Building Relationships for Tomorrow

As I contemplated what I wanted to write for this article, I was thinking of myself, 20 years ago, as a new shop owner and what piece of advice I would benefit the most from. A lot of things came to mind but the one that kept coming back to me was simple.  Take care of people. After all these years, that is one thing that I know opened more doors for me and my shop than anything else.   Treating others like humans and being genuinely interested in them.

If turn-and-burn is your business model, and you see your customers and employees as only $’s you are missing out. That type of mentality is great in a booming economy, but when things tighten up, those turn-and-burn customers will remember how you made them feel, good or bad. The same thing goes for your employees. If they feel like you only see them as a worker and a “way to get things done that I don’t want to do,” they will leave, especially when you have challenges.

After 20+ years of business ownership, I can tell you that connecting with and serving others has carried me through more hardships than I can count. It has opened doors that were bolted, welded, and rusted shut. It has allowed me to have friends and customers all over the world. For years, our biggest form of advertising was (and still is) word of mouth. To me, It is that important.

We Build Relationships

Here are a couple of things that I have found to help with building relationships with your customers, employees and friends, and family.

Read “How to win friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie – Yes, I know it has one of the cheesiest names ever.  But, for me, it was one of the most powerful books that I have ever read. It was a life changer for me. It is one that I re-read multiple times a year and have had all three of my kids read. (My youngest son is 6!)  It is a great book that every owner, manager, parent, friend, and employee should read.

Show genuine interest in other people – When that customer drops off their vehicle and mentions that they have an anniversary dinner that night at 5 pm, ask them about it. When an employee mentions something about their personal life, ask questions.  You will be surprised at what happens when you do. You will learn more about them and create more of a bond.  As we always say at Elite, people buy from people, not companies. The same thing goes for your employees, people come to work for people.  Please keep in mind that I am not asking you to start spending your day talking with each person that you meet, but you will be surprised at how spending a couple of minutes a day, being curious, asking questions, and talking with others will make a difference in your life and theirs!

Couple Greeting A Mechanic With A Handshake At An Auto Repair Shop

Listen – People are always listening with the intent to reply or listening with the intent to learn. Do your best to listen to learn. If you are always thinking about what you are going to say next, you are not hearing everything that is being said. When you try to listen to learn you will pick up on more things and most importantly, they will feel heard.  Everyone wants to feel important.

Peaks and Valleys – Always remember that you never know where the other person is on their journey through life. We all go through good times and bad times.  When we keep this in mind, it allows us to see things from outside our own perspective.  You never know when taking the time to talk with someone can make a huge difference in their life.  When someone seems upset, ask if everything is ok. Years ago, we had a customer come in that I could tell was having a hard day.  I asked her if everything was ok, and she broke down in tears and told me that her husband had recently passed away.  He had always handled the Jeep repairs and she now was afraid of getting ripped off.  We had a great conversation and I told her that I understood and that we would take care of her.  Years later she is still a great customer and someone that I consider a friend. You never know what people are going through.

Personally, I believe that in the end, it’s all about the relationships we build with others.  Taking a few extra minutes out of your day won’t hurt you and you never know what it will do for someone else. Just recently I lost a good friend, Brock Jeske. He always had a big smile, a great attitude and made me laugh. Brock is customer number #2 in our database and when we opened the shop, we didn’t have enough money for a sign, and he painted us one. (It still hangs in the shop.) Brock made the world better for everyone he met and made a difference. Be like Brock.

People may forget the words you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

I hope to see you soon at Elite Coaching, Pro Service & training events, trade shows, automotive conventions, 4-wheeling on the trails, or anywhere else on this journey through life. Elite is here for you.

Darrin Barney


Darrin Barney is the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives while elevating the industry at the same time, for over 30+ years. Elite is #1 in the industry for providing coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, and provides service advisor training, peer groups, as well as online and in-person sales, marketing, and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at or by calling 800-204-3548.