guests are getting what they need, but the little differences in how they operate are all worth observing and learning from. Everyone has their strengths and understanding what each person’s strengths make it easier to maximize their performance in their roles.
Even when we’ve implemented Tekmetric at large companies with hundreds of shops, drawing from the strengths of different players has been invaluable. Corporate executive leaders have a macro-view of how things work that’s critical to our success, but equally critical are the perspectives of our own team members and individual franchise shop owners. The people in the shop every day are the ones who make sure we don’t miss details, and that our system and all the systems it interacts with work for them as they serve their guests. Input from everyone makes for a simple and easy switch.
No matter how someone thinks or expresses what they’re thinking, there’s something to be gained from every team member as long as you have an environment where everyone is respected and you have implemented a healthy feedback process.
Feedback is on an ongoing process that never ends and always seeks more refinement. Listening to ourselves, our team, and other shop owners continues to be crucial to ensuring that my business keeps innovating products that can outcompete similar products on the market and help shop owners scale up, be more profitable, and help as many people as possible.
These are just a few principles that we use, but I always encourage leaders to keep adding to and adjusting their mindset because we’re always going to run into new challenges.