How to turn 60 minutes into £500k

This month John takes a look at a case study to show you how slowing down can remove your stress and earn you more

By John Batten |

Published:  03 March, 2020

Something I find myself wanting to say all the time: “It’s easy to find technical information, easy to diagnose that car, easy to increase the profit within your garage.” I am wrong of course. I’ve been running automotive businesses for long enough to know it’s not easy, but what I do know is it’s not complex either. In fact, it’s often simpler than you think. I might even say, straightforward.
However, if that’s the case, why is it that many of the garage owners I speak to are frustrated (not unhappy just frustrated) with their businesses? It’s an important question, and when these frustrations are given some thought solutions often appear. Here’s the great thing. The solutions we discover are common to most garages, including yours. While it may not be easy, it is straightforward. “How do I find solutions to my frustrations,” I hear you ask? All you have to do is be like the Cadbury’s bunny.

Slow down and take it easy
“Slow down, I wish!” This one of the most common responses when I ask my clients take a little time for the important tasks in their day. Between answering the phone, running the workshop and dealing with everyone’s questions how are you meant to slow down?
If you are looking for a different outcome (less stress in your workshop and an increase in profit) then you’ll need to change your actions. Not dramatic changes, just small ones on a regular basis. It’s these small changes that when taken regularly have an unprecedented effect on your garage. Let’s take a look at how slowing down and taking 60 minutes helped one of our clients recently and how you could do the same.

Problems + no time + no clarity = frustration
Like most things in life, a solution to a frustration is simpler to come by once a system is devised to deal with it, and that’s the route we took with Emma (name changed). Emma owns a great garage with her husband. They’ve been in this industry for years, love what they do, have a big team and are good at it. That doesn’t mean there aren't frustrations though.
On a call Emma recently said: “John, I’ve got a problem and it’s driving me nuts. Why is it that my technicians can’t tell me that their parts are wrong for the vehicle? It’s affecting the time taken to complete the job and affecting when the car goes back to the customer. I love our techs but this just keeps on happening. How can we fix it?
I can almost see you nodding along while reading Emma’s words. It’s a common issue in many workshops and can often dictate whether you have a good or bad day at the office. The solution though is straight forward you just need a little maths.

Time + clarity + thought = solution
We took 60 minutes of critical thinking, dedicated to defining the problem and its solution. The interesting part is that we found solutions Emma wasn’t expecting. In fact, the technician was only a small part of the problem. To ensure success though, you have to get off on the right foot. I like to start the process by defining the desired outcome. So that’s what we did and started with the end in mind.
Emma initially voiced her frustration with the technician not informing her that the parts were wrong. When dissected however, the frustration was actually a desired outcome was not being achieved. The outcomes in this instance being the car ready on time and a happy customer, alongside the efficient use of resources and the profitability of the workshop.
With those defined, let's turn our attention to brainstorming possible causes and Emma’s options for the solution.

Cause and effect    
We now have our desired outcomes and a reason that they’re not happening defined as incorrect parts. Let’s take a look at all of the possible causes of the incorrect parts. It could be:

  1. Was a correct description of the part and its details communicated to front of house team member (FOHTM) by the technician?
  2. Were additional parts identified that ‘may’ be required (bolts that will snap etc) identified?
  3. Was a parts look up system used to ensure the correct part/s were ordered?
  4. Did the FOHTM select the best parts supplier for this part?
  5. Did the FOHTM ask to speak to their trusted contact at the parts supplier?
  6. Where a FOHTM couldn’t use a parts system, did they enquire with the parts supplier if there were multiple parts options?
  7. Did the FOHTM ask for the parts options to be delivered?
  8. Did the FOHTM clarify the availability of parts and a delivery time?
  9. Did the FOHTM communicate the delivery time to the workshop manager (WM)?
  10. Where delivery time took too long, did the WM communicate this to the technician?
  11. On arrival of the parts was the technician made aware of their availability?
  12. Did the technician check to ensure the parts suitability for the application?
  13. Where incorrect did the technician make the FOHTM aware that they’re incorrect?
  14. Did the technician/FOHTM and the parts supplier work together to ensure the parts are correct on the second delivery?

The interesting outcome here being that only one third of the possible causes could be attributed to a technician. Definitely not the result that Emma had anticipated. Next stop, how to fix it.
This next part is easy (OK straightforward). All we needed to do was take each of the negative/questioning statements from the brainstorming session and turn them into a positive actions.

  1. Tech to use standard terminology when communicating parts to FOHTM
  2. Tech to use part numbers from old parts where possible
  3. Tech to identify any additional parts required as part of repair
  4. FOHTM to confirm with with tech using parts system their suitability prior to ordering

You get the idea. With a list of actions compiled, Emma set about documenting these with pictures where required into a defined process. All team members were then bought together and suitably trained to ensure the process was understood and could be effectively implemented. Emma and John 1 – Frustration 0.

The Butterfly Effect
You may be wondering “Have I just wasted five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back reading about how to order parts?” I know I would be if I were in your shoes. Bear with me.
I’m a firm believer that the results achieved in your garage are not necessarily proportional to the action taken, and that HUGE results can be gained with small changes. This just happens to be one of those cases.
You see, Emma has seven technicians and if each of these saved an average of 10 minutes a day through correct parts supply on each job (three jobs a day average) and sold that time it would mean that Emma would earn an additional £523,250 over a 10-year period. Which just happens to be when Emma would like to retire.
Like I said. Small changes can equal HUGE results. That took Emma and I 60 minutes to work through which I’m sure you’ll agree is time well spent. If we could remove that frustration and increase profit in one 60-minute session, just think what could be done if you spent 60 minutes a day working on your business? Great things I’m sure.

If you’d like to learn how to improve your diagnosis skills then call John on 01604 328500.
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