Are You Making Money Or Making a Difference?

Promoting preventive maintenance is your noble mission.

Most experts agree that the fundamental goal of a business is to make a profit. I agree. If your shop isn’t profitable, then you’re out of business and any other goals or plans you might have had are gone, too.

That said, there is a fresh group of automotive professionals emerging on the scene. While they understand the need for money and realize they must have it to survive, they are even more passionate about making a difference – about giving back, about leaving the world better than they found it.

This generation of young adults (called “the Millenials”) is bright, articulate, educated, and motivated, but their motivation may be quite different than my generation (I’m part of the over-50 crowd.)

I’ve read several articles about this new generation, including one by Bill Haas in AutoInc. Magazine, and I have two daughters, ages 26 and 23. More importantly, though, is my interaction with hundreds of technicians, service advisers, managers, and owners in shops throughout the Midwest.

I first noticed this shift in motivation from “making money” to “making a difference” about five years ago. For example, there was a service adviser at a suburban garage with five techs and seven bays. This guy was knowledgeable, personable, and had a performance-based pay plan that included a livable wage and a robust bonus plan based on labor hours sold … but he wouldn’t sell anything. He was a chronic order-taker who only did what the customer came in for. When the techs made a recommendation, he’d make some excuse like “this customer never buys anything,” and he’d never ask.

In order to fix the problem, the shop owner followed my advice and doubled the adviser’s bonus for selling preventive maintenance services. The more he sold, the more he made. Money motivates everyone, right? Wrong. How much money is enough money? It’s never enough, right? Wrong.

I’ve seen this same situation literally hundreds of times and the situation doesn’t change no matter how much money, training or threats are used. The answer is a change in motivation. Is there another way to motivate automotive personnel? Is there something that will resonate with folks and make a lasting difference in how they do their job?

Matt Winslow with ATI says it’s important that automotive professionals understand their noble mission. Our industry is more than timing chains and transmission services. It’s more than oil changes and alignments. It’s more than shocks and struts. And it’s more than just making money. Let’s take a look at some examples of our noble mission, our higher purpose.

Fuel Injector Cleaning Service

Over time, deposits build up in a vehicle’s fuel injectors, resulting in a poor spray pattern leading to rough idle, hesitation and other driveability issues. A fuel injection service is usually about 200 percent efficient for the tech (it flags an hour and takes 30 minutes). It’s good profit for the shop and it is an honest service to sell with predictable results for the customer.

But there’s more to it! Clean injectors reduce fuel consumption, allowing the customer to save money. Reliable starts and vehicle dependability are vital to the single mommy whose vehicle is her lifeline between work, daycare and home. Keeping this lady safe and reducing her fuel costs is a noble mission, a higher purpose.

Front, Rear Differential Fluid

Heat destroys gear lube. Even the most sophisticated GL-5 hypoid gear lube breaks down as heat builds up. Routine gear lube replacement will keep the differentials in peak operating condition. The beginning of differential failure is differential gear lube failure.

These services are easy revenue for shops that service fleets, farmers, tradesmen, sportsmen, and other heavy duty or towing applications.

But there’s more to it! If a plumber’s truck has catastrophic rear differential failure, he’s down for a couple of days. Nothing puts fear into the heart of a contractor like that dreaded word: “downtime.” No truck, no income.

Keeping that guy on the road is a noble mission, a higher purpose. Servicing those differentials is the right thing to do.

A/C Cabin Air Filters, Climate Control Services

Condensation buildup in the evaporator core creates a breeding ground for mold and fungus. Clogged cabin air filters reduce the air intake into a vehicle’s air conditioning system. The A/C smells funny, it won’t cool as well, and it pumps allergens into the passenger cabin.

Shops can make good money replacing cabin air filters and cleaning the junk out of the A/C evaporator core. Techs call it gravy because it’s fast and easy. Customers will pay almost anything to get their car cooler quicker and to get rid of that smell.

But there’s more to it! How many people have allergies … especially children? Almost everybody! Little Sally always has a runny nose. Could it be caused by the A/C system in the family’s minivan? Dad’s hay fever makes him hoarse and miserable, and it’s starting to affect his productivity at the office.

Could the Problem Be His Car?

Cleaning the ventilation system and replacing the cabin air filter is a noble mission, it is your higher purpose. It’s the right thing to do!

Let’s go back to the service adviser who couldn’t (no, make that wouldn’t) sell preventive maintenance. This guy thought he was saving the customers money by not offering any preventive maintenance to his customers. Once he understood the higher purpose, the noble mission of preventive maintenance, he realized that in fact the opposite was true: the more maintenance you sell ‘em, the more money you save ‘em. Preventive maintenance is always cheaper than repair. A $250 transmission fluid exchange is a whole lot cheaper than a $3,500 transmission!

My friends, you have a moral obligation to make 100 percent of your customers aware of 100 percent of their maintenance needs 100 percent of the time. In doing so, everyone wins – the techs, the advisers, the managers, the shop owners … and most of all, the customers. It’s your noble mission, your higher purpose!

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 and instructors, visit AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.