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Training or Development – What do we really need? Are you ready for some in-depth analysis

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Heavy Duty shop owners from coast to coast talk about training required for their shop. Consider the terminology “training”. This terminology creates a certain mind-set in terms of results desired with the approach to the topic from the person speaking the words. Perhaps it is time to re-examine what words need to be embraced to get our mind-set focused properly to allow us to really move the shop forward considering all of today’s realities.

I would like to submit for your consideration the following definitions:

TRAINING: Limiting the behavioral responses to a given stimulus.

DEVELOPMENT: To increase behavioral alternatives to the same stimulus.

It has often been thought that “technical training” was always required for a HD shop in order to learn which “right way” is required to do it. This worked very well in the “mechanical” world years ago. I am submitting to you that it is not technical “training” that is required today but in fact today it is technical “development” that is required. The on-going development of building a technician’s diagnostic skill level and knowledge does not lead to a “right way” to do something, but in fact it leads to providing many alternatives to explore an approach, in order to discover the correct solution to the problem. The proper “development” and building of this knowledge, in the end, allows the technician to provide time effective solutions, which in turn, ends up serving the HD shop’s client in a very professional manner. Without the proper “development” of this technical knowledge, which must be recognized as continuous and on-going, and instead where management is only focusing on limited “training”, ends up producing results where the technician “fumbles around” for a number of hours without the proper solution. Consider “training” is specific, whereas “development” is all encompassing. Think about it…. no Heavy Duty shop can afford a training process today, they require a development process.

It is also well spoken in our industry that management requires business training. I submit that “Business Seminar Training” today, in fact, only relates to one facet of the business, such as a product knowledge session. Consider that other “Business Seminar Training” produces “hype” to create short-term immediate sales, or activity, for the sponsor of the “training,” as it creates the conditions for the attendees to become very motivated. Consider that “hype-type” motivation is now out-of-date in terms of addressing the real problems of our industry and is truly a waste of money in terms of a vision or culture for a HD shop. This type of “hype-training” always has a habit of disappearing within two to three weeks, if not sooner. The statement must be made that “hype-training” lacks the “test of time”.

I submit to you that we do not need a “fire under the bum” type motivational training, which is an exterior motivation format that gets an individual “pumped” that quite frankly worked 10 to 20 years ago in the much simpler commodity era of our industry. Today’s shop business realities are very in-depth knowledge based, focused, very complex, and all encompassing. This is why “fire under the bum” type training disappears too easily. It has no substance.

Consider today, we need a “fire in the belly”. This is different. It creates the results environment of learning business knowledge at a depth level effectively enough that it creates a gnawing at ones inside gut, which in turn, creates the personal determination, a personal self-motivation if you will, to get on with it and get it done. It is also time consuming and not an “over-night visit”. The atmosphere and attitude approach required to create this gnawing is called “Business Development”, not “Business Training”. Development provides the tools in the form of a proven business concept for the owner to embrace coupled with the on-going availability of business knowledge to support its depth. The most important key word here is… support…. which in turn allows for sustaining behavioral development.

Behavioral development is very personal, in that it is totally adaptable to the individual’s own personality. Development is exceptionally in-depth in its presentation and especially its content message. It creates a picture in one’s mind as to what can be. Business Development does not “limit behavioral responses” but it, in turn, “increases behavioral responses” due to its depth of perspective. It has many angles to be examined by the individual in its understanding which allows for the development to be achieved. Business development understanding is not just spending a few hours at night or attending a one-day stand, but, in fact, encompasses many days in order to understand its focus.

Don’t be surprised if you have to read the above few paragraphs two or three times as it is important to understand the differences between “training” and “development”. I spent a lot of time trying to create the sentences I have written here to try to get across my point. The explanations truly are in-depth but I must admit, difficult to explain in this article format. My hope is that you begin to recognize that this is not a simple topic.

Time to Complete a Heavy Duty Business Opportunity Audit

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Everyone is becoming very aware as to the many challenges that lay ahead for the independent HD aftermarket. Challenges can turn into incredible opportunities when approached properly. We are now moving into a new era where the “Trade” days are coming quickly to an end and our “Profession” will step out into the economy and WOW the commercial client. It will also attract the millennials when they see the exciting technology and opportunities for them to be involved in moving our sector forward. As a Profession we will finally elevate the HD aftermarket to an income level that mirrors other high end economy segments. Exciting days are ahead but detailed planning is now required to make sure we can embrace the future.

Consider this list and address how each one affects your business and list the solution required so the shop can continue to move forward.
Business Opportunity Audit:
1 We face increased competition from the HD Dealerships and/or shrinking margins so our focus must shift within the business to selling our knowledge. Billed hours must be our focus. To achieve this it must be recognised that client relationships and earning their trust is so important. Educate as to the value and importance of investing in at least two comprehensive inspections on the HD vehicle each year. The purpose of the comprehensive is to have a full picture of the condition the vehicle is in for safety, reliability and efficiency. You then counsel the client the timing of the required work, based on how they use the vehicle and their annual mileage as to what is in their best interest to insure vehicle safety, reliability and efficiency are properly maintained.

2 We need to better understand our target clients…who they are, why they buy and what they really want. Analyze your data base as to who are your top commercial clients. What type of work do they have done on their vehicle meaning are they a break down and repair client or a vehicle preventative maintenance client? You have a solid relationship with all these people so have a conversation as to why they come to your shop specifically and what are they looking from you moving forward? These are the people who most likely will recommend you so listen carefully, take notes and improve the service level where required to meet their total expectations.

3 Some of our current and target clients are not aware of all the value we offer. Have you educated your clients as to what makes your shop “uniquely” different? This should be where your advertising/marketing dollars are spent. Differentiate yourself from the HD dealership arena “in writing” and make sure clients and potential clients “experience” that differentiation when they come into your operation. Differentiation can mean strong value to a client if you work on and remember that EVERY visit for them is about their experience with your business.

4 We don’t charge as much as we should, because of a lack of confidence in our value, or for some other reason. Have we got our emotions in check? Do the real math and establish the right labor rates for the competency and value we bring to our clients. Acknowledge that your labor rate represents your shop’s competency. You are in a knowledge based business and competent staff, from the technicians to the front counter are worth more. Review your structure to make sure you have the right rates in place for maintenance, diagnostic and re-flash labor. Once again proper education of the client is critical here. Think about this example….introduce to the client the lead technician that will be working on the client’s vehicle. This is all of a 2 minute introduction. Have a small training session with the technicians as to how the technician should handle him in front of the client and why this is important. This can build incredible relationships and trust when a client actual can put a face and “personality” to the person working on their vehicle. Remember as I said before, it is about the “experience” on each visit.

5 Our industry faces trust or image issues that we must overcome to create client confidence. This is a great opportunity for the HD independent sector to embrace. To create client confidence, you must slow down and actually make time for the client so you can engage in a constructive and positive conversation with them. Review all the facts you have on that client file proving you understand their situation. You know whether they own or lease the vehicle, how they use the vehicle (city, highway or a lot of off road driving due to their physical location) confirming they drive X amount of miles per year and understanding their expectations with their vehicle. MANAGE the vehicle based on their facts and remind them that your recommendations are for safety, reliability and efficiency to achieve the client’s ultimate expectations.

6 We need a clearer Vision for the future of our business…and a written Plan to define it and how to get us there.

This is one of your greatest exercises in an opportunity audit because you now confirm the 5 building blocks required for a successful culture and building a profitable business. All these should be fully written out and properly documented in detail. The 5 blocks are 1. Vision – what will the business look like in 3 years? From facility appearance to staff appearance to work flow management to maximize bottom-line profits. How will it differ from today? 2. Do we have or understand what talent do we require to fulfill the vision? Have you got the knowledge depth on your team that is required today? If not do they have the desire to learn what they must know to be part of this business? Where is the right training available? 3. Does the team “believe” in the vision to be achieved? In other words are they motivated because they like the direction the business is going and want to be part of it? Never ask the team to “buy into” the business, you want and need them to “believe” in the business. 4. Provide all the resources to achieve the vision. This relates to on-going and specific training the team needs, equipment and software upgrades where required and an efficiently laid out facility to maximize productivity. 5. A proper measuring document. This means to have a proper measuring document to confirm the journey is going in the right direction or point out where attention must be paid to keep the business on track.

The above six examples are but a few opportunities in the audit process but as you can see when you approach the business with a positive mind-set you are in control of the future because you are thinking of where “opportunities” lay within your business. Get the team involved as well, especially millennials who love to be part of the building blocks. Listen carefully to them; you may be very surprised as to what great in-put they can give form “their” perspective, your future customer and client base.

2019 is the start of the future. Lay down a solid foundation of thought and planning now and the next 3 years will be a start to an incredible and exciting journey.

Every Choice You Make Keeps You On A Path

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Heavy Duty Shop owners and many business owners in general, don’t seem to realize that NOT moving their business forward and still doing the same old thing over and over is still a choice. The issue is what path did their choice take them over time?

Our dynamic Heavy Duty Service industry demands that change remain constant within the business year over year and when one shop doesn’t embrace change, they are literally out of sync within 3 years.  WOW, now that is pressure, or is it?

The pressure can be greatly minimized when management is progressive in their thinking and actions; when management has a vision for the business that they can clearly communicate to their Team; when the Team BELIEVES in the vision and wants to become part of it; when management and the Team become accountable to each other.

Now for the HD service shops that don’t want anything to change within their business to keep up with or ahead of the wave of change, “because I’m the boss and I will do whatever I want” well, they are the problem shops the Industry has to deal with.  This is when we say “Come on succession let’s get the younger managers/owners in here now”.

As a good friend once said to me “Remember, you either go forward or in circles; there is no standing still.”

Road to Green: Rotten Apples or a Rotten Barrel

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We’ve heard the saying many times, “A bad apple spoils the barrel.”
That’s very true in so many cases and in business that’s why Management must focus on building the right culture with the right team and partners in place. It’s not an easy thing to do but it must be an on-going process in the business today. That is why a detailed VISION plan is required which not only lays out what the business will look like in 3 years’ time, and the road map it is going to follow to achieve the vision (the quality of the barrel), but also what will the Team (the apples) look like in terms of quality and quantity.

There’s also another aspect to consider that’s not talked about in our HD industry at all—sometimes, at some point, you have to acknowledge the barrel is spoiling the apple!

This means the entire process of how business is being done in the HD shop is completely broken and no matter how talented the staff is, the culture the shop runs under is not going to work. With a bad culture in place, finding the right people is a constant and nearly a full time job; good people that are hired do not stay with the company as good people leave because management allows bad people to stay; attitudes are negative; a team atmosphere of having each other’s back does not exist. Those are just some basic examples. The entire business must be revamped or the odds of survival may not be in that business’ favour.As the CEO of your HD business, have you clearly defined your culture and how it is developed and maintained? 2019 is going to be an exceptional year for the HD shop owners that get it.