Bruce Howes’ View from the Helm: Average tech quote & personal goals

“You can’t always get what you want,” so goes the old song by the Rolling Stones.

And for all of us, that old bromide is quite true.

None of us get 100% of what we “want,” which sometimes might be a good thing, while others can be a bitter disappointment.

Some Background

A few weeks back I was teaching my team about what we call “Average Tech Quote,” or the amount of work that a technician finds on a client car during the diagnosis and inspection process. It’s a metric that has been around for decades but often is overlooked in the quest for “Average Repair Order.”

I explained that the “Average Repair Order” is directly related to the “Average Tech Quote” in that most workshops are only able to close 50-60% of the “Average Tech Quote,” therefore a lower “Average Tech Quote” always results in a lower “Average Repair Order.” You must fix the “Average Tech Quote” if you want a higher “Average Repair Order,” you can’t work backward. A rather remarkable business management consultant from the 1940s, W.E. Demmings (look him up some time) would say “You can’t manage by results…you manage by process.” Got it?

By now you’re probably thinking “Bruce, this is all very cool automotive shop management philosophy, but what is the world does this have to do with me achieving my personal dreams?” To which I would say, “Yes, I agree, but I wanted to give you a baseline.”…and spill some ink.

Here’s What I Mean

Recently I had a friend, a quite remarkable friend, break ground on his third shop, he’s building it from scratch, another friend recently opened his 5th location. You’ve probably seen that too, folks who have bigger homes, bigger boats, you know the drill. And you think, dismissively, “Some guys get all the luck…” Or “Wow, those guys work their tails off, they must not have any life.” Or the classic “They’re smarter than me”. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. They may work harder, work is a part of success, after all, they may be smarter, but I’d be the first to tell you that IQ is not as huge a factor in success as you might think. Nor was it “luck.”

No, the answer is much simpler, much, much simpler. And if I told you that you could start today on improving your life’s success, and achieving your dreams, would you believe me? No, this is not some sort of Faustian bargain, it’s much simpler, and requires at the most, paper and a pencil. And what does this business sorcery cost you might ask…great question, that’s pretty cheap as well.

By now you’re probably wondering why I brought up the “Average Tech Quote” to the “Average Repair Order” ratio, right? Well, there was a method to my madness, trust me. I wanted to give you a baseline, and something we could all relate to.

Consider This

So, if in our businesses we can only achieve a 50-60% close rate on the client’s car service, what is our baseline “close ratio” of our personal dreams? Ever measure that? Ever measure what percentage of your dreams come true? I’d wager, and I say this as I do keep written “goal sheets,” that it’s close to the same ratio as car service, maybe 60-70% on a good day. “Can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Right? That’s a famous quote from another smart fellow to look up, Peter Drucker.

Allow me to introduce you to something that we’ll call the “Average Dream Quote,” what you really think you deserve, or what. And these vary, wildly. Many, all too many, are stuck in “Survival Mode,” a slightly larger percentage is stuck at “Nice house and car,” but a select few are latched onto “I want the biggest car, the biggest house, best shop, in fact, I want 5 shops, 10 shops.” We all know people at these various levels right? Remember my multi-shop friends? Well, I also have friends who are stuck in “survival mode,” and they’re running as fast as they can to stay ahead of closing their doors. They’re working hard, harder than the multi-shop guys, but they’re not getting the traction and success that comes with the hard work. Why?

Circle Back

Let’s circle back to the “Average Tech Quote” vs the “Average Repair Order” ratio. Now, if principles are universal, and I believe they are, then the same truth about closing ratio must hold forth. Are you following me? So, take the “Average Dream Quote” we introduced earlier, and a new term, “Average Achievement Score.” Getting this? See where I am going?

If your “Average Dream Quote” is that “I pay my bills and keep the doors open,” and we’ve already established that we only get 50-60% close-ratio, that means that fully half the time you will fail. Follow me? Does that explain why do so many stay stuck in a rut? You’ve seen it, right, the shop owner that stays at the same level, faces the same challenges, again and again, struggles day in and day out? Despite working hard, despite being a good person, they’re stuck.

Not Lucky

You’ve likely seen, or even better, know someone who’s success has shot up like a meteor? That seems to win, again and again, and again. You know what he’s called…”lucky,” or “that guy gets all the breaks,” or “He’s so smart”…anything but what really is the case.

Try This

This is starting to dawn on you now, right? Are you starting to see where I’m headed? Great! You guessed it, you need to increase your “Average Dream Quote” if it is about survival, you must double it, triple it even. Set a goal, a super lofty goal, the trendy term now is “stretch goal,” but it’s a good analogy. So rather than saying “This month, I’ll pay all my bills…,” try instead “This month I’ll pay all my bills, and I’ll put $10,000 in the bank.” OK, you finish the month, you get that 60% “Dream Close Ratio,” and you’re now at “Paid all my bills, and put $6,000 in the bank.” Did you fail? No, of course not, you succeed, you “closed the sale.”

Next Month – Here’s The Danger

So you start the next month by saying “This month I’ll pay all my bills, and I’ll put $12,000 in the bank.” OK, you finish the month, you tried to get that 60% “Dream Close Ratio,” but you only got 10% of the “Dream Close Ratio” and you’re now at “Paid all my bills, and put $1,000 in the bank.” What happened?

Well, just like we don’t always successfully present all the service work, we sometimes strike out in life. And herein lies the danger. We feel like we failed, we feel like this great system isn’t so great. So we retreat, we go back to what is comfortable, and we dream small dreams…and we reap small rewards…and we say, “Yea, I tried that stuff, it didn’t work for me.”

And we give up.

Don’t Miss Out

What you didn’t know, or experience, because you gave up, was that next month, you had a 90% “Dream Close Ratio,” those numbers have to balance out to get the 60% average, right? Had you stuck it out, you would have gotten this, “Paid all my bills, and put $9,000 in the bank.”

Keys To The Universe

Understand? Don’t give up early. In fact, don’t give up at all. Here’s the “Secret To the Universe #734”, ready? “Success breeds Success”, the more success we have, the easier it is for us to dream those bigger dreams, to set those higher and loftier goals, better, stronger, faster, the whole thing. This, my friend, is how folks go from “rags to riches,” and while you may never be a billionaire (or will you?), how about a millionaire?

But Wait, There’s More

Here’s the really cool thing … this works outside of business, try it in your personal life. Want to increase your savings account, get a bigger house, buy that big bass boat? Try it. Dream it. Years ago, there was a very well know author, Napolian Hill, who produced this amazingly simple, but powerful quote. Ready for it, its truly another “Secret To The Universe,” “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Wow, what do you think about that?

The Choice Is Yours

We have a choice, and thankfully, the choice is new each day. We can choose to “Live as a Victor or a Victim.” You can look around society today, and see plenty of “Victims’, but how many “Victors?” They’re there, the Richard Bransons, the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, few were born with the proverbial silver spoon, they earned it. The old fashioned way, they dreamed it. Success leaves clues. I truly hope that you pick them up.

Bruce J. Howes is owner of Atlantic Motorcar Services, Wicasset, Maine. He also works in emergency medicine as a second career, and is a nationally registered Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (A-EMT). He serves as a board member at the Maine Maritime Museum, and various local nonprofit organizations. His shop’s website,, has been selected by AutoInc. magazine as a Top 10 Website on three different occasions. He can be reached at