International visitors tell us that South Africa have some of the best equipped and well-run body shops that can compete anywhere in the world. These top performers have many things in common: clean facilities, personable sales and reception people, written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each step in the repair, a willingness to conform to their insurer requirements, unique paperwork requirements, and almost always – their proud SAMBRA / RMI signage and Code of Conduct hanging in the office. The very best shops add another crucial layer of expertise: They communicate with all their employees regularly.
Communication is the key to successful marriages as well as successful businesses. “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to date other people” seems like a marriage issue that should have been made clearer. In business, if the employees don’t know what the company issues and goals are, they can’t help. In my experience, the shops that share business information on a consistent basis with all their staff rise to another level of excellence. Too many small businesses in any field assume their employees will get all the information they’ll need through osmosis. The best players make sure everyone on the payroll knows where the company is headed and exactly how they can help it get there.
Regular and Consistent
Some shops have a year- end party at the end of the year and, after dinner or braai, the owner stands and reports whether the shop had a good year or bad year. After a toast to good news or a commitment to do better next year on bad news, no one ever mentions the shop’s financial condition to the crew again. The top shop performers have both a consistent format and a regular schedule to report on the business’s health and specific goals to the staff who work there. The get-togethers I’m describing are more formal than the daily production meeting.
What constitutes a regular interval will vary greatly, but once a year isn’t often enough in my book. Once every quarter or, better yet, once every month ensures that all the employees know how it’s going and what’s expected of them. One of the most common complaints of the staff in any business is they don’t know what’s going on. Is my job secure? Can the shop afford all this required new repair equipment? Where should I expend my selling / production efforts? Generally, how can I help? Monthly or quarterly meetings are the perfect opportunity to answer those questions and many more. I’m a fan of holding the 30-minute business information meeting before work begins. Fresh doughnuts and coffee and 30 minutes is time and money well-spent.
Any kind of all-shop communication will be met with trepidation the first time it’s attempted. “The boss said we need to be here at 7:15 a.m. Monday for a meeting, what does it mean? Will we all be fired? Is the shop selling to a consolidator, closing the doors? Advance warning of the meeting and a teaser of what to expect the first time will help calm these natural fears.
Communication about the upcoming first official communication is key. The best thing about holding a meeting with all employees present is that everyone hears the same message. Telling individual groups the same news will start to look a lot like the children’s party game 'telephone', where the first person whispers in the ear of the next and by the time the last person in the chain hears the whisper, it was nothing like the original message. Hearing the latest business news and the measurable goals all together helps ensure we all get the same message.
Another great way to communicate is in writing. Call it a company newsletter, monthly summary or a sharing of goals, but the written format needs to be consistent and appear at a regular time. Typically after the prior month closes, good communicators share some good news, some bad news (we lost insurer X due to…..) and – the most useful – measurable goals for next month.
Break It Down
By sharing the company goals with all employees, everyone can help reach them. Break down big numbers into smaller, easier-to-understand goals. Speak about “hours sold”, the importance of “Return on Investment”, etc.
An increase in labour efficiency and production efficiency. Production efficiency is a great and measurable goal.
Make the shop goals clear and measurable and everyone can help achieve them. Work according to successful benchmarks.
Good and consistent company-wide communication is the key to the best-of-the-best-of-the-best body shops. Start talking about business with your employees, tell them clearly where you are and where you would like to be. My bet is they’ll pitch in and help you achieve the goal.
Source: Body Shop Business Author: Mark Clark