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Learning from peers and using new tools and processes has been the motto of Roy Foster to improve his shop operation since he started getting into the Digital Shop. Join Bill, Uwe, and Roy in discussing what changes he made, how he adjusted what didn’t work and how it paid off.

Episode Transcript

This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
Good morning and good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we gather on Wednesdays at 12 Central to have our panelists share some information about the industry. Today I’m here with Roy Foster, owner of Roy Foster’s Automotive. Been on the show with us many times, sharing some wisdom. Welcome back, Roy. Good to have you here.
Roy Foster (00:25):
Good to be here. Thank
Bill Connor (00:26):
You. Awesome. And I’ve got AutoVitals’ founder, Uwe Kleinschmidt, who is a usual here to guide us along the way. So join us today where we have some discussion about learning from your peers and using new tools and processes that really should be your motto. As long as you’re in this industry, what is the best practice to implement change in your shop? What are some examples and their advantages and are there some potential pitfalls you might run into along the way? As always, teamwork is required in the shop to provide great results. We’ll talk about that today and you’re going to take away some great tips about learning from your peers and using what you learned to grow your shop. As always, you’ll learn from our guest panelists who operate shops just like yours. So if you wouldn’t mind, how about getting us started on this important topic?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:15):
Thank you Roy for coming on. You are one who is involved in many initiatives, especially with the NAPA group, and we would love to have you introduce yourself, size of the shop, and then maybe some KPIs if you could. And then let’s focus on, if you look back, I don’t know, eight years, five years, how did you run the shop and now compare and contrast that with today and what are the biggest differences you see? Maybe we start off like that.
Roy Foster (02:05):
Alright, thanks Uwe. Thanks Bill. Yeah, I’m Roy Foster. The company is Roy Foster’s Automotive. Actually. My father was also Roy Foster who started the company in 1947. Owned a couple of Chevron stations, actually several over the years. So grew up in the business and it’s been really good to me and my family. So I have third generation, I have a couple boys in the business just graduating from the Napa Apprentice program and we’re excited about that. So been with AutoVitals I think since about 2014. It’s been a good successful choice for us. Our average repair order has more than doubled and we’ve actually reduced the car count and increased revenue significantly because of the average repair order. And I attribute that to the obviously training, things like this, learning from my peers. There’s always great takeaways when we’re peer to peer learning, but especially the digital vehicle inspection, that’s a game changer for the industry. I really believe it’s probably the greatest tool that’s come along in decades. So not only for the shop to increase revenue, but for the consumer to be educated and to understand what’s going on with the car, what’s in it for them, why it’s important to do things. It addresses all those things and a satisfied customer.
That’s our number one strategy in business. If we can take good care of our customers and know that they care about or that we care about them and that we’re caring for their car, then everything else takes care of itself. The numbers take care of themselves, the referrals take care of themselves. Just one example. So I coached baseball with my boys and one of the other coaches came up to me one day and said, Hey Roy, you changed my life, my whole world. I can’t thank you enough. I’m like, what did I do? He said, every Saturday morning my wife would be on me. Can you check the oil in the car? Can you check the tires? She was always so nervous about the car. Well, we became friends and he sent his wife down here to get the oil changed. We did the vehicle inspection, explained the process to her, went over the vehicle inspection after the fact, explained everything, the educational materials embedded. She had total confidence in what we were telling her. But also in the car, my friend’s like she doesn’t let me near the car anymore and it’s the greatest thing ever. Now I go golfing, my Saturdays are mine. So it truly can change the world. So
That’s just one cool experience.
Bill Connor (05:40):
So you’re actually being a little bit modest here when you talk about you’ve been in business 37 years and you’ve had this growth, and to be more clear over the last couple of years, you’ve started out at about a $300 ARO and doubled it. You’ve decreased car count at the same time by about a hundred cars and you’ve grown your weekly revenue. So I just wanted to make sure people didn’t think that you grew your ARO over the 37 years by double.
Roy Foster (06:08):
No, exactly. We’re talking just over the last few years. So just looked at some numbers and from 2018 ARO of three 30, now we’re in the mid seven hundreds. And keep in mind we do a lot of state vehicle inspections, which are 30 bucks a pop. We do several of those a day, so that’s factored in as well. When I run that on a separate spreadsheet or actual ARO, right around a thousand, and I attribute it well for one to the digital vehicle inspection, but then to my team following the process. And that process has to start with us. We have to be bought in, we have to decide that we’re all in with this and we just can’t look back.
We have to follow the 300% rule, which most of you know what it is, but I’ll just go into that briefly in case somebody’s unclear. So the 300% rule is a game changer. The 300% rule is we inspect a hundred percent of the cars, we estimate a hundred percent of the inspections and we present a hundred percent of the estimates to the customer. And to some that might sound scary, but it’s literally giving the client the best possible service that we can. We’re giving them full disclosure. I like to think of it, if we went to the doctor, would we want the doctor to omit information that he knows about our health? I don’t think so. Same thing with the car, the tires worn out. We need to let people know if the steering suspension needs repairs, we need to let ’em know. We got to get past that fear and worried about what people think. Really we do need to worry about what they think. Perception is a big thing and as they perceive us to be very thorough and it’s never been a high pressure thing. We just give them all the information. It’s their car, it’s their money, it’s their choice. But it’s been really effective for us.
Bill Connor (08:32):
And when you said all in, can you define all in what does that mean?
Roy Foster (08:36):
Yeah, so when I first went to DVI, obviously we were inspecting cars on paper. I think the technicians have their favorite things. One guy would always get a brake flush, one guy might always get a transmission flush, different things. It was never a thorough inspection. I think they were just looking for obvious concerns and kind of cherry picking their favorite services. So once we developed the digital vehicle inspection and trained on it, now we have consistency. So all the inspections are being done the same and we’re not seeing that favorite service popping up for each tech, but rather we we’re seeing the customer’s needs being met. And so being all in has to start with the top. We have to be convinced, we have to decide this is how we’re going to do it and then we have to move forward unrelenting, every car gets inspected properly or the service advisor needs to send it back. And I think an important piece of that is we first need to master the inspection and understand it so that we totally understand the inspection, how it works, how the tablet works, how the shop flow works so that we can train our employees properly so that we can answer the questions. And then we just all in follow the 300% rule.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (10:27):
And I mean this is so easily said, right, what you just explained that the tough part is the implementation and the consistent implementation and not stop after a week just because the bus goes on vacation or whatever happens. So if you wouldn’t mind going to the next level of detail, how did you motivate the staff and did you actually yourself ran for a while in their shoes and then demonstrated to them what you think is the best approach and then had to talk about it, what their input is? I mean, how did you do that? And you have to run your normal business on the side, on the side. So how do you combine those two?
Roy Foster (11:29):
So that’s an excellent question. So initially we got the tablets, we got it working, headed to the text, here you go. And it was a pretty big fail. There was a lot of frustration. So like you said, I had to figure it out myself. I had to go and do inspections. We did ’em together as a team. I really believe in our weekly meetings, I really love to get the feedback from the technicians rather than me making the choices how things should be. We counsel together and we come up with, we take away their ideas and implement ’em, and then we start to get buy-in and with me out there doing inspections with them initially consulting together, making those changes that they suggest they got on board fairly quickly and the older guys have a little bit of a struggle with the tablets navigating, especially when there’s an update.
When we went to the guided, they were all upset. The interesting thing is, so I have three apprentice technicians who are graduating from the Napa apprentice program and they’re awesome, never had a problem. They do the best inspections, get the best pictures, and when the master techs are mentoring the apprentices on how to repair something, how to diagnose something, whatever the process is on a car, we see the apprentice technicians mentoring the older guys on how to navigate the tablet, how to take a better picture, how to, it doesn’t take five clicks, you just do it this way type thing. And them working together, it’s running smoothly now and the numbers proof it out. And this is no slam against you guys, but I think it was about two years ago we got onto a beta software program and it was terrible that the tablets went down. And finally I just had to go back to paper until we could revert things back to where they were and fix those bugs and basically had a mutiny on my hands when we took away the tablets. They’re like, where’s my tablet? I can’t work with paper. So once they adapt to it, you’ll never get it away from ’em.
Bill Connor (14:25):
You had mentioned yourself personally, it was kind of hard to go and make that transition to actually rip all the paper out of the shop and go completely digital. Can you talk about what finally convinced you?
Roy Foster (14:40):
Yeah, so it was at the AutoVitals conference and I forget who the presenter was, maybe Russ Crosby, but whomever it was, they’re talking about you just got to get rid of the paper, you got to go all digital. To me it just sounded like, wow, that’s such a leap. But we made the commitment as a shop and we did it and honestly it was all in my head. Once we got rid of the paper and everything’s digital, it was a breeze to transition and I thought there were going to be all sorts of problems and I was really resistant, but my son, Mike was really pressing me. We got to do this, we got to do this. So we went all in and did it and it’s been great. No more lost repair orders, no more the guy coming in, Hey, have you seen this paperwork or that paperwork? The chat functions are great. It was really a smooth transition and all the problems were just all in my head.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:02):
If I may, for people who agree with you and us on everything, how great the digital inspection is, but still run into resistance or have the same challenge you just described because you have been doing this for years, so the big leap is too much risk. What’s your advice, the small steps or the key steps to do to get this your head free and clear and just do it?
Roy Foster (16:50):
So prior the paper inspection, we had file folders on the wall, scheduled work, prepare, estimate, waiting for parts and so on. And honestly, all we had to do is put those same file folders into our work step flows. So nothing really changed other than we weren’t walking back and forth to grab paperwork. We weren’t walking around looking for lost paperwork. All those steps were still there. They were just on the service advisor screen and on the technician’s tablets. It really wasn’t what it was in my head. In my head it seemed catastrophic, but the actual application of it was really super simple. And
Uwe Kleinschmidt (17:41):
So it was for you, instead of looking at this big rack with paper, you had to put a somewhere where you in your office or wherever, and then you had direct just digitized. That was
Roy Foster (18:01):
For every file folder it was labeled, like I said, prepare us, waiting for parts, waiting for pickup, waiting for quality check, whatever those were. Just put those in the workflow steps, the exact same thing. So nothing changed other than we weren’t moving all this paper around. The technician doesn’t have to walk back and forth to the office to grab a repair order or turn a repair in. It’s just on the tablet and nothing’s getting lost.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (18:33):
Have you taught it with the idea of putting up a big screen for everybody to see what’s going on in the shop?
Roy Foster (18:41):
We have done that. It’s in the shop and that’s been very effective. We use it each morning in our morning huddle. And so one of the successes of that I think is each technician has tunnel vision, what’s on their tablet, what they have. But as we talk about the whole scope of things collectively, they see more big picture. I think they’re understanding more what the service advisor’s dealing with. They have all these commitments made. The technicians aren’t really, they’re not even mindful of that stuff typically they’re just mindful of what’s on their tablet. But it’s been really helpful to have that screen out there, have the morning huddle and just kind of go over everything. And then our advisors obviously go over it a couple times a day together. But yeah, that’s been really nice. I would recommend that as well.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:40):
And in the pre-meeting, you mentioned one of the steps to have yourself going, the commitment, you hired a third service advisor. How did that go down? I mean, you made the decision right after the digital shop conference and then told your two service advisor, Hey, there’s a third one, or how did that work?
Roy Foster (20:09):
So my advisors are just so now I don’t not only want them to prepare an estimate order parts in this, but now they have to edit each inspection. They have to spend more time ideally at the front counter, they explain the process, they go through the inspection with each client as they come in, show ’em how to navigate through it, tell ’em what to expect through the day, set the expectation and then they have to, when that technician sends that back in, they need to edit all the pictures they need to put in, clean up all the notes, all that takes time. And then they need to get the customer on the phone and ideally have that customer open that inspection back up and then walk them through it and answer any questions and explain things. And so all that, that’s a lot of extra time for an advisor opposed to what they were doing prior.
So yeah, the solution was to not burn those guys out. I brought in a third advisor and I also put them on a four day work week. So they all work Monday and they all work Friday and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday they rotate days off. So one of those weekdays I’m only, or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I only have two advisors, but a lot of the stuff’s been quoted on Monday and it’s kind of on cruise control. And then Friday is the big push to get everything out the door and people picking things up. So it is worked out really nicely for us.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (21:51):
That’s very cool.
Roy Foster (21:53):
So advisor burnout’s a big concern of mine and it definitely took a lot of pressure off those guys. I have high expectations, they can’t cut any of these corners. All those things I talked about have to be done every time because now that’s the expectation the customer has. They expect, expect that inspection, they expect that consultation. That’s what the service advisor is, right, to advise the customer. So not just to give ’em a price on something, but to walk them through the process and the repair.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (22:32):
So how do you deal with customers? You mentioned before the introduction of the 300% rule. I imagine for a highly customer oriented service advisor where the customer comes in and says, I just want this. Don’t even tell me more. I want to get out of here in two hours. So now with three the percent rule, how do you this? So
Roy Foster (23:00):
It’s a case by case thing. Sometimes depending on the circumstances, somebody’s got to get their car on the road, they just need whatever. I’m not totally unwavering on it, but typically, we’ll let the customer know we’re probably not the shop for you because this is our process. We always follow this process because if we send you down the road and something fails, then we would be negligent. And it’s our job as professionals to give you full disclosure to fully inspect your car each time.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (23:39):
And so there was not, I mean maybe I’m making it bigger than it is, but I imagine that’s a change of habit and part of the source advisor, which is not easy and not done overnight.
Roy Foster (23:53):
All of this is a process. I didn’t go in with all this information, I’m just telling you, and it happened the next day. It’s taken a lot of grooming weekly meetings. We constantly talk about it. And that’s another key for the implementation is I highly believe in, we have a screen in our meeting room and I’ll bring up the business control panel. We look at the weekly revenue, we look at the average repairer, we look at the average research time, the pictures taken, the effective labor rate. We’re looking at all these things and I’m teaching them what effect they have on the business and what effect it has on their paycheck. And as they start to get buy-in and they start to see, oh, if I do a better inspection with more pictures and more recommendations, which results in a higher average research time results in more average hours per ro, which means they’re not just processing cars in and out of the shop, rather they’re spending more time maybe three or four cars a day rather than six cars a day and making less money.
So yeah, I even share my average revenue and I explain to these guys, it looks like a lot of money to them, but I think there’s a lot of value in sharing that because they do. They see all these high price tickets coming through the counter and think I’m the rich, greedy guy. But as I’m able to talk about why do we have to have so much revenue each week because they want to get paid well, they want their benefits, they want new equipment, they want paid time off and the list goes on. When covid happened, especially the first week or two, the streets were completely dead. It’s just like somebody just turned off the switch and everything stopped. And I was able to go out to my crew and say, Hey, because we’ve been meeting our goals because we’ve been making this revenue, you guys don’t have to worry. I’m going to continue to be able to pay you because of what we’re doing. We have a healthy business. And that was awesome for them to hear. It was awesome for me to be able to relate to ’em. And I just think sharing that information with them and educating the crew that all money they see isn’t landing in my pocket.
Bill Connor (26:49):
Yeah. So can we set up a concrete example of what happens when, let’s say that you go to the Napa Autocare conference and you learn from your peers about this new great thing, this digital inspection and workflow, and you say, aha, I’ve got to bring that back to my shop and roll that out to them and get it to work. And I know that I can do this because these other people, I talk to them and they’re no sharper than I am. I know it can be done. So how do you go about bringing that back into your shop?
Roy Foster (27:23):
Well, one great way is what we’re doing right now, right? We’re learning peer-to-peer talking to our peers, what did you have to do? What were your hurdles and what were your shortcomings and things like that. And again, it goes back to as the owner or the general manager, whoever it is, being able to master that and get it all working prior to rolling it out. We don’t want to roll it out into the shop and all of us, the leadership not understanding how it works and how to help fix problems and how to train. So does that answer your question?
Bill Connor (28:10):
What are some of the whys you would go ahead and give to your staff? Why are we doing this? Because that’s really what they want to know. So Roy, why are we changing what we’ve been doing for the last 36 years into something different?
Roy Foster (28:26):
Well, why is the things I talked about? And it goes back to a satisfied customer. That’s our number one goal. If we satisfy our customers and we do great service, exceptional like they’ve never experienced, they’re going to come back. And not only that, they’re going to tell their friends and we have about 500 Google reviews and probably the majority of ’em mentioned the digital inspection. So it’s definitely something that the consumer wants and values. And then I think as we train and show them the KPIs and show them the benefits that we’re getting from doing this, that they benefit from it as well. I think that’s how you get buy-in. And I think it takes time. I think it takes training, a lot of mentoring and some trial and error. We didn’t get it right the first time. We’re still evolving all the time. We’re still working on our inspection sheets and mapping ’em out and seeing what’s effective and what’s not.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (29:51):
But to me that’s the beauty about a shift of culture, this incremental improvement that people know, they give input during the weekly meeting and the day later it’s being implemented. I mean, that’s an awesome confirmation that participating pays off. It’s not just, I mentioned that four weeks ago in a meeting, what happened to that? That doesn’t happen anymore. And that encourages everybody to be part of doing something better.
Roy Foster (30:30):
Absolutely, yeah. If they’re being heard
Bill Connor (30:34):
For your staff, you really want to go ahead and make sure that they understand why you’re changing the direction of your battleship out there floating around. You’re changing direction. And then what you want to do is constantly go ahead and give them feedback on what that win means to the consumer and also to them,
Roy Foster (30:52):
Right? And in the business control panel week by week, we can measure successes and failures. We can measure if they’ve checked a hundred cabin air filters and sold too. Maybe we shouldn’t be wasting time checking cabin air filters or maybe we need to train the service advisor how to sell those. So you
Uwe Kleinschmidt (31:20):
Go to that level of detail. So you use the canned jobs being identified and sold in the business control? Yeah. Wow, amazing.
Roy Foster (31:31):
And break it down by each employee, average research time, pictures, all that. It’s all on the screen. So when the whole crew is sitting there looking at it, these guys, they want to look good. So they do their job and they see the result. I think that’s the biggest thing. When they see the results and the culture is good, all my guys are just, they’re all bought in. They understand it.
Bill Connor (32:02):
So you talked about being able to measure successes in your failures. So when you go ahead and have something that comes up on a failure, you didn’t get where you want to be, do you just go ahead and give up on it? Or do you go ahead and work with your staff to figure out just a different way to go ahead and get it done?
Roy Foster (32:19):
Yeah, exactly. So depending on what it is. So it may be something that we decided to add to the inspection sheet, and I can’t think of a good example, but like I said, they’ve checked it 50 times and we haven’t sold anything. So then we have to drill down why is that? Is it the consumer’s not interested in doing that? Is the service advisor not presenting it correctly? Is the presentation on the tablet not good? Or maybe all that’s good and it’s just not going to happen. So it might be one of those things we just don’t want to waste our time doing.
Bill Connor (33:04):
So there’s a couple of questions come in that you might want to go and address. One of ’em said, are your techs hourly or are they flag hourly? That’s one question. And the second one is do you go ahead and compensate your technicians time-wise for the digital inspections?
Roy Foster (33:22):
So my guys are flat rate and I do pay them three tenths for inspection, and it takes probably 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes even a little longer to do a thorough inspection. But I’m not getting much pushback because they know if they do a thorough inspection, they’re going to bill more hours on that vehicle. So it’s a win-win win for everybody.
Bill Connor (33:50):
So as part of the critical thing when it comes to the technicians doing the inspections is following that 300% rule because they know that it’s the policy that everything that they find and document properly gets estimated and then presented to the customer. But if you lose out on any one of them features, then all of a sudden you go ahead and have kind of a mutiny on your hands.
Roy Foster (34:14):
So that’s a really good question. So I also work with repair shop at tomorrow, and we have a tool that we use that each day we’re tracking the odometer, we’re tracking the average estimate and then the average repair order. And it’s pretty interesting. So if your average estimate’s $700, you’re never going to have a $700 average repair order. It needs to be much higher. So it should be probably around 2,500 or something. What I’m seeing, and so there’s days where I’ll be looking at these numbers and say it’s a vehicle with 120,000 miles and it’s a $300 estimate, $300 average repair order. To me that’s a red flag. So I’m going to go in and I’m going to look at three repair order and I’m going to look at the inspection. So here’s a great example. What I found one day on that very same scenario, the tech did a fantastic inspection, pictures, tread depth of the tires, battery tests, pictures of the air filter in the cabin air filter, complete fluid trays, top and bottom of the car.
He did a great inspection. There were several recommendations made, and the average adjustment was 300. And the average, the report was 300. So the customer bought everything presented, but the problem is that tech or the service advisor did not estimate or present the findings of that. So the technician spent all this time on this quality inspection and the customer lost out because they didn’t even know about all these things that were found. The shop lost out and the technician lost out. Also, the advisors lost out. My advisors are also paid on incentive pay collectively. And so everybody lost on that deal, but it is very revealing. So those guys know I’m watching that as well. So that hasn’t happened again.
Bill Connor (36:37):
Can you identify the root cause on how that happens? Is it a time issue? Is it a emotion issue? They feel the customer doesn’t want to do it or doesn’t have the money, it’s a waste of time. What are some of the things that you can identify that’s the root cause of that particular opportunity For improvement?
Roy Foster (36:54):
Yeah, improve. Well, that particular time was just a lazy service advisor. He just for whatever reason, decided not to do it, decided that he kind of pre-judged the customer. I didn’t think they were going to spend any money, so I just didn’t bother. It’s like, yeah, but that’s not the process. We have to follow the process. We just can’t be thinking for our clients. We don’t know what they want and it’s our job to give them full disclosure. We have that information, we can’t withhold it. We need to present it to ’em each time.
Bill Connor (37:33):
So in your eyes, there is no fear of going ahead and giving the consumer all the information about their vehicle and letting them decide. You don’t go ahead and tell your service, Hey, don’t estimate anything over $1,500. I don’t want to scare ’em away.
Roy Foster (37:46):
Definitely don’t do that. Yeah, we present everything we find. We let the customer know upfront this is what’s going to happen. So they’re already knowing we’re going to look everything over, we’re going to give you a price, and then we’re going to break it down for ’em. So we’re going to first address their primary concern. Second, we’re going to address any safety items, and then third, we’ll address the maintenance items so we can break it down like that for ’em. So then if money’s an issue, then we can help with that too. We might use our NAPA EasyPay or we might say, Hey, let’s do the safety and the primary concern today, and then let’s exit schedule these maintenance items. And we can do those a little at a time. But you’re doing everybody a disservice if you’re not presenting everything every time, in my opinion.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (38:44):
No, there’s no doubt, no doubt. I want to ask you a question. We have seen trends where the went as far as splitting the service advisor work into specialized estimators and production manager or something like that, or dispatcher. You have not done that.
Roy Foster (39:12):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (39:15):
So I would love to know, I assume it crossed your mind, but the way you operate right now is better. So how was the thought process?
Roy Foster (39:29):
So it’s worked with three advisors is working well for me. Me, I had two advisors. I was at the shop conference AutoVitals shop conference, and John Long was presenting and he was showing his numbers and with two advisors, and then he had hired a third person who was an estimator parts procurement type thing. So I could definitely see the advantage at that time. So I started pursuing that and I just couldn’t find the right person for that. There was some part counter guys I tried to recruit but wasn’t successful then found some qualified advisor. So I just went that route and it’s worked out well for me, but I think either way it could work really well.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (40:26):
No, no, I’m not judging. I’m just trying to
Roy Foster (40:32):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (40:33):
Get you feedback because some service advisors, I can see what you’re saying. There is a, how do I put this? I have met a lot of service advisors who are extremely proud of covering the whole shebang. And by you adding one more, you give them the time to do that well and not rush it. And so for them specialization would be, oh, I don’t do this well or there is some doubt. And John Long talked about that. His service advisors told him, are you not satisfied with us? You’re taking walk away from us. And so I can see that dynamic, but so I’m just curious.
Roy Foster (41:30):
So I haven’t really specialized it down that way. They may be doing that organically like, Hey, you might be better at this. How about do this one? And I do that one. They work together really well. So one of my advisors is also my general manager. So Brad, he’s been on the show before, Brad iff, he does a lot of the training and implementing, he’s an amazing advisor, so he is always mentoring these guys and helping out. But I would say if anything specialized, he might take that, but it’s probably just happening organically or he’s overseeing it. And so hopefully that answers your
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:19):
Question. Yeah, that does. Thank you. How is it in the back shop? Do you have a foreman type of master tech or how do you specialize there?
Roy Foster (42:32):
So Brad helps out there too. So he’s overseeing the shop’s eight bays, and we have six techs and three of ’em are just graduated apprentices. So they’re doing really great. And then the other three are master techs, plus I’m a master tech and I get bored in my office. I’ll go down there and help mentor and help with those guys as well and see a problem serve it. But mostly that’s Brad, my general manager,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:09):
Manager, so he knows everything, the counter and the back shop. So that’s amazing, right? That’s a rare breed, right?
Roy Foster (43:18):
Yeah, he’s a great employee, great team member. Thank
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:25):
Roy Foster (43:26):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:29):
Wow, time flies. So I would like to ask, going back to the learning from peers, what amazes me to be honest is you go to the digital shop conference, just the right guy has to give a presentation and you go back and implement. So is that how easy it’s,
Roy Foster (44:00):
It’s motivating, right? So hey, this is working for me. We live in the same world. So it just became really obvious to me is like, that’s my problem. That’s what I need to get to. The next level I’m looking for. That’s my bottleneck. So down in my day-to-day stuff, I just wasn’t recognizing where my bottleneck was and what I needed to do for my next step. And that was huge for me.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (44:35):
Bill Connor (44:35):
Really so common though, is that people that actually are working in the shop every day until they step out away from it and kind of examine what good looks like in other parts of the industry, they just really don’t see it. They’re too busy doing busy stuff.
Roy Foster (44:52):
Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why the conferences and things and things like this are so great. Just hearing other peers, because like I said, we all live in the same world. Our circumstances are so similar from shop to shop and it’s just a great platform to learn.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (45:19):
And would you really recommend get out of the shop? Don’t sit in webinars unless it’s the pandemic, otherwise get out of your busy environment consciously and then meet peers face to face at a conference. There’s nothing which can replace that.
Roy Foster (45:46):
There’s a huge power in that for sure. But still stuff like this, webinar owners have to be working on the business, not in the business. We have to have our service advisors and our technicians and we can’t be, if I’m at the counter, what’s going to happen is I’m going to say, can’t you give Mrs. Jones a better deal? You just flicker ahead of all these other people. I’m going to screw it up if I’m down there or people are going to see me, they’re going to, Hey, Roy, can you help me out? So I stay as far away from the counter as possible. I do go in the shop and kind of help out mentor because I can help there. But if I’m anywhere near the counter, I believe it’s a detriment. My greatest value is working on the business, not in the business. And every opportunity.
Bill Connor (46:43):
Let me see if I can give you a good description of an owner’s job. Educate, delegate, measure and mentor and get out of the damn way.
Roy Foster (46:55):
That’s right. Summed it up.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (47:02):
That’s hard. Well, how long did it take you to not only intellectually understand that, but actually implement it?
Roy Foster (47:14):
Honestly, it took years. The first step was letting go of hiring more mechanics in the shop because I want it done. I want it done my way. So that was my first, and then the service advisor lead, then it was a bookkeeper, and now I have a general manager. So everything’s pushed down and the business is more successful than ever because how much work can I do delegating to 13 people and I could do myself. It’s a simple math and as far as worrying about things being done, you just have to inspect what you expect and you have to train. When there’s a weakness, it’s a training opportunity. So we bring it in our meetings and we train and we fix it that way. We don’t go out and beat somebody down, but we will just train and we’ll get better and better each time. Go
Bill Connor (48:23):
Get it. So when you actually bring people into the shop, are you bringing them in for a specific job or are you recruiting them to go ahead and have a career path with Roy Foster’s automotive?
Roy Foster (48:35):
Both. So generally entering at a specific job, but so Brad, the one I’m speaking so highly on, my general manager, he came to work for me, sweeping floors, changing oil. So that’s a good example. I use that we’re a growing company and there is opportunity to advance through the company.
Bill Connor (49:04):
Do you ask them where they want to be in the future?
Roy Foster (49:07):
Absolutely. I would love to have 10 Brads and 10 more shops. If you get the right people, that wouldn’t suck.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (49:23):
That’s hard to do. Is that one of your goals? Get another location?
Roy Foster (49:30):
Yeah, it is eventually. So two of my apprentices are my sons. And so consequently that’s part of my succession plan. Unless they change their minds right now, they just, they’re in love with this business and they have a passion for it and they always have as little kids always wanting to be around the shop and around cars and helping me fix things.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (49:56):
Very cool.
Roy Foster (49:58):
So yeah, I’d love to just have more and more locations so when the opportunity is right, then we will be prepared and we’ll move on to that. So
Bill Connor (50:13):
Your takeaway for the industry is to go ahead and bring people in and treat ’em like your daughter or son to where you can grow them in the business so you’ve got an exit strategy.
Roy Foster (50:22):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So my sons may decide it’s not them. So it could be Brad, that could be the exit strategy, but we all have to be thinking about that as well. And the more things we do right in our business, the more value our business grows. So as we have our SOPs and we’re constantly increasing revenue and we have a great culture and all those things are just adding value to the business, and that’s really important.
Bill Connor (51:10):
So on today’s topic, do you have a top three list about going ahead and learning from your peers and then bringing that idea back and implementing it in your shop that you’d like to go and share with our listeners?
Roy Foster (51:28):
I’m not sure exactly how to frame that, but I would say first we have to have a vision and then we have to set goals, and then we have to have a plan how we’re going to, we’re going to meet those goals and accomplish our vision. I would love to see another digital shop conference. I would encourage people when that happens, to attend mastermind meetings, attend NAPA Expo, get the information you can, and when you feel inspired to do something, I think you should write it down and then you should act upon it. Because otherwise then it’s just fleeting. It’s never going to happen. So I think that’s really important. We have to act. We can’t just hope things are going to happen, but we have to, like I said, have the vision, have the goal, have the plan, and then just act. Does that help?
Bill Connor (52:41):
Yep. You’re acting in a way that you’re explaining to your staff why you’re doing it, what’s in it for the customer and them, and then giving them some ideas on how you want it done and how you’re going to measure success. And I guess the only other thing missing on there from a smart goal would be what type of timeline you want each of them steps to take place.
Roy Foster (53:08):
Oh, precisely. Yeah, we have to definitely. That’s got to be a factor.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (53:16):
I like this. When you get inspired, write it down so it’s not flee. How often do we get excited about something and then the next day, what was that little detail?
Roy Foster (53:30):
Oh man, I can’t tell you how many times that inspiration comes and it’s fleeting. So definitely when inspiration comes, write it down and act on it because that inspiration came and it was powerful at the moment. So there’s a lot of power in that if we act on it, follow through. Yep.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (53:51):
I love
Bill Connor (53:51):
That. One more thing, if you’re at a conference, you’re going to come back with lots of ideas when you get back before you start implementing it, put them in an order of what’s going to be the highest value to the consumer in your staff before you just start trying to apply the whole list at the same time. Because I don’t know about you. Every conference I’ve been at, there’s been a whole list of things that were really great ideas,
Roy Foster (54:13):
Right? Yeah. So yeah, you definitely need to prioritize those things, but it can bring you a lot of success by acting on those things and implementing ’em. Like my third advisor, we’ve had great success and not only has it helped the customer experience the perception, but definitely the culture around here. Because those guys know I care about ’em. They know I don’t want to burn ’em out. They know that I recognize that time is important to them and that just trickles down adds to a good culture.
Bill Connor (55:04):
Awesome. We’re about to end here. You have anything you want to add before we go and wrap up?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:11):
No. First of all, I would like to thank you vo. That was awesome. And what I’m really impressed with your method is really well thought out and I bet hiring the third advisor was you had to kick yourself a little bit to do that, but the success just confirmed your thinking. So thank you for sharing that and hopefully it inspires our listeners to think in the same way, take a little bit of risk, do the right thing. It can never be wrong.
Roy Foster (56:05):
Well, that’s part of the process. So sometimes we’re going to fail, but failing is part of the learning process. So we have to be able to take that risk. We just need to put ourselves out there and that’s just part of the process. But hopefully more successful
Bill Connor (56:26):
Fail quickly and move on. Don’t dwell on it, right?
Roy Foster (56:29):
Bill Connor (56:31):
So we’re down to the end here. So Roy, I’d like to thank you and I’d also like to thank other panelists that have joined us in the past. And if you’d like to join us as a panelists in the future, please go ahead and send us a message. You can find us by all our episodes. We’re on episode 176, so there’s a lot of information stored up there. Go to and go down through that list. Many great panelists have been there. Share that link with somebody else in your area, another shop owner that might be struggling a little bit or needs some assistance. Go ahead and bring them along for the journey. And once again, thank everybody for listening. Go out there and have a great day. Make some money and while your customer is in the process, thank you, Roy. We certainly appreciate it.
Roy Foster (57:17):
Thanks, Bill. Thanks Uwe. Thank you Roy. Everybody.

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