Keller: Sync up for success

How ignoring problems in one area can sabotage your shop in every area.

In 43 years of shop management and ownership, I’ve made every mistake possible. There was a year when my accountant had to prepare 102 W2s. Imagine how broken my systems and procedures were to go through that many employees in a single year.

Point being, if there’s a way to run a shop incorrectly, I’ve tried it. And I kept trying it until I was almost ruined. I’ve drained my bank account trying to keep the shop afloat and been so depressed I couldn’t work. It nearly cost me my family.

I don’t wish that pain on any other shop owner. But as someone who still owns a shop and who consults with other shop owners across the country, I know they are many.

One thing I’ve learned: Everything in a shop is interconnected. As long as I was willing to ignore problems, no matter how insignificant they seemed, I was sabotaging the good systems I had in place. It didn’t matter if I cared for my employees or if I was the best at what I did in the shop. Until I was willing to uncover problems instead of pretending they didn’t exist, I was going to fail. And problems can be hidden: in the way you pay your people, in the way you market your business or even in the way you train and hold your people accountable. All of these systems must work together.

Most shop owners operate with checklists of things that need to be done, without attempting to synchronize these tasks. But one broken process can cause the whole system to fail. For example, poor customer service prevents you from delivering on good marketing messages. And pay plans can incentivize the wrong behavior. Without synchronized policies and systems, you cannot sustain success.

Measuring is the key. Without measurements, I could only act on emotions, gut instincts and good intentions. But you can’t wish a shop to success. You have to uncover problems and fix them one by one.

Measuring means more than simply uncovering problems; it means sustained success. Being able to look back and define what contributed to your success means no more guessing, only hard facts. Armed with these tools, I was able to create sustained improvements by documenting everything to create new systems and processes.

I’ve hit rock bottom and clawed my way back up again. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to helping other shop owners avoid the mistakes I made along the way. Which is why I poured all of my knowledge, systems, benchmarks and measurement tools into a unique system and made it available to other shop owners.

I can now remotely manage my shop because we use that system every day to document, measure and train my team. Everything works together in a synchronized system to sustain shop success.

Lesson learned: Shop owners must be willing to seek out and eliminate problems by measuring, training, tracking and adjusting daily.