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The Show Must Go On and So Must Customer Service

Film

Other Voices: Try using “theater skills” for customer service – By Nancy Friedman

What type of theater experience have you had? Why do I ask you that question?

Because if you have ever been on stage in a play, part of a band, chorus, dance group, stage manager, grip, sound, prompter, make up, lighting, director, or any form of theater where the audience and other co-workers are depending on you, then you probably already know the answer to why I ask.

And you probably have a great background for customer service!

I have a professional theater background and it has helped my career thrive immensely in the customer service arena. Now, it doesn’t mean if you don’t have a theater background you won’t be good in customer service. It just means you’ll understand the mentality of customer service faster — and perhaps better.

“Theater 101,” as I call it, is a perfect pre-curser to being in customer service. It prepares you in the best way for all these topics and many more. Actually, I fibbed; there are more than 11 skills. That’s a good thing though. Here they are.

• Interacting with others

•  Being on time

•  Knowing priorities

•  Learning how to say something even when you forget your lines.

•  Knowing how to have a phony smile even when you don’t want to.

•  Understanding your problems are just that — your problems.

•  Learning to work well with others, even if you don’t like them.

•  Understanding how it all “comes together.”

•  Helping others when they forget or don’t know what to say.

•  Learning the “show must go on” mentality.

•  Learning how to read a script without sounding like it.

•  Knowing the applause is for everyone.

  • No complaining!

•  Keeping your lines sounding fresh — no matter how many times you’ve said them.

•  Getting it right “the first time.”

•  Practice, practice and more practice.

•  Learning to go with the flow.

Here’s a real life example of  “The Show Must Go On” skill:

On the day of one of our Saturday performances — we did a matinee and evening show — I got a bee sting on my foot. It swelled up and I couldn’t put my shoe on that foot.

I had a show to do at 2 p.m.. What to do? What to do? Sure, I could go barefoot, but that might ruin the show for the others. And certainly for the audience. Theater minds do not want to do that.

So the theater mind in me said, “Figure it out, Nancy. Do something. You need to be at the theater in 1 hour and 45 minutes.”

Theater minds are not necessarily logical minds. However, we are spontaneous. We are quick thinkers. We know something has to be done and we figure out how.

My husband has a bigger foot than I do, so that was not going to look very good if I wore his shoes. (Didn’t go with my outfit anyway.)

What to do? What to do?

I believe I did what most fellow actors would do. I thought of something. The stinger of the bee was removed. I took two aspirins and took my own shoes for the show with me to the theater. I got to the theater in time for the 30-minute call and told the stage manager — theater translation: The Boss — what happened.

“However,” I said, “I’ll be ok. It feels a little bit better and I can squeeze into the shoe.”

So that’s what I did. I squeezed into the shoe and the show went on. The performance was great. The audience never knew anything was wrong.

Was I in pain? Yes. However, I knew I had a job to do. I wasn’t going to let the other actors down and I certainly wouldn’t let the audience down. In essence they were all my customers. They were depending on me.

So here’s a question for you: If you got a bee sting on your foot, would you go to work? Would you be able to talk with customers and not let that affect you? Would you complain about it, talk about it until others were sick of hearing about it?

The theater mind is one that thinks of the audience before themselves.

In reality it’s the same with your customers. Think of them before you. Remember, customer service is the “stage.” The customers are your “audience.” Now go out there and make yourself a star!

 

Nancy Friedman’s columns appear periodically in Tire Business. She is president of Telephone Doctor Inc., an international customer service training company based in St. Louis. She can be reached via email at nancyf@telephonedoctor.com 10/14/2014

Have a seat, I would like to tell you a story.

Everyone wants to hear a story
Everyone wants to hear a story!

Customers Trust Branded Content But There’s a Catch                               by Michael Brito

According to a not-so-new report (about 4 months old) by Kentico, 74% of people trust branded content so long as it educates them about a specific topic. It’s common sense for the most part, I hope.

However, that trust can easily be lost when brands attempt to sneak in a product or marketing pitch at the end of a blog post or newsletter, bringing down that content’s credibility by 29%. Other marketing offenses that tend to piss off customers include content or a claim that:

  • Can’t be corroborated with other non-company sources: 46%
  • Doesn’t address other perspectives or viewpoints: 17%
  • Isn’t clear that it’s coming from a particular company: 15%
  • Talks down to the reader: 12%

The Content Must Be Corroborated

Of those surveyed, 49% generally trust what a brand says about a topic so long as it’s corroborated by another source, according to the above. While such findings demonstrate the importance of posting content that can be corroborated, it also suggests this requirement may be met by including genuine, 3rd party sources within the actual content itself. 57% of those surveyed claim that educational information from a company is more credible when it contains verification from named sources, such as parents or doctors.

Participate in the conversations. Reach out and network, be social.

The Importance of Brand Advocacy

What’s not surprising in this report is that the shareability of content is also key with 69% stating a company’s educational information is more credible when discovered through a colleague, friend or family member. A whopping 94% claim that they have shared educational information from a company with others.

When asked how often a company’s educational content comes up while searching for topics related to a particular problem or need, 27% report it happens often, 57% sometimes, 11% hardly ever, and 5% never. There is a huge opportunity here to create content that matches consumer search behavior in order to own the search results.

The key takeaway here is clear. Brands today need to start taking content much more serious and make it core to business and marketing operations. Much easier said than done for sure.

At WCG, we have developed a proven model, grounded in analytics  that helps brands identify own-able stories they can tell in the channels that make the most sense and that can be measured effectively. The model also defines how to operationalize employee and customer brand advocacy and provides a framework that enables this group to participate in telling the brand story.

This is the slideshare presentation we gave you the link: http://www.slideshare.net/Britopian/an-analyticsdriven-approach-to-becoming-an-effective-brand-publisher-caas-39300349

Michael Brito leads social and content strategy at WCG and also an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley.

Drop everything and pick up a book for 30 minutes a day.

CarwashLive is contributing this  to our “LIVE” article page, because reading a book has become such a pastime for many of us due the amount of time we spend on the computer working. It’s an interesting article with statistics, a speed reading test and the tips and benefits of  reading for just  30 minutes a day.

Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress

At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book  or E -Book Helps

By JEANNE WHALEN
60 COMMENTS

Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

It's nice to have quiet and be able to read like in the school days!
It’s nice to have quiet and be able to read like in the school days!

The point of the club isn’t to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore.

“I wasn’t reading fiction the way I used to,” said Meg Williams, a 31-year-old marketing manager for an annual arts festival who started the club. “I was really sad I’d lost the thing I used to really, really enjoy.”

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the “slow-food” way or knitting by hand.

The benefits of reading from an early age through late adulthood have been documented by researchers. A study of 300 elderly people published by the journal Neurology last year showed that regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, slowed rates of memory loss in participants’ later years.

A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others’ mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships. A piece of research published in Developmental Psychology in 1997 showed first-grade reading ability was closely linked to 11th grade academic achievements.

Yet reading habits have declined in recent years. In a survey this year, about 76% of Americans 18 and older said they read at least one book in the past year, down from 79% in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center.

ENLARGE

Attempts to revive reading are cropping up in many places. Groups in Seattle, Brooklyn, Boston and Minneapolis have hosted so-called silent reading parties, with comfortable chairs, wine and classical music.

Diana La Counte of Orange County, Calif., set up what she called a virtual slow-reading group a few years ago, with members discussing the group’s book selection online, mostly on Facebook. “When I realized I read Twitter more than a book, I knew it was time for action,” she says.

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

More academics and writers are advocating a return to absorbing, uninterrupted reading—slow reading, as they call it. WSJ’s Jeanne Whalen discusses with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Getty

One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an “F” pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom.

None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say. Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown. A 2007 study involving 100 people found that a multimedia presentation mixing words, sounds and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text did.

Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text.

ENLARGE
F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Some hard-core proponents say printed books are best, in part because they’re more visible around the house and serve as a reminder to read. But most slow readers say e-readers and tablets are just fine, particularly if they’re disconnected from the Internet.

Abeer Hoque, who has attended a few of the silent reading parties in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she plans to read a book on her phone next time, but turn it to airplane mode to stop new emails and social-media notifications from distracting her.

When Ms. Williams, who majored in literature in college, convened her first slow reading club in Wellington, she handed out tips for productive reading and notebooks for jotting down favorite words and passages. Each time they meet, the group gathers for a few minutes to slowly breathe in and out to clear their minds before cracking open their books, as in yoga.

Roughly 20 to 30 readers have shown up for Sunday evening sessions, Ms. Williams says. Most new members fill out a brief survey on their experience with many describing it as calm, peaceful and meditative, she says.

Corrections & Amplifications  An earlier version of this article neglected to give the first name of Meg Williams. (Sept. 15, 2014)

Write to Jeanne Whalen at jeanne.whalen@wsj.com

A few of the comments are below. To see the rest you will need to go to the actual article, I supplied the link at the end of the “LIVE” article  post.

There are 60 comments.
JED TAYLOR
JED TAYLOR

 I know this is an important issue and the journal is stressing the point but this content is from Sept the 16th………………………..

The largest room in our home is the library so I am sold…………how about some additional content on the subject?

Stan Rubenstein

Stan Rubenstein

 Reading is not racing.  After 70+ years of reading I can assert

based on practical experience  that the reader sets his/her

own pace.

More to my point reading is a controlled experiment; I can

pause reading a non-fiction work after a long passage to digest

what I’ve learned thus securing it to my memory.

In re works of fiction, especially literary classics of the western

world I can stop and digest passages of well prepared  (authored)

language.

I trade in the world of finance and prefer reading a WSJ article

rather than watching a talking head in a video  where the pace of

information transfer is controlled by me the reader rather than  the

non-stop talker.

Creative Disruption and Learning at the Workplace GOPRO

[CarwashLive sees this as creative disruption and learning opportunity at the workplace. Imagine the marketing capability and the “LIVE” Action video that  you send out to your customers! Also, the headlines for each paragraph are Full of Power!  GOPRO! ]

The Simple Genius Behind GoPro’s Top Selling Camera  By  Graham Winfrey

GoPro disrupted the HD video market with the Hero camera. Here’s what makes the design so revolutionary.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that examines the lessons behind disruptive products through the lens of design.

Action camera company GoPro has come a long way since debuting its “reusable wrist camera” a decade ago.

Originally designed by founder Nick Woodman as a wearable camera for surfers to shoot footage while riding waves, the GoPro today dominates the pocket camcorder market. With $985 million in sales for 2013, GoPro is handily one of the most popular high-definition video camera on sale today.

As Inc. previously reported, at least one GoPro video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Despite the widespread use of the company’s flagship camera, the Hero, GoPros have more features today than most consumers probably realize.

Here are three design lessons from the GoPro Hero that have helped the company achieve its more than $3 billion valuation and claim one of the biggest consumer electronics IPOs in decades:

1. Never stop redesigning.

GoPro’s Hero is in a constant state of flux, and that’s a good thing. Some of the most significant improvements include adoption of a 170-degree, wide-angle lens that gives videos an IMAX feel and the upgrade to 4K ultra high-definition resolution. It also significantly improved the Hero’s performance in low-light environments. More recently, the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition added the capability to capture videos and photos simultaneously.

Co Founder of GoPRO  Camera  Nick Woodman

2. Make it a multitasker.

In addition to shooting in open air and underwater, the Hero’s size and weight make it one of the most versatile cameras ever invented. Weighing just over 5 ounces and 2.4 inches on its longest side, the Hero can be strapped to your arm, chest or wrist, or mounted pretty much anywhere, from bikes and cars to helmets and even dogs.

3. Prioritize convenience and sharability.

The Hero is designed to streamline the shooting and sharing process with no special software needed. With built in Wi-Fi, consumers can transfer video files directly to mobile devices. They can also control the camera and change settings from a smartphone, and it can connect directly to any standard or high-definition TV.

Next up from GoPro is the Hero 4 which will reportedly hit shelves in October. Also in the works is a wearable system that combines two GoPro’s at once to shoot 3D video.

As you can see, GoPro doesn’t appear to be slowing down its design (and redesign) efforts anytime soon. What other massively disruptive devices do you admire?

IMAGE: FLICKR/ANDIKAM
LAST UPDATED: AUG 28, 2014

Graham Winfrey is a staff writer for Inc.com. He previously covered alternative investments at Private Equity International magazine, prior to which he worked at Business Insider and msnbc.com. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For further discussion on this innovative idea of using GoPRO at the workplace head to the #CarwashLive #Forum we encourage conversation.  

Use Google’s “Adwords Express” in Small Business

Called AdWords Express, the advertising program made it easier for small businesses unfamiliar with pay-per-click advertising to get started.
Called AdWords Express, the advertising program made it easier for small businesses unfamiliar with pay-per-click advertising to get started.

Three years ago this month, Google introduced a streamlined version of its famous AdWords advertising program. Called AdWords Express, the advertising program made it easier for small businesses unfamiliar with pay-per-click advertising to get started.  AdWords Express also cut down on the time commitment with running AdWords campaigns.

Small businesses had long expressed concerns that AdWords had gotten too complex for non-marketers and required too much time — time that busy business owners couldn’t afford to devote.  AdWords Express was Google’s way of addressing that concern.

Fast forward to today.  The program must be working, because Google has invested in improving AdWords Express.  The company is also implementing changes to make AdWords Express more visible to small businesses.

Today Google announced that it is giving Express advertisers more control over defining and reaching their exact target audience.  In a post on the official Inside AdWords blog, Engineering Director Xuefu Wang writes:

“Now advertisers can choose exactly where to promote their business — in their zip code, city, state or others around the country (currently in English-speaking countries). When customers search from their phone, they can get driving directions, call your business, or visit your website in one tap.”

He goes on to add:

“When you select your business category, AdWords Express makes sure that customers searching for related topics see your ad. To improve the targeting of your ad, products and services that are mentioned on your website can now be used as keywords if they are related to your ad. We’ve also added more negative keywords on the backend to exclude unwanted searches, which improves the click-through rates of ads and means a lower cost for advertisers.”

Wang also says at the end of the article to look for more improvements in the coming months.

This follows on the heels of an announcement this past March making AdWords Express more accessible on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

And just last month Google made another move that put AdWords Express front and center.  Google launched “My Business,” a new dashboard that makes it more convenient to manage your business presence on Google properties.  On that dashboard there’s a prominent link to AdWords Express — making it clear that Google is committed to the Express program.

adwords express vs adwords

Deciding: Adwords Express vs Adwords

We reached out to Robert Brady of Righteous Marketing, a specialist and expert in the field of AdWords and pay-per-click advertising for his impressions.  He has a favorable impression of AdWords Express, for the right businesses.  “For businesses with a physical address, AdWords Express can be a good option. It’s also best for advertisers with smaller budgets that don’t demand high levels of control.”

Although today’s announcement gives advertisers additional control options they’ve not had before with their Express campaigns, there’s still less control than the standard version of AdWords.  Less control is the trade-off you make for a program that doesn’t require a lot of time to set up or manage.

An example of a local small business using Google Adwords Express is Nick’s Towing, mentioned in Google’s announcement today.  The owner manages campaigns on a smartphone on the go.

And when is it time to graduate from Express to the regular AdWords program?  According to Brady, it’s when you have a larger campaign budget to work with, or your needs get more sophisticated. Brady says,  “When advertisers want to conduct more extensive ad copy testing or want to advertise in a larger geographic area they should consider regular AdWords. I would also recommend professional management for click budgets over $2,000 per month.”  See more of his tips for using Google AdWords programs.

CODE RED: There is water on the floor.

Want to Lead?  

    Grab a Squeegee & Make it Your Friend

        I love metaphors & symbols.  They bring a point home clearly, better than words alone can do.

You know what brings home a point even better?  ACTIONS.  The EXAMPLE you set.

In a food manufacturing facility, water on the floors tends to be all around, and it’s also a safety risk.  There’s an Old School Tool to combat water on the floor:  The Squeegee

Lead by example; your team will notice!
Keep the floors dry please! Take action! Grab a Squeegee!

If you’re a leader and want something done, encouraging people to take ACTION against something important is mandatory.

“Keep the floors dry, PLEASE!”

Even more important?  Backing up your Plea with your OWN behavior.

Never let the squeegee go untouched and get lonely.  Pick it up and make it your friend.  Pull some water off the floor.  Do it daily.  More than 1x per day.  Your team will notice, then follow suit (eventually).

Grabbing a squeegee for even 30 seconds while running to your next appointment will set the tone for the troops.

Directives are always needed.  Backing up a directive with ACTION brings the importance to life.  

CarwashLive shares a blog written by Mark with so many good messages about leadership, setting examples for your team, how to build a stronger team, and how 30 seconds can put a positive spin on  daily routine. You know how that old saying goes “Don’t ask someone else to do it if you can’t do it yourself.”

Remember all articles can be de discussed in the Forum. We actually encourage it!                “Let’s Discuss it in the CarwashLive Forum.”

Mark is @MarkOlivito on Twitter and  Living the life of #Hustle + #Optimism. Celebrating life’s GameChangers, difference makers, Yankee freaks &#Leadership players. #CEO of LM Foods, LLC.

Time Management Tips, Empower your Staff!

Screen-Shot-2014-07-09-at-11.38.24-AM

In early 2014, Kris Virdo was a technician at Alliance Transmission and Auto Center in San Marcos, Calif. Today, he’s the owner, finding himself working long hours with endless tasks to steer the business in the right direction.

Virdo is in the midst of learning what it means to manage co-workers that are suddenly employees, along with updating nearly every management system his business uses. Finding time to do all that is needed is nearly impossible, let alone the fact that his shop is down a tech and in need of a quality leader.

For many shop owners, whether they’re a former tech or not, the temptation is to work within their business rather than focusing on the big-picture items needed to steer the shop in the right direction. Most have found, though, that doing so leaves them searching for time to promote business growth and take care of employees and customers.

Industry consultant Bill Haas of Haas Performance Consulting has seen many owners succumb to busy schedules, and he says it is important for them to regain control and focus on efficiently managing their own schedules through empowering independent employees, delegating tasks and performing the jobs that fit their skills.

“The biggest struggle I see is that they’re trying to do everything themselves. They just don’t let go,” Haas says.

Creating Expectations

Having set processes within your business is where it begins, Haas says, from multi-shop organizations to small, single-shop crews. Giving clear job descriptions and having precise processes will go a long way in allowing employees to begin taking the reigns.

The consequences for not doing so are that owners will find themselves doing other people’s jobs and neglecting their own. This leads to less productivity, lower car counts and a downward spiral of lost business.

“Find talented people and allow them to do their jobs,” Haas says. “When they’ve got someone who has talent, and they give them a task, they don’t need to be constantly double-checking the work that’s being done.”

Haas says that can start by giving your employees a set time to talk to you about issues and ask questions through planned company meetings.

Taking time to have shorter meetings more frequently makes sure there is a time where employees know they can bring up issues and ask questions. Haas recommends finding a slow point in your shop’s weekly or daily cycle to have those meetings.

Haas suggests early Monday morning meetings even though they can seem to be more of a hindrance than a help.

“People think that’s really difficult because it’s the start of the week and work got dropped off over the weekend, or customers want those early appointments,” Haas says. “I think it’s important to set the stage for what needs to be accomplished that week and talk about the numbers from last week.”

Haas adds that those meetings should only take 10 minutes or less, and are important in giving shops feedback and direction for the week.

Avoiding Distractions

Managing your time better is just as important as managing your business. A lot of doing that comes down to simply keeping focus, and not allowing the day-to-day distractions to throw you off.

Sure, there will be things that turn your day upside-down, but creating stopgaps and backup plans can help alleviate the effects.

“When somebody has to fill in, it is typically the owner,” Haas says. “Develop plans and stick to them. Don’t feel like you have to be out there to save everybody.”

Haas added that, once an owner has a quality team in place, problems shouldn’t come all the way up the chain of command to be solved.

Another way to alleviate interruptions is to see people by appointment.

“Don’t let people show up at your store and walk in cold-calling you, saying they’re representing a marketing company, an insurance agency or parts supply,” Haas says. “If they want to talk business, tell them you see people by appointment.”

Having that structure allows you to then set a date and time for that appointment. But keep it short, Haas adds. “You don’t want to be spending hours on end with them. They may not have anything else to do; don’t let them use your time.”

Virdo began work on those stopgaps by planning a DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance) personality assessment to find out more about his employees and to see how they can be better utilized. The program works by analyzing an employee’s personality and showing their strengths and weaknesses.

“I think once we get together and go through that, the action items in our business will be covered,” Virdo says.

Knowing that your employees are capable of managing their duties will give you the time to get your work done and allow you to take the next steps in improving your business.

Empowering Staff

Giving service advisors and technicians the confidence to make decisions and solve problems allows them to do what it takes to take care of the customer, Haas says. It also gives them the ability to handle tough situations without second-guessing the decisions they make.

“The only thing that should be brought to my attention is that we had a problem, it got handled and the customer is well satisfied with what we did,” Haas says.

Keeping customers as the focus will give a base priority for everyone to go back to when a circumstance arises that isn’t centered on the customer. Being able to point back to quality service often creates an objective solution to subjective issues.

In order to maintain that standard, though, Haas says owners have to make sure their employees understand that management has their back.

“Would I make the same decisions? Maybe not,” Haas says, “The important thing is seeing if the customer was satisfied. They have to see that you support the decisions they make. If you don’t, they will stop making those decisions, and they’ll be chasing you down to make them.”

A big part of supporting a staff, Haas says, is by being present in your shop.

You want to be visible to your company: “You shouldn’t be coming into the store, going into your office, and two or three hours after you’ve arrived, people don’t even know you’re on the premises,” Haas says.

A good way to combat that is to make it a point to check in on people, saying hello and showing employees that you appreciate them by thanking them for the things they did the day before to solve problems and help customers.

Watching the Clock

Managing the business is a lot easier once you have your own schedules and tasks under control. Leading by example, Haas says, will show your employees how you want them to manage their time and efforts.

A good way to start is by putting just one or two things on a to-do list. “Once you write it down, you have a greater commitment to it,” Haas says. “You’re going to have things arise throughout the day. The list can grow when you find you can get to everything.”

Making the transitions from an employee to owning the business, Virdo says he’s prioritized listening to his crew and gathering their thoughts into his schedule.

However, getting out of his tendencies as a tech, Virdo has had to leave behind his relaxed nature. “That mentality keeps them relaxed, but they also get lazy,” Virdo says. “They end up just pushing work out instead of focusing on a quality job.

Virdo already sees his need to delegate tasks and responsibilities to minimize his to-do lists.

“I’ve had to move one of the older technicians into the office to handle customer service and data entry,” Virdo says. “My strengths are sales and customer service. Ultimately, I would want to be the one talking with people.”

Haas agrees, saying that it is important for owners to look to settle into their prefered role sooner than later.

“It’s important  to recognize what it is that they do best and what is it they enjoy doing as an owner,” Haas says. “They’ve got to recognize their best value to the business. Then they can fill their lists with the tasks they can enjoy working through.”

(This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Ratchet+Wrench.)

CarwashLive highlights this article because time management tips are helpful to all businesses. Empowering your staff to be organized and recognize where they can be of best value to your company will help you steer your company in the right direction.

Remember all articles can be de discussed in the Forum. We actually encourage it!             “Let’s Discuss it in the CarwashLive Forum.”

Focusing on Details-Army to Auto Body Repair Shop

Andrea Brown says she’s always had a knack for perseverance. After serving in the Army for five years, Brown was determined to kick the statistics that can accompany female veterans (a recent Clinton Foundation survey reported that more than 35 percent of female veterans are unemployed).

She did so by becoming the second female veteran and first black female to own one of the roughly 2,500 Midas franchises in the U.S. and Canada. Through collaboration, partnerships and education, Brown has established her franchise, Midas Auto Centers–Chicago Heights in Chicago Heights, Ill., as one of the top in the area, and she has a plan for continued growth.

I was active duty in the Army as a pharmacy specialist for four years. After my transition from the military, though, I received a Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-med and, thereafter, I received a Bachelor of Science in nursing and was a nurse for two years.

But even working as a nurse, I was always looking to become a business owner. As you might imagine, automotive repair was not No. 1 on the list. I was just looking for something that I was good at. When I was in college, I used to clean homes to help pay for my education and I got tons of referrals because I was so meticulous. So I looked into seeing if I could open a franchise cleaning business.

Shop size:
3,500 square feet
Staff size:
6
Annual revenue:
$937,000
Average monthly car count:
560

Being a veteran, I went on the Veteran Affairs website, and there was a page that listed several Fortune 500 companies who partner with the Department of Veteran Affairs to give veterans discounts on franchise fees or financing.

I just so happened to be looking at this with my friend (now my business partner) Stacy Everett, who had been with the Midas family as a manager for over 15 years. Lo and behold, we run across Midas. The light bulbs started going off. I have management experience and he has repair experience. We thought, why don’t we try this.

I contacted the proper authorities at the VA and the Small Business Administration (SBA), and they informed me on all the applications. I had a lot of support from the SBA liaison in that I was given the ABCs of what to do throughout the entire process.

So even prior to presenting myself to Midas International, my LLC was established. It was having radical faith and the belief that you can step outside of your comfort zone into an arena you’re not accustomed to.

My next step was going in to present myself to Midas International. I already had a business plan and all of the necessary documentation. The owner of the Midas where Stacy worked was looking to expand into other markets, so when he heard I was interested in owning a franchise, he volunteered to let me purchase his. This was a huge benefit because Stacy had worked there for years and was very familiar with the staff.

 

A BANNER BUSINESS In just a few short years, Andrea Brown has built her Midas Auto Care location into one of the company’s most successful facilities in the Chicago area. An Army veteran, Brown runs her shop with a disciplined focus on the customer.
A BANNER BUSINESS In just a few short years, Andrea Brown has built her Midas Auto Care location into one of the company’s most successful facilities in the Chicago area. An Army veteran, Brown runs her shop with a disciplined focus on the customer.

After that, I presented my business plan to the SBA and they approved my financing. I officially became the owner of the Chicago Heights Midas location in July of 2012.

After opening, several things worked in my favor. First, after Midas gives you the approval to become a franchisee, they send you to a training and education course that prepares you to become a Midas owner. I spent a couple weeks in a live training class and after that, they have a field of management that comes out and looks over your shoulder and tells you everything that’s required of you. So you’re not going in blind.

I also think my skills from the military have been a huge benefit. Serving your country is a job like no other. Having that mental capacity and mental toughness is huge. I am a little militant. I’m trying to develop structure, discipline and consistency within this operation.

I require organization and that’s one of the things I’m trying to instill in my staff. You have to have discipline. I’m not afraid to keep repeating myself or call meetings to go over our processes because I want the consistency to be there.

Although I am very exact and stern, I’ve also had to learn leniency. I know these guys aren’t army soldiers. If something is not done to my standards, I have to have some type of leniency to work with them so the changes are adopted over time. Everybody wasn’t raised in the environment that I was and you have to understand that and respect their position or why they behave the way they do. It’s about understanding the individual and proceeding from there. I am a fan of having individual meetings with my staff. I handle each person differently and this gives me a chance to connect with them.

In addition, the location I acquired is the shop Stacy had been the manager of, so he has had experience with this location, the employees, and the community. He is the general manager and in that sense, things haven’t changed too much. He’s the muscle and I’m the brain. Our skills balance each other out really well, and having worked as a team for the past two years, we’ve developed each other’s strengths.

The other benefit to this location is that it has been in the community for 30 years. I didn’t have to establish a new customer base. With me coming in, it was mainly about learning the systems of the vehicle, becoming acclimated to how the automotive repair business works and how we can best serve the community. It takes a lot of endurance because things aren’t going to be smooth all the time.

What I’ve found is that my operation is in a lower socio-economic area. Fifty-five percent of the median household income is below $40,000. My reality tells me that statistically, there’s only so much that the community is able to provide me. So how am I going to be a contender with shops who are in wealthier areas and can easily bring in millions of dollars per year?The challenge is to get my profitability up to that million-dollar status.

There’s a couple of ways that I have done that. First, I worked with Midas, CARQUEST and a third-party company to educate me, my management staff, and my technicians. Some of the things we’re focused on is upselling on our tickets, improving our communication skills, and overcoming objections. We’re always in the process of taking classes and keeping up with technology so we can improve our profitability by working on our weaknesses.

Another training area I’ve been focused on is getting the staff to understand the female point of view and soften the edges. Like most shops, the majority of our customers are female and they’re intimidated before they even walk through the door of a repair shop. This is a constant topic in our meetings. When we’re speaking to women, we need to educate and explain things. I feel they’ve taken that approach that I’ve given them and it has helped tremendously. For female customers, knowing there is a female behind them in my store is comforting.

Education is one of the keys to being successful and finding those resources that can help you is crucial. I work very closely with the Illinois Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) and their Women Vetrepreneurship Program, which helps female veterans who are trying to start businesses or increase the business they already have. The WBDC has given me all of these opportunities that otherwise I would not have.

For example, another way I’m trying to increase profitability is by obtaining federal government fleet accounts, which the mayor of Chicago has been working to help smaller businesses obtain. Over the past year and a half, I have established my LLC as a veteran-owned, minority-owned and female-owned business. I am at the level where all of the documents have been submitted and I’m registered through the government to receive those contracts. I am very close.

Thanks to the WBDC, I was given the opportunity to be in meetings with the mayor and I’ve also appeared on numerous local news programs, which has increased my exposure significantly.

It takes a lot of perseverance when you’re trying to achieve something like this. It’s not a walk in the park. We’re in the process of devising an action plan to increase our profit. I have to lead the staff to know what specific targets in the operating area we need to focus on in order to increase our daily profits. My leadership skills are really needed for this action plan to work. This is an instance where being exact, organized and disciplined is a huge advantage.

Over the past two years, I’ve demonstrated that I do have the strong leadership that it takes to be successful. I’ve had to prove that I can be a contender in this arena and the statistics show it. We’ve experienced growth and for the past year and a half, our location has ranked in the top 25 of the 100 shops within the Chicago area.

(This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Ratchet+Wrench.                      AS TOLD TO ANNA ZECK)

 CarwashLive likes this article because when you pay attention to the details that is what you makes you successful not just in business but in the  Auto Body Repair Shops and  the most amazing business opportunities come alive.