Great Expectations – Get People to Do Things the Way You Want Them Done

Are the right people and procedures in place to make your shop shine?

Let’s start by looking at the evolution of the NASCAR pit stop in a Cup stock car race. Guys leap over the wall, and the gas man gases, the jack man jacks, the tire changers change and someone with a long stick hands the driver a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a Coke. Four tires changed, several gas cans emptied, the grill dusted off, a round of wedge and a cloud of smoke in 12.6 seconds. This is exactly the way your shop should run.

They won’t know if you don’t tell them

You should have clear, written job descriptions for all your workers. These descriptions not only explain in detail what each person should do, they provide systems and procedures to follow. They should explain which lug nut gets tightened first.


Each worker should not only be given their own job description, but all of the other workers’ descriptions, as well. That way they can see how all the pieces fit together. Seeing the overall process also helps them understand why things are done the way they are.

Set your shop procedures up in such a way that it’s more work to mess up the job than to just do it right the first time. An inspection check sheet, for example, should list each item to be checked or inspected in the exact order it is to be done. Your entire staff should review every inspection process and have input on its content and design. This improves the process and gives them ownership of it, reducing confusion and mistakes.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for mechanical procedures should be printed on the repair order as part of the labor operation description. Never use confusing abbreviations, such as “R & R alternator.” To me, “R & R” stands for “rest and recuperation.”

List the “before and after” measurable readings, the exact process for replacement and the testing done to verify the repair directly in the labor operation description that gets printed on the repair order.

Everyone becomes accountable for their actions and it provides valuable training for new team members. This also gives the owner/manager the means to enforce performance standards required to maintain quality control. Writing someone up for “too many comebacks” might be considered vague. This provides needed detail to assist in coaching and involves the workers in the exact processes used.

Make the job easier to do

Back to the pit stop. Twenty years ago, an 18-second pit stop was the standard. But analyzing movements, streamlining processes and designing procedures to eliminate mistakes has helped to reduce times further.

Inside your shop, this should translate into making the work area much more worker-friendly. Put computers in the bay of each tech so they can get information without walking. Asking techs to walk 100 feet to look up specs is telling them it’s not that important to actually do it. Involve your staff in how the shop should be laid out. They’re the ones using it and they should dictate where things are located.

Your greatest asset isn’t people

It’s the right people. Joe Gibbs figured this out for the pit crew. After analyzing what people did, he said the tire changers needed to be very fast, light people, like wide receivers. The jack man also needed to be fast, but strong, like a tight end.


Joe recruited athletes that best suited the purpose and took seconds off the time. While others were training wienie dogs for a hurdle race, Joe Gibbs Racing brought in a bunch of Jack Russell terriers for the job. Managers who can accomplish this will look smarter.

Along this line, it’s also important to hold people to performance standards. It’s not just important to get the right people on the bus; it’s critical to get the wrong people off the bus. They’re taking seats that could provide room for more right people and also impeding the concentration and productivity of the existing right people. Poor workers will suck the life out of a company. Don’t pay people to make your life difficult. There are plenty of people who will volunteer to do it for free.

Evaluate the skills needed for the job

For years, I went along with the belief that a good service adviser needed to be a master of things mechanical to effectively explain things to customers. This belief usually puts former techs at the service counter.

I’ve since learned that the most important front counter skill is working with people, or people skills. Ken Blanchard, in the book, “Raving Fans,” said what your business really comes down to is not the customer in contact with your company, it’s the customer in contact with your people.

I now believe that the single most important talent a service adviser must possess is the desire and ability to work with people. One or the other won’t get it, they must have both.

The ideal front counter staff will love to see people, they’ll be interested in them and will tend to make friends with them. An honest adviser, acting in the customer’s best interest, can sell most things with ease and little explanation. Complex technical questions don’t often come up. When they do, the techs can help with information as needed.

Women are ideally suited to this position. Half of all auto service customers are women and they often desire to form new relationships with people who are servicing their car.

Learn how to interview to find the talent you seek

Rather than spend time in an interview selling your company and explaining what you’re looking for, ask the applicants what they know about your company. Ask them why they think it would be a good fit for them job-wise.

The good adviser prospect will talk about wanting to work with people. The good tech prospect will explain their history of fixing all sorts of things and will ask about training, tooling and information. Spend some time developing good open-ended questions that will bring out what applicants are seeking.


Writing out what you want people to do is only the bare-minimum start. Don’t work on motivating people. Work on removing the obstacles that de-motivate them. Create good systems that make it easy to do it right and find people who are dying to find a great place to do the things that fulfill their life’s desires in a career.

Involving the right people in designing the processes they perform gives them ownership in the company. That is the ultimate in management, for then people do the right things for the right reasons.

I believe it was the book, “Good to Great,” that said the best CEOs get all the right people on the bus, all the wrong people off the bus and all the right people in all the right seats before deciding where the bus is going. Managing the right people is far easier than trying to coach wienie dogs to run hurdle races.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of management articles contributed to AutoInc. by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses, instructors and monthly webinars, visit AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.