By Chasidy Rae Sisk
In the collision repair industry, it’s common for one shop to struggle to keep up with their workload, while a shop down the street struggles to keep the lights on. Maylan Newton of Educational Seminars Institute (ESI), addressed this dichotomy on Jan. 12th in “Success or Struggle, You Decide!”
Referencing the challenges of 2020, Newton began his presentation by quoting the Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” before encouraging attendees, “Let go of last year, and focus on 2021. Be positive – the work’s there. Last year, we had clients that grew and others that did not, and the difference between the two was primarily the shop owners’ attitudes, leadership, communication and vision.”
“Knowledge is NOT power,” Newton contradicted the adage. “The implementation of knowledge is power! And that takes will, discipline and motivation, which drive success. How hard are you willing to work yourself? You have to determine how much effort you’re willing to put forth to work at being a success in your business.”
Stressing the importance of having a positive attitude, Newton suggested, “Start each day believing it is going to be a great day because that’s what you choose it to be. If you’re kind and have the right attitude, you’ll get back what you give. This is going to be a great year if you decide it will, and that’s the difference between success and failure. Success is all about attitude; attitude is an infection, so make yours positive and spread it to everyone.”
Leadership sets the tone for a business, so it’s important that business owners stop worrying about the things they can’t control. “The only thing you truly have control over is your attitude and your motivation. Get yourself pumped up to infect your employees, and they’ll influence your customers,” Newton said.
Communication is also vital for successful collision repair facilities, and this is an area that much of the industry struggles with, according to Newton, who recommends short weekly staff meetings to keep employees updated on what’s going on. “Your employees have a vested interest in your business – just like it provides income and livelihood for your family, your employees and their families are relying on your business as well.
“Right now, they’re scared, and with so much negativity in the news, they need someone to share something positive,” he added. “The meeting shouldn’t be focused on the negatives – talk about what you’re doing to keep them busy, to drive in new business, what you’re doing to communicate with customers… share what’s going on with them to ease their fears.”
Vision means seeing the future. Instead of thinking about today or next week, imagine where your business will be next month, next year and even 10 years from now. “Look at the big picture. It’s like driving. Stop looking down! There’s an entire road in front of you, but if you don’t look out the windshield, you’re going to run into something and do damage. You need to look farther down the road.”
There are five states of ownership, which apply to individuals’ personal and professional lives: Desperate, Stuck, Oblivious, Complacent and Inspired. Before looking at the attributes associated with each, Newton coached, “It’s okay to make mistakes – there’s no problem with that! But there is a problem if you keep making the same mistake over and over, because that means you aren’t learning.”
Desperate shop owners are constantly in survival mode, living paycheck to paycheck and contending with financial woes, possibly even debt. They need help but don’t have time to train or hire someone to assist them, and they likely have staffing issues as well. These issues lead to a lack of motivation.
“Desperation means living your life in fear. These guys need to get out of the fearful management style, which is reactive, and start being proactive,” Newton advised. “It’s hard to have vision for the future when you’re so busy trying to survive that you just look straight down at the present instead of looking out to the road ahead of you. Another problem for this state of ownership is the tendency to focus on the wrong things; you want to focus on fixing cars, but you must maintain a focus on running your business!”
Stuck shop owners are also fearful, feeling there’s no way out. They want change but are barely treading water, and they likely have the wrong staff. Newton encouraged shop owners to be exploring hiring options year-round. “Seek the strongest person for the position. Get your priorities straight – pay attention to your business,” he said. “Procrastination is the killer of small businesses. Whether you’re procrastinating or your employees are, it costs you money and keeps you stuck. Stop accepting where you’re at – you have control over your attitude and motivation, so change it.”
Oblivious shop owners are often so focused on fixing cars that they’re oblivious to changes in the industry, and if they are aware that changes need to be made, they falter when it comes to implementation. “This person is a doer,” Newton explained, “but you can’t do everything. A complacent staff kills a business, so you need to hire the right people so you can delegate some duties. Stop saying things won’t work, and try something different. You need to have vision, and you need to understand your business numbers so you can make good decisions – correct your focus.”
Complacent shop owners make just enough money to save a little. Things are okay, but a bad month leads to cash flow issues. According to Newton, “This type tends to be more comfortable on the technical side. That’s fine, but it’s difficult to be a tech wizard at the same time you’re being a management wizard – if you like fixing cars, fix cars, but you also need to hire someone to manage your business.”
“Get out of your comfort zone and explore new ideas,” Newton urged. “Be proactive, anticipating the future, by setting goals for yourself and your team and by establishing a plan where your business runs properly without you being in it. And stop accepting things. They say the economy is down because of the pandemic. Well, I refuse to accept it. Start each day with the drive to be better than the day before. How do you know someone doesn’t have money unless you ask? Stop accepting the way things are – go out and ask for what you want!”
Newton’s goal is for all shop owners to reach the fifth state: Inspired. Those in this state are motivated; they are excited to start each day. They set goals and plan for the future, and they hire great employees, who they treat well and trust enough to delegate tasks. This also means recognizing the need for advisors to help, question and support them.
Inspired shop owners are engaged with customers, employees, vendors, and the industry. They also know how to do the hard stuff, like holding people accountable in a non-tyrannical way. Most importantly, “Inspired shop owners are willing to embrace changes,” Newton said. “No one is comfortable with change, but we have to embrace it. With all that’s going on in the world, each day is different, so you need to think differently in order to move forward.”
Move forward by identifying the change that needs to be made, making goals, and then establishing plans. Get help when needed, and don’t be afraid to do the hard stuff. Hire the best people, who you can trust when you delegate tasks to them. “Never lose that fire – figure out how to be passionate about your business every day, and don’t forget to laugh and enjoy life,” Newton stated. “You’re in this current state because of your decisions; you did this to yourself, so own it and then move on by embracing change.”
As Newton concluded, he challenged attendees to identify five things that need to change in their business or in their life. “Plan small, manageable changes. Do the hard stuff. Delegate. Have a mentality of constant and never-ending improvement!”
Attendees were gifted with a complimentary consult with ESI’s marketing specialist Melissa “Birdie” Patterson for help setting up their Google My Business account. For more information on ESI and its future events, visit esiseminars.com.