Setting Up Processes Your Repair Shop Will Follow
If you've been reading the other posts in this series, you've probably noticed a common piece of advice—systematizing your diesel repair shop can help with a lot of your issues, like making more money or keeping your repair shop secure. But it's one thing to have systems in place and another to get your employees to actually follow them. So as you're working on implementing systems in your shop, it's time to think about what another of your goals should be—making sure everyone follows the carefully crafted processes you've put in place.
This is important to think about even if you already have systems in place, as you need to know whether or not they're actually working for your shop. It can be easy to assume that if an employee is not following process it's because they are undisciplined or have no regard for the rules. In reality, though, that's only one possible reason why the system might be ignored. There could be flaws in it that prevent it from functioning as intended, your employees might not know where to find the processes, or they could be confused about why they're expected to follow these systems. That's why it's important to be monitoring and evaluating how your processes work and when they might need to be revised. It's not enough to just set systems. As your shop grows and changes, your processes will need to as well. You can read more about innovating systems by reading our past post.
The following infographic summarizes some of these ideas:
Creating a Goal
Like with other problems you encounter in your repair shop, think of the solution in terms of a goal you can work to achieve and write it down. This will help keep you on track and focused moving forward. For this particular problem, your goal will probably sound something like:
I plan to have a fully systematized shop where all employees follow processes by the end of the 20XX business year.
The Shop Owner
While you can't be everything for everyone in your shop, nor should you try, you as the business owner share some of the responsibility in achieving this particular goal. You are the one who ultimately puts the systems into place, even if you have your employees or an outside firm write them. You also have to be the one who creates the expectation that these processes are to be followed at all times. It's important to let your employees know why these systems are going into place, otherwise they'll be less inclined to follow them consistently. Some of the benefits of systems are increased safety for your employees, as dangerous processes will not be put into place, more success for your business, which results in future security for them, and a better work environment where everyone knows what's expected of them.
Making your employees a part of the process can help them feel included and valued, which in turn helps ensure that they will follow those systems. It will feel less like a set of demands forced on them and more like a true collaboration. It's also important to have your employees sign off on the processes, which functions as a contract. That way, if they stop following their process, you can pull out their signed copy and discuss. In some cases, this might require disciplinary action.
Your managers are your eyes and ears. They should be the ones who check on the success of the systems by monitoring their implementation and watching them in action each day. They should address any minor issues and provide guidance or correction to those who seem to be struggling. They should help ensure that the processes aren't just written and forgotten, but something that your shop lives by each day.
Your Technicians and Other Staff
Your employees will need to be accountable for their actions. It is part of their job to follow the business systems. But they should also feel free to point out any issues in the systems, or bring up a better way to do things, to help keep the business moving forward. It's no good to keep a stale system just because that's the way you've always done it. Plus, allowing for innovation and encouraging new ideas can help keep your employees engaged in the process.
But they also need to be aware that ignoring the systems can result in disciplinary action and even termination, depending on the situation. It's important that they understand that processes aren't suggestions, but the way you want the business to run. That's why it's vital they know about the systems and where to find them. In some cases, it might even be a good idea to put them up around the shop as constant reminders to your employees. Wherever you store them, make sure they are easily accessible so that no one can use that as an excuse not to follow them.
Measuring System Success
The only way to know if you're moving toward achieving your goal is to measure. So it's important to decide how you want to go about it. Some places, like Novatek, recommend making Standard Operating Procedures part of the review process for your employees, suggesting that if employees know that they're being monitored on this, they're more likely to follow the procedures. You can also measure whether accidents have decreased in the shop since implementing the processes, whether customer comebacks have decreased, and other general shop information. Monitoring employee efficiency can help tune you in to whether or not they're following their systems as well. However you decide to measure, you'll need to decide on some required reports, and, yes, make a system for those as well.
For this to be a successful venture, you'll need systems for absolutely everything in your shop, from how customers are greeted to how the shop needs to be closed each evening. This may seem like a massive undertaking, but if you enlist the help of your employees, it will go much more quickly. Give yourself a time frame in your goal of when you want all the procedures to be written, and work through them systematically to make that happen.
The Review Process
Having a review process in place is especially necessary, as employees need to be held accountable. You also need to be able to pinpoint why a system is not being followed: confusion, poor training, faulty system, or blatant disregard that might require disciplinary action of some kind. In that case, you'll want to take action. Letting employees ignore the procedure with no consequences only reinforces the idea that you aren't serious about them in the first place.
Fender Bender encourages shop owners to set up "non-negotiables" and to not be afraid to have the difficult conversations with employees who continually disregard them. You're not doing anyone any favors by allowing it to continue, and it sets a bad example for the rest of the shop. It'd probably be best to issue warnings and other corrective measures before outright termination (except in extreme cases like harassment or theft), but in the end, don't be afraid to let go of an employee who doesn't fit in. It'll be better for shop culture overall.
So in the end, you don't just want to create systems, but you want to create systems your repair shop will actually follow. This will not only make you a more profitable shop overall, but it should create a better environment for your employees to work in. Remember that a procedure doesn't always speak for itself—make sure your staff understands the why and the how of it. In the end, you'll be surprised how many of your repair shop headaches you can solve by ensuring that your staff follows their procedures.
See how HHP can help you innovate your parts buying process by saving you money. Learn more about our Repair Shop Value Program and what it has to offer for your shop!
Edited January 30, 2019