In 1998 I embarked on one more step in my career and opened a training center across the street from my auto repair shop. It’s was a modest single classroom facility that we use for local management and technical classes. It allowed me to see our industry from another perspective. It reminded me of putting a car on the lift to get a better look at it, another angle if you will. We do this all the time to fix cars and trucks when the view is blocked. We may conduct two different tests on a single component to be sure if it is good or bad. Two points of view. So why do we have a hard time looking at the way we run our businesses from a different angle? Why are new ideas dismissed so quickly? Most new ideas are old ideas recycled. Part of my work included developing new classes at our training facility, then flying around the country holding courses. A new viewpoint. From Ohio to Arizona, Maine to Mississippi, Massachusetts to Jamaica I get the same funny looks, heads shaking in disagreement and outright arguments when I present these concepts.
One such idea is closing your shop for lunch. What a simple concept. I went to Mexico for an overdue vacation and found shops closing for lunch and then again at 3:00 for a nap. Closed! This is radical. Some of us just can’t see that what seems sane for some is too far out for others. Years ago, Don Seyfer, a shop owner from Colorado helped me see that a one hour lunch is a perfectly fine, healthy and beneficial thing for both customers and employees. I implemented that change (no opposition from my staff) and lost only three customers that I was happy to see leave. Now I had a coping tool for the stress that is a natural part of our lives. A simple and rational change. A change that is up to you, not someone else. You will become a better (not bitter) employer.
When I told a new customer our hours and explain that we are closed everyday from twelve to one I often get the response “I wish I worked for someone like you”. If you are the owner it is up to you. If you are the owner’s son or daughter remind Dad or Mom about how nice eating together used to be and see if that works. If you are the manager talk about productivity and efficiency, it will go up when your staff is rested. If you are a technician have the boss read this article. Do whatever you have to do. Stop giving more than you can afford to give to your customers. When you give more than you can afford, it is a sure fire way to dislike someone. It is hard enough to always be kind and helpful to our customers, when after all they usually give us are problems and neglected cars.
Take a friend to lunch. Take an employee to lunch. Have lunch with a customer! The real world won’t let you have an uninterrupted lunch every day but give it a shot. It will open your eyes to other possibilities. Please don’t stop making this industry more humane.
Makes sense …