It's All About TimePosted 11/19/2007
By Kelly Bennett, AAM
2007 marks 20 years of my involvement in assisting, training and coaching business owners and employees. It has been a very fulfilling journey. I have trained tens of thousands of shop owners and employees, and I think it is safe to say, I have learned as much from them as they have from me.
One topic that seems to come to the forefront again and again is the subject of time. It seems to be the one thing we don't have much of anymore. Yet we have so many tools to help track and organize our time such as Palm Pilots, BlackBerries, day planners, calendars, Microsoft Outlook and so on. In fact, this week I had a chat with a typical shop owner who told me he has never had time to take a vacation in 15 years. Another told me it has been 26 years. Our industry seems to be filled with lots of workaholics who almost "brag" about how busy they are. Yet, many of the same people - from my experience - also comment about not making much money.
If you find yourself in this boat, isn't it time to diagnose the problem by defining the symptoms, determining the cause and getting down to the "repair?" (to use an automobile analogy). I have learned that it is generally not a problem how much time is spent in the business or working on it. Most shop owners I have met are hard working and committed to making their businesses a success. There are a few who lack the discipline, drive or worse - the passion to make their business work but that is definitely the exception and not the rule.
First, when it comes to your time as an owner or manager, how well do you plan your day? If you're like many managers, you have your "to do" list written out for the day. You are busy all day long, and at the end of the day you look at your list and nothing is ticked off except you!
I think it is essential to take at least 15 minutes to plan each day. If you are not using a day planner (manual or electronic) you need to. There is too much going on in our lives to remember it all in our heads. What needs to be done? What are the highest priorities? Who needs to do it?
A few important tips are:
I have visited shops that have six to seven appointments booked per day that were made three or four months in advance. They build in two to three hours a day of reserve time. If you ask these shops how many of their customers keep those appointments, it is an astonishing 90 percent to 100 percent. The biggest benefit? It can replace your need to advertise and greatly reduce those big peaks and valleys that we can have.
The bottom line is what happens with the eight or so hours that each technician is at your shop. How much time do we spend working on stuff that makes money and how fast are we at it? There are only two kinds of times for your technicians - "making money time" and "losing money time" - that's it!
Sounds simple, and it is, but it is not easy! There is a big difference between simple and easy. Take the game of football. All you need to do is get that little ball across a line and stop the other team from doing the same. It sounds simple, but it's not that easy!
It's the same at work. All we need to do is have our technicians spend as much time as they can working on paying jobs and make sure they are fast at it.
How much time they spend working on income-producing work is correctly called "productivity." If you do a lot of things right, you can get that to result in 95 percent of their day.
How fast your technicians work is called "efficiency." If you do "lots of things right" (not just a few), you can get that to 135 percent.
Book as many appointments well in advance as possible and get in the habit of calling the customers three to four days before their appointments to confirm they are coming in. Use an effective work order rack flow system (if you need a proven system, e-mail me and I will e-mail a plan for a system that works). Far too much time is wasted when a technician needs to come back and ask a question that should have been clearly written down).
Have the technicians start right at 8 o'clock (or whatever time they are supposed to). I have been in many shops where work doesn't begin until 8:15-8:20. That late start can deplete profits.
Hold regularly scheduled meetings and discuss how the team is doing and what can be done to make us all more effective. We spend too much time "doing" the work and not enough time thinking about how we can make it better. The old adage that you can't see the picture from inside the frame is accurate. Take time once a week to regroup and refocus.
Get disciplined and have your customers fill in forms that help technicians better understand the problems that the vehicle is experiencing. Too often we are giving "poor" information to our technicians and wasting too much time just attempting to get the vehicle to duplicate the problem.
Lastly, if you are not using a time-tracking device (such as a time clock, automated system, tracking software) you are losing out on a lot of money, plain and simple.
Implementing all of this is not easy, but it is simple. It's all about time!
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