Be competent, be trustworthy, put other peoples’ needs first. Many people think these are three cornerstones of good selling. I think these are also three principles of good management. Of course, other skills and attributes are important. Good managers need to be able to think strategically, they need to be good sales people and good marketers. They need to understand their business as well as they understand the latest NBA standings. But at the core, I believe a good manager will embody these three elements: they’ll be competent, trustworthy and they’ll put the needs of other people first.
Be competent. Competent? That almost sounds like being barely adequate. Competent is also defined as qualified and capable. Are you qualified? Probably. More than likely, you have a combination of years of experience and training or certification. Are you capable? Maybe. Who defines your competency? Your customer. Now, who is your customer? Sometimes your customer is the person who just brought her car to you for a new water pump or radiator flush. Sometimes, your employee, your boss or your peer is your customer. Ask yourself (or ask them), “Do they feel I’m up to the job?” “What can I do to improve their vision of my competency?” “What can I do to improve my competency?”
Be trustworthy. Seems like a simple enough trait, yet, for whatever reason, many people don’t think service technicians are trustworthy. Some people have had a bad time with one repair experience and that colors their viewpoint of the entire service and repair market. For this management point, you need to look toward your customers again. Your external customers who walk through your door every day must feel you’re trustworthy or your business won’t thrive. Your internal customers (peers and technicians) must feel you’re trustworthy or they won’t return either. Be fair. Be trustworthy.
Put other peoples’ needs first. This is one of my favorite points for good management. A lot of management gurus will tell you, “the customer is always right.” But I prefer Southwest Airlines’ “crazy recipe for business and personal success.” Their first (of 11) primary attitudes is “Employees are number one. The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.” Their philosophy maintains that if you take good care of the employees, the employees will take good care of the customers, and ultimately, the business enterprise. And ultimately, isn’t that what you truly desire?
I’ve been reading a lot of automotive-related and technician-written blogs lately. If I were to believe all I’ve read I would think our industry is filled with a vast majority of employed, experienced technicians who don’t like their current work environments. And I’m shocked. Maybe it just means that the contented technicians don’t turn to blogs to write about happy events in their careers. But for the unhappy folks: last time I checked, few of you are bound by contract to your jobs. This is the land of opportunity. Start your own business or find a job where you’ll be happy, but please don’t stick around and make everyone else miserable.
I think this illustrates another important element of good management. If you have otherwise excellent employees or peers, but they’ve got negative attitudes, do what you can to turn them around. If they won’t change, it’s up to you to cut out the brown spot before it turns the whole apple rotten. It’s important to acknowledge that workers who have great performance records, but consistently undermine trust or morale amongst the rest of your business group should not be considered great employees or peers. They’re hurting the business and they should go.
One blogger commented on a recent change of ownership at a shop in his area. The writer said the manager fired all the older service techs within an 18-month time frame and hired a bunch of young, inexperienced techs, creating a “Romper Room,” with an increase in service turnaround time and a loss in business to go with the loss of experience. One reader responded, “one more guy with more dollars than sense.” Without knowing any specific details, and on a very superficial level, it sounds like this new owner had never heard of my “Three Principles for Good Management.” I don’t know if his decisions were right or wrong. But I think many times, when competition gets tough, many of us can forget one or all of these principles. I also know that transition can be difficult. So, I’m not in a hurry to judge this one episode described on a blog.
At the end of the day, only you can define personal success. For some, it’s making at least one more dollar than you made the day before. For others, it’s helping a customer out of a jam. For some, it’s fixing a problem that puzzled others. It’s working with a team. It’s working on your own. No matter how you define success for yourself, I believe you will always find that there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had working in this business.