Management Advice: Know your limitations

The great philosopher, Clint Eastwood, stated in the movie Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

There’s much more to that quote than just being a “cute” movie star quip.

It applies to business, your business … in a big, big way.

Let’s face it, there have been times when your ego has made you take on a job that went way over on time, possibly required the purchase of special equipment, caused stress for the shop, and ultimately damaged the relationship with your customer.

Looking back, you know you should have walked away.

I get it. I was there too.

I once bought over $5,000 of equipment to work on an engine management system the manufacturer used for only three years because it was a matter of pride. I had to be able to fix those vehicles! That’s just one of the decisions over the years that I let my ego make that I wish I could take back.

The other factor that can cause you to take on a job you really shouldn’t is your fear.

If you don’t have enough traffic coming through the door, you’re going to make all kinds of decisions that ultimately hurt your business such as accepting a job you shouldn’t or matching someone else’s price.

The goal of this article is to prevent you from doing this to yourself and your team again moving forward with a three-step process.

First, determine whether it’s your ego or your fear driving your decision making most of the time.

If you recognize that it’s your ego, it simply means that your self-worth is tied up in your ability to fix a problem vehicle. It causes you pain to admit some things are beyond your ability for whatever reason. Your ego causes you to make promises that your shop has a hard time keeping.

Once you’re aware of this phenomenon, you’ll start to question your decisions. You must because you’re not in business to fix cars. The purpose of your business (any business, really) is to create and keep a customer.

A business without customers is called a hobby! The goal of your business is to generate a profit. Notice I didn’t say anything about fixing cars. Fixing cars is just the vehicle you use (pun intended) to realize the purpose and goal of your business!

If you realize that you’re making these decisions based on your fears, you can fix this by being aware of which fear you’re dealing with.

When you don’t have enough traffic coming in the door, it’s easy to say yes to a job you should be saying no to. Working on your marketing and ability to convert inquiries into appointments will allow you to be pickier about the work you accept.

When you have a fear of rejection, you’ll take in work that is outside your wheelhouse or you’ll constantly find yourself repricing your work to make it more attractive to your customer or matching prices to ensure you get the job instead of building value in what you’re offering your customer.

Please listen to me as you read this. YOU CAN’T BUILD A BUSINESS FROM A PLACE OF FEAR.

It just isn’t possible.

You need to be confident in the value and expertise you’re providing your customer. You must believe that your customer is the one that makes out in your interaction. When you do, your sales will go up; promise.

But Rick, what about those times when it’s really work that I want to add to increase the services I offer to my customer? I agree there will be those times. Being aware of the role your ego and fear plays in your decision-making process helps keep that little bugger in check is all.

Second, look at the work you’re thinking about taking on.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I looked at the labor guide, the vehicle, and consulted your repair information resource for the correct procedure?
  • Will this job need specialized equipment or training?
  • How much will this cost?
  • Do I have the training resources to walk me through this repair now if I run into a snag?
  • Is there enough of these vehicles in my market area to warrant the investment?
  • How many times a year will I be able to perform this service or repair?
  • Is this a pattern failure or a one off?

Before committing to the job, I want you to step back and make sure it’s a sound business decision. The best way to make that decision is to analyze all the angles to make sure it makes good business sense to move forward.

If you need to purchase any kind of equipment to move forward, calculate your return on investment. If you’d like a free ROI (Return on Investment) Calculator that makes it easy to see the right numbers, just click on this link:

After answering these questions, you can now make an informed business decision that is much more likely to ensure the long-term success and profitability of your business. If the numbers don’t work, that’s okay. You can’t be everything to everybody. Know your limitations and move on to your next profitable job.

Third, if you’ve decided it doesn’t make sense for you to offer this service, have a solution for your customer. Your customer doesn’t expect you to offer everything they need. All they really want you to do is be there to help them with these decisions and sort out what makes the most sense for them. They will really appreciate the fact that you’ve got options for them that will help them out.

It might mean you subletting the work or referring your customer to someone that specializes in this type of work.

What’s great about following this simple three-step process is you’ll never have that nagging feeling like you should add the service because you know it doesn’t make sense.

But you still can take great care of your customer because you have a plan.

If it does make sense to add the service, you’re going to be leaps and bounds ahead of others because you’re going to know what your costs are and what your goals are to be profitable which is what business is all about!

Rick White has been working in the automotive related & coaching industries for more than 30 years.

An AMI-approved training instructor, Rick brings to the table a career’s worth of technical and management experience, which includes owning and managing several successful automotive repair shops.

Currently, Rick is president of 180BIZ, a training and business coaching company proudly serving the independent auto and truck repair owner since 2006.

Rick is acknowledged as an industry expert and has been featured in many automotive trade publications such as AutoInc., MotorAge, Parts & People, Auto Report, Automotivation and Ratchet & Wrench and Success Magazine.