Why Teamwork is Crucial

Getting to the heart of teamwork involves buy-in from the top.

In American management lingo, being a “team player” either means taking the blame for something someone else did or working for no pay to make someone else look good. Is it any wonder people get nervous when they hear about being part of the team?

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Teamwork is crucial to business success, and it requires leadership to happen. The leader has to have a clear vision of the end result. If the leader doesn’t know where they’re going, and clearly communicate that to the team, they’ll never get there. Duh.

There are five steps to this process of getting people to work as a team: planning, staffing, organizing, activating and controlling.

Planning

Many new shop operations start with one person who fixes cars, answers the phone, sells the work, orders the parts and manages the whole thing. The first thing learned at this step is that it’s a lot of work and not a lot of money. Thank you, Ms. Encyclopedia.

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Most business owners quickly realize this. This is where Plan B comes up. We all know Plan B, right? Sure, hire some help. This is where the wheels of a business race car start to get loose, if they were ever tight to begin with. Under Plan B, there is little or no organization, just extra help. The help does what the help thinks needs to be done. Since the help doesn’t know for sure what to do, they have to constantly check with the owner, who now becomes “dad.” No one dares do anything without dad’s OK, so dad now runs around with their hair on fire all day long.

When operating on Plan B, it’s very common to believe that putting workers on commission is a brilliant way to solve the problem of lack of leadership and discipline. It’s believed that if people have to work for money, that they’ll work harder and everyone will benefit.

The reality is that workers now only have financial gain to guide them. They have no reason to act except in self-interest. Who can blame any owner for wanting out of this mess? The way out involves the other four steps and Plan B isn’t one of them. But, I digress.

Planning involves a basic business plan:
• What niche exists in the market that is currently underserved?
• Are there people willing to pay to be served?
• How can we reach them?
• Where will we get the money to do all this?

From here, each job position needs to be defined and described. Call it written job descriptions if you will. Others might call it a play book, because it also describes how all the jobs fit together to produce the end result — producing satisfied customers who pay money.

Staffing

Staffing is the second step. Once you have each job described, you’ll be able to identify and define the skills and attributes needed to staff the position. As an example, it is unwise to hire a weenie dog if you’re in the business of running hurdle races.

Many skilled auto technicians will tell you they love working on cars because cars don’t talk back. Techs love to fix things. A great tech loves nothing better than a steady stream of mechanical jobs all day long without interruption.

So, why do so many shop owners believe that they should staff the front office with former techs who don’t like talking to people and resent interruptions? Oh, yeah, good point.

A front office job is all about meeting people, talking to people and satisfying people. Doesn’t it just make sense that a business should make it a top priority to hire a “people-person” for that position? Of course it does. Now, you get the staffing part. Each job needs to be staffed with people who are using their greatest strengths to do their own jobs. If your business is running hurdles, as I’ve already mentioned, hiring a bunch of Jack Russell terriers means you won’t have to do as much training to look smart.

Organizing

Organization is the third step. This is where we get all the right people on the bus, all the wrong people off the bus, and all the right people in the right seats before deciding where the bus is going. Just because each employee has a written plan and a play book doesn’t mean that they truly understand how this whole thing really works. Training needs to happen to share management expertise with the team. When the team begins to understand how important their part is and what each minute means, it gets easier for the business to operate.

Note: The prices shared in the following example are only hypothetical figures and are cited to show an example and should in no way be taken as advice. We all know that the whole structure should keep the tech turning wrenches all day long. Hypo­thetically, your labor rate is $90 an hour and you sell $72 in parts for every hour of billed labor, then your shop should produce revenue of $162 an hour. $162 an hour, divided by 60 minutes, means that every minute is worth $2.70. Every minute that a tech waits for a phone authorization, a repair order to be written or a part to arrive costs the company $2.70. Five minutes is $13.50 lost.

The average employee of any good repair shop operation should be fully educated in how to properly run a shop and why each and every detail is important. When good people know what they’re supposed to do, the outcome is good. When they fully understand why they need to do it, it’s great.

Activating

Activation is putting this all into action. Explain to your people how their efforts affect the bottom line. Take away the bad incentives by paying them a good wage. Add in a monthly bonus if certain sales goals are made. The ideal bonus would be paid to every worker in the same amount. Either everyone gets it, or no one gets it. This fosters teamwork and makes everyone accountable to everyone else on the team. The bonus should be enough to make a difference, but not large enough to break a budget, company or personal.

Don’t be afraid to set an additional very high goal for the team that can result in a large benefit. We’ve closed the shop and all gone to Las Vegas for training for three years running now, as a result of making production goals. The team worked hard to do it and it was a topic of discussion often.

Controlling

Controlling is the final step in the process. Work hard to catch all your people doing things right and compliment them when they do. Compliments should be very specific regarding what they did, not general, like you’re running for office. Production, quality and other measurement reports should be posted daily. Progress needs to be measured and shared with the team. People work better with good feedback. When thinking about the five steps of planning, staffing, organizing, activating and controlling, be aware that the closer to the beginning each step is, the more time that must be spent on it. As you near the end, it gets easier and easier.

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