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As previous episodes concluded: An inspection is not effective without an underlying process bought into by the team. Different shop types have different processes. Sheldon Barthlama and Steve Schlaff will share with their process Bill and Uwe.

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, good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you reached a Digital Shop Talk Radio where we gather on Wednesdays at 12 o’clock central with our panelists to help us share things that are going on to improve the industry. Today I’m here with Steve Schlaff, the COO of All Around Auto Care, a multi-shop location. Also Sheldon Barthlama, owner of Stan’s Auto Service Inc. And we have Uwe here, AutoVitals, very own Chief Innovation Officer. Today we’re going to be discussing an inspection sheet is not effective without an underlying process brought into it by bringing the team together, different shop types have different processes. We’re going to hear about that from two different type of shops today and our panels will share with you their process and how it has been evolving over time and what their plans are for the future. Digital inspections are part of providing transparency and convenient for the customer and also internal communications With the shop. You’ll take away some tips to put the digital shop and inspect sheets to work in your shop and always you will learn from our guest panelists operating shops just like yours. So if you would go ahead and get us started. I appreciate it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:15):
Yeah, thank you. And thank you Steve and Sheldon for taking the time. It has been an interesting topic in the last, I’d say 12 weeks where there are a lot of shop owners who still in the mindset of, oh, digital inspection, I can add pictures to what I had before in the paper world. And that’s the value. And that is the value, there’s no doubt, but there’s so much more. And so we started diving into what is there, what is more? And interestingly what we found out from panelists like you that it’s all about how you use the digital inspection in your shop operation. What’s the process that the inspection should be tailored to? And that leads to how do you involve your team. So if everybody on the team is dedicated and brings input now so it becomes a continuous process and the inspection sheet is constantly improving, all of a sudden you have a different culture in the shop. And so we would like to discuss today with you guys how you did that in your shop and before we can do that, it would be nice if you quickly introduce yourself, size of the shop, name, location, ARO, number of inspection sheets, and last but not least, what was your biggest epiphany when you started rolling out digital inspection? I hope that’s not too much at once.
Steve, do you want to start?
Steve Schlaff (03:24):
Sure. I’m Steve Schlaff from All Around Auto Care. We have two locations in Colorado, one in Westminster, one in Castle Rock. We’ve been with AutoVitals for a while. We started back when we had RO Writer about five plus years ago, then switched to three years with AutoVitals and Protractor and now starting this year we’re doing AutoVitals with wear, so it’s been a learning experience through all of it. Before that, yeah, it was handwritten carbon copy inspection sheets can only fit so much on it. Right now we’re using, we’ve been dialing in over the years. We have five total inspection sheets we use. I can go over them in a little bit more detail in a bit, but we have a life plan, a complete inspection, a visual, a recent visual, and then our pre-purchase right now. I just ran the numbers today and actually my Castle Rock store’s down a little bit on average picture count, but we’re right about 17 to 18 average between the two stores, so they need to bring it up a little bit. Biggest benefit honestly is the customer reaction that I’ve seen it. It’s just been awesome. Half of the Google reviews even say it. They sent me a complete workup with pictures and everything and videos and yeah, I think customers just love it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (04:44):
Would you mind sharing what your, are you all makes or models in both locations and what’s the ARO?
Steve Schlaff (04:52):
Yeah, we’re all makes and models in both locations. Although the Castle Rock does a little bit of medium duty, not too much, but they do some diesel work. I want to say our arrow’s been off to a rocky start with the learning curve with shopper, but it was right around mid sixes last year, year to date.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (05:11):
Okay, thank you. Sheldon.
Sheldon Barthlama (05:16):
So we started it a long time ago with paper, 38 years we’ve been here. My dad started the shop. My son is working here now. He’s fifth generation technician, so it’s kind of cool. We work from Audis to RVs, semi-trucks to pickups. We do all of ’em. Our goal is about 75% vehicles get an inspection and we’ve been beating that almost weekly now. The guys have got, they’re sold on it. As Steve said, the reaction of the customer, the trust that it builds by them seeing their car and seeing the pictures you can sell without hardly talking to them. I’ve had many customers where we never even talked to ’em. They see the pictures, they say fix this and we’re doing it by text through AutoVitals or email or both. It’s been fantastic. I think our inspections take longer than most, but that’s because we’re doing a lot of the heavier duty stuff.
I have a quick inspect and then I have one long one that we use and the guys didn’t want me to make extra inspections. They liked the large one that they figured out what to touch and what not to touch depending on the vehicle. So we do one, I don’t even know how many contact points are 70 plus our quick one has like 10, but then there’s probably 10 actions per, so they are, I think our average was around 23 pictures. Usually we have a video on every one just about nowadays when it comes to ARO, that’s a whole different convoluted thing because my cars are around eight motor homes that we do are around 2,400.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (07:06):
Sheldon Barthlama (07:06):
Crazy. It’s a whole different game when you start talking to large stuff because you got to have the room, et cetera. But it’s been fantastic because a lot of the people with the motor homes don’t live near here, pulling people in from a long ways away. They have no idea what they’re looking at. So having the pictures, having the digital inspection where we could do the explanation along with it so that everything matches, you have captions to the pictures, et cetera, it just makes them feel so good. And boy, we have people coming through from all over the nation with their motorhomes and when they come through loved one when they’re traveling, they make sure they work it out. So we work on their motor. So it’s kind of cool. The weird little niche we’ve ended up with.
Bill Connor (07:53):
One of the topics that comes up pretty regular as we do these episodes also is that do you focus on a certain time that you want your inspections done in or do you go ahead and focus on having them of a certain quality where they produce?
Sheldon Barthlama (08:09):
I do it by quality. I don’t, it’s the wrong way to say it, but I don’t care how long it takes. I probably between the service advisor and the technician, I’ll bet we spend an hour and a half on everyone, but that’s what no matter
Uwe Kleinschmidt (08:22):
RV or not, it’s no matter whether it’s an RV or passenger car,
Sheldon Barthlama (08:27):
Even a car we’ll spend a good time with because my advisors have gotten to the point where they want that inspection to look perfect for the customer and everything, be totally edited and so on so that when they get it, it looks fantastic. And as Steve said, the reaction from the customer when you get it that way is just phenomenal. Especially when they can look at videos that are attached it that are learning videos, not just the ones we attach, but the ones that come pregenerated,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (09:01):
Bill Connor (09:02):
It’s safe to say that the amount of time it takes, you don’t really care about it because your process is dialed in where it produces results. You’re not just saying, I don’t care how long they take it, you’re saying that I know that if they produce this quality, I’m going to get this type of result from it.
Steve Schlaff (09:19):
And we haven’t set a specific time, but we try to do it as fast as you can but do it perfect, kind of find that balance. That’s why we have the five different inspections. Some are depending on the customer and the vehicle’s needs. We change it up. The goal for the full inspection is about 30 minutes, but that again varies depending on customer’s vehicle goals and we get a lot of our first time customers off of just LOF coupons, so we do and then turn ’em into lifelong. So we do get a significant amount of waiters and obviously that’s where you really got to find that balance between
Sheldon Barthlama (09:58):
That does cause a problem, the waiters, because you’re going to take an oil change and add half hour to an hour to it, so you’ve got to explain it to ’em. You’ve got to sell it on the counter if you’re going to do it, but if they know they’re getting it and it’s just say not costing them money for that, a lot of ’em have that peace of mind then so that they can do that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (10:18):
So yeah, that’s one of the most interesting topics. How do you convince somebody who came into your shop because of a, let’s say oil change expects to be out of there in 20 minutes. How do you convince and sell the value of an inspection? If you could elaborate how you dial that down. Is it a teaser inspection which is 10 points and then you show there’s more to do and that convinces them or how do you do it?
Steve Schlaff (10:54):
So regardless, they first visit, they all get the full boat detailed inspection. We got to get a baseline and know where they’re at. Not that safety issues ever get skipped on any of them, but I want them to have the whole picture upfront of what their vehicle has and what it needs. As far as convincing ’em, it’s not been terrible. You get the person every now and then that expects us to be a grease monkey or a Jiffy Lube and not even have to get out of their car, but we explain that upfront when they’re setting the appointment, we try to encourage ’em to drop off. Usually when they set the appointment we say, Hey, what day and time would you like to drop it off? And then if the conversation goes the way of I’d like to wait, then we kind of handle it from there. But short version, we built a nice waiting room at both stores.
Sheldon Barthlama (11:41):
We do. We have a really nice waiting room. Covid made a little difference there too, but we tried to sell that visit beforehand to make them understand we’re not Jiffy Lube. We don’t have three or four minions running around under the car. We’ve got an actual certified tech doing your oil change so he knows what he’s looking at and he’s going to take longer one person, but I know that the oil filter’s going to be put on, right, that everything’s going to be where it should be by doing it that way. So we have to sell that visit that it may be two hours before you get out of here and most of the time you can run ’em home. We concierge them or we have really ramped up our loaner cars. I think we’re up to six or seven now, so
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:28):
Sheldon Barthlama (12:28):
Cool. It’s another part of the
Bill Connor (12:30):
System. Well, if I’m a service advisor that works for either one of you two guys and I consistently can’t get an authorization from a customer to do what is probably a free inspection that has high value to the customer, how do you coach me to go ahead and encourage me to use different words to make sure that I’m doing a permission based inspection for this customer, that the customer doesn’t get the perception, I’m just shopping on their vehicle.
Steve Schlaff (12:59):
We always come from a standpoint of safety, letting ’em know this is one of your biggest investments you’ll ever have. It costs as the car gets older, it costs more to keep on the road. And so the advisors are pretty good. They interview the customer of their goals. The other side is what are your plans? Do you want to get rid of this thing in the next year? Is this an extra car, is it a beat or do you not care? Again, never skip the safety stuff, but we don’t go as heavy on all of the maintenance items for them. But we have a pretty good team at both stores that they really explain to them the benefit of getting it looked at. And most customers, in my experience, most of the customers have been super appreciative. They said, I feel terrible. I haven’t had this thing into a shop in a year and a half and I have no idea what’s going on underneath. So
Sheldon Barthlama (13:50):
I especially see it in the RV world where they come in, I just had this in the shop, but they do, they change the oil well, they didn’t look at anything and now there’s another problem with it and that’s what you hear, right, is I just had this in the shop, how come they didn’t see this? Well, they rushed it through or whatever the words are, but we try to tell a story, give them that story of that kind of a situation and that usually helps.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (14:18):
So Steve, do you have kind of a questionnaire the service advisor or salesperson is going through for first time customers or how is that embedded in your process or is it even part of the inspection sheet?
Steve Schlaff (14:35):
So not part of the inspection sheet, but there is a questionnaire. A lot of it’s kind of like at the doctor, when was the last time you’ve had this and this and this and this done actually a TI shared a sheet with me yesterday that was almost identical to ours, but then we asked them to rate themselves on a scale of one to four, what kind of customer or what are their vehicle goals with this? And one, I don’t care about anything. I don’t want to fix anything. Four is I want to do everything and three is I want to take care of everything, but I’m budget conscious. And then two is kind the bare minimum to stay on the road
Uwe Kleinschmidt (15:08):
Child. How do you determine that? You said do you try to do that before they even show up? Is it part of the appointment call or how does that work? You’re muted. Sorry.
Sheldon Barthlama (15:23):
Still muted. Still muted. There we go. Come off there. Yeah, we try to do it beforehand, especially on some of the larger vehicles because a lot of the customers don’t know what they have or have not done to their vehicle, so you do have to vet ’em, kind of like what Steve was saying. And that’s the process we go through. Once we do get the car here, the guys will go out with the customer and that’s when actually we have our advisors take the four corner pictures and check it in and see if there’s a lube sticker, all those things. We actually, Bill knows this. We take a picture of the dipstick to make sure there’s oil in there and then we can change as Bill recommended the interval of the oil change. If they’re going through oil, they need to start doing a little quicker interval on their oil change. So the service advisors doing the check-in process, we try to do it if the customer’s not in a hurry, try to do it with them there. If we can just to look over things real quick, maybe there’s a light out or whatever it may be.
Steve Schlaff (16:31):
We try to come from the standpoint, whichever type of customer they are of saving them money because it’s taking care of all your maintenance items. You want to keep this thing for a hundred K, taking care of those maintenance items, we’ll saving money in the long run, but at the same time, if this is a lease or you’re selling this thing in a year, I’m going to save you money and tell you to not do a whole bunch of unnecessary things. If you’re turning it in next month, then let’s not bother
Sheldon Barthlama (16:58):
You try to vet the customer of whether they’re going to keep the car and what they’re going to do with it. Now of course we all hear the other side of the story of I’m going to get this rid of this car in a year and then three years later it’s still there.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (17:10):
Bill Connor (17:13):
But really you’re working on and educating a customer that the time they save today is going to be money out of their pocket in the future. And when you get them to understand that, it really helps slow them down and let you have the time to be a service consultant rather than just an order taker and a transactional type business.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (17:36):
And so can we go into your different approaches in terms of Steve, you said you have five different inspection sheets. Sheldon, you have one big one with a lot of topics. Could you explain maybe Steve, you’ll start again how you came up with those five and what determined it’s five and a three or six or whatever the magic number became five?
Steve Schlaff (18:05):
Sure. So first visit for pretty much every customer, unless it’s crystal clear, I want in and out in 30 minutes, which is very rare. We do our full boat, which is called our life plan inspection. So on that one it’s the works. We check everything, all safety items, all fluids, pull filters, all the measurements, and there’s a tab for maintenance section and the tech’s job in that is to mark every single action that’ll ever be due by mileage on that. So if it’s 40,000 miles on the car, he’s selecting timing belts due by mileage and then once that gets imported into shop ware in the front end, their job’s to look at service intervals, dig through Carfax history, any history the customer shared with them as well. And we preface all those jobs with due at or overdue or dark slash overdue and all the ones that aren’t due yet or that they don’t do that day stay as a declined service with that customer. The next one for follow-up visits is are complete, which is the same thing minus the maintenance.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:06):
Before you go on, if I may ask a few questions, so it’s still complimentary. How many topics are we talking about?
Steve Schlaff (19:13):
That one’s 57.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:15):
Oh, so it’s not huge and super long. Okay. And it’s complimentary. Okay,
Steve Schlaff (19:22):
Thank you. Now we compiled a lot of stuff into single topics with some have 15 to 20 actions.
There’s still probably 200 plus can jobs on the sheet I would say at least. But yeah, then follow a visits, we do a complete inspection that’s the same thing minus the maintenance stuff. We still check the fluids and see if they’ve progressed or gotten dark or anything like that, but it’s still the works. That’s at 54 we for visual inspection at 17 topics, that’s a couple reasons for that. One, if the customer calls in for their second visit and I see decline last visit, air filter, dirty cabin, air filter, dirty, those are our cheapest services. So just prefacing that with whatever the text condition was, tells me a lot about that customer and start the conversation, Hey, it was dirty last time, it’s probably worse now. Do you want me to make sure I have one on the shelf when you get here? And if they still say no, that moves along the conversation about what are your goals with this vehicle and if they do not want to pursue any type of maintenance, repair or care for this vehicle, we still honor this package.
They bought to get ’em in the door. So we do our visual inspection and it still covers every safety item at 17 topics, but fluid leaks, we do a CYA picture and the tech job is to take a couple pictures and literally just mark the fluid type. We’re not going to go digging, we’re not going to grab an atex to see if it’s rear main or upper oil pan. They’re going to just note it all. We don’t pull air filters and cabin air filters and stuff like that. But that also serves another purpose for our great customers. Last visit, they did the entire 60 k. Well, if this customer’s a waiter, I’m going to get ’em in and out of the door in 30 to 40 minutes. Now I’m still going to check all their steering and suspension, measure all their tires and brakes, but I know their vehicle’s clean.
I know what it looked like last time. I know what all their maintenance items are at because they’re not due for probably another 25K. And the customers appreciate that too, that we can go light on their visit. Then we have a recent visual just because we don’t want anything coming in the door without an inspection. That’s only seven topics. But if the vehicle, the last full inspection was within the last two weeks, we found a bunch of stuff on an LOF. We didn’t have time or they didn’t have time, we scheduled it for the following week. Not a whole lot can go wrong in a couple hundred miles. So we still do a test drive, but mostly that’s a four corner picture, the cluster picture to say yes or no, these lights were on when it came in and we check all the lights, exterior lights because that’s about the only thing that can instantly go wrong as you’re leaving the parking lot a week ago. And then the last one is a pre-purchase. That’s the only one we charge for that’s got 60 topics, which is pretty much the same as the life plan except we check all the small interior functions, lights, doors, locks, mirrors, windows, nav and radio, stuff like that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (22:26):
That’s it’s still a simple process because they have very clear criteria for when to pick what inspection and it optimizes the time invested by the tech or service advisor. Is it the same with Sheldon described that the first few items are done by the service advisor or do you have a tech always doing all inspection topics?
Steve Schlaff (22:57):
So we do everything on the tablet and inspection side is done by the tech.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (23:02):
Steve Schlaff (23:03):
Yep. I assume sometimes when time allows the initial check-in first time visit, check in the advisor when they have time, go and just take a lap around the car with the customer while they’re talking.
Bill Connor (23:17):
I assume the service advisor based on the customer decision or discussion, they choose what inspections on there and the technician doesn’t have to guess what inspection, they’re just going to follow through whatever the service advisor dictates,
Steve Schlaff (23:31):
Follow every fill out, every topic on that inspection sheet that applies to that vehicle, they’ll still skip some like drum brakes might get skipped if it’s not for that vehicle, but yeah.
Bill Connor (23:42):
But isn’t the one making the choice the service rider on the customer’s decision, they’ve got permission to do X inspection and the technician just has to do it and that’s it.
Steve Schlaff (23:51):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (23:52):
And do you do that by using the smart markers which automatically select the inspection or is it a specific job in your point of sale? Like six different job codes for six different inspections.
Steve Schlaff (24:06):
So the five inspections are can jobs in shop wear and then they’re linked with the smart marker so it triggers the correct inspection on the tablet.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (24:14):
Very cool.
Bill Connor (24:15):
Nobody’s got to think they just got to work.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (24:20):
Thank you. Sheldon. You have selected to do a big one and then leave it up to the sales advisors and techs to leave out the topics which don’t apply.
Sheldon Barthlama (24:31):
Correct. That’s what we did because, and that was a team decision because we have, once you get into 3, 4, 5 inspections, not everything’s in the same spot or whatever it is. And ours inspections vary enough in the, if we’re doing a annual DOT inspection compared to a large motor home, there’s some things in there that we still want checked, but it’s hard to know which kind of inspection to build for that. So we have one large one and they just don’t mark any things they don’t do. I want all the things, one of my important things in my world is I want to know that the tires are not too old. Colorado has a big problem with rubber, so there’s can jobs that go with it. Of course there’s two different can jobs that we use and they’re all preloaded. So if we do an oil change, it preloads it, I want this inspection done and the guys know what that is. There’s a protocol for the service advisor to check the history and for us to check the history. And of course if they do come in a week later, then we do do the quick inspect instead of getting carried away with pulling all the brakes off again. And all of that,
Very similar to what Steve does. We just don’t use as many inspections and that was a team decision.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (26:01):
I mean it’s very clear the benefits, right? Because the order of topics, I mean it’s super consistent no matter what the danger a little bit potentially that potentially topics are being left out which shouldn’t be left out. So do you do audits or how do you minimize the risk of that happening?
Sheldon Barthlama (26:28):
My foreman goes through and does the report in the BCP where you can look up the topics and make sure that who’s not or who is charging or selecting shocks or struts. And you’ll even can pick out of there if the technician, maybe technician A has only done 10 inspections and this guy, the technician B has done 36, is technician doing a bunch of stuff that’s hard or is he just not doing inspections Now when he does them, maybe he does ’em very well, but maybe he’s not doing 30 or 40. So that’s the game you got to play. You got to do a little bit of auditing of repair orders. But we have our technician meetings with the foreman and usually one of the advisors or managers in there too. And they talk about, Hey, you did this, well, you did that on the one-to-one meeting
Uwe Kleinschmidt (27:29):
And are you doing that once a week? Is that a fixed time, the auditing or how is it the team auditing or the one-to-one after the form?
Sheldon Barthlama (27:40):
There’s two of them actually. There’s a monthly with the tech and then there is, we have a weekly complete shop meeting on Thursdays where actually my wife makes lunch and we will take a small short topic and talk about that on our big screen and we have a conference room and then go from there if there’s any other topics that we need to talk about. But most of the time we just take a real short section of that to maybe make any changes too that maybe we want to do on the inspection sheet
Uwe Kleinschmidt (28:14):
In that meeting.
Sheldon Barthlama (28:16):
Yeah, but we also have a morning huddle every day at eight o’clock too. So we take 15 minutes and everybody’s in there at the same time. So if there’s some little issue there, we can also address it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (28:31):
Yeah, I went to Brian Gloss shop and they do two meetings a day even, but it’s all, as you said, 15 minutes in and out, everybody in the meeting. So just to get everybody on the same page and what we forgot to ask both of you, so how many people on your shop meeting Sheldon, what are we talking about? Is it 10, 15?
Sheldon Barthlama (29:00):
15? So I have five techs and two apprentice and then one or two tow drivers depending, they’re all in the meeting so we know if there’s cars that need to be moved in and out because when you’re dealing with bigger stuff, I got to do that with the tow truck.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (29:18):
Very cool. How long did it take you to get this culture and the process established and was there pushback by people who say not doing it?
Sheldon Barthlama (29:34):
Well, as we all know, the A techs are the largest pushback. They always are. And once they figured it out and their ARO, we’ll call it went up, they started understanding it because there’s not very many A techs out there that’ll just do diagnosing. They still want some of the gravy to take their mind off the think world, so they like the brake fluid flush or the whatever you want to call it. And that probably took us two years, I’ll bet to get it really dialed in, get the culture figured out, and it’s ever changing anyways because of the wonderful economy we’re in. But was I bet it was a two year process of that and getting the right equipment to run things correctly too helps. I mean getting the correct iPads and some of the guys are using their scan tools now to have their digital inspection on their scan tool. Oh, I
Bill Connor (30:34):
Sheldon Barthlama (30:35):
So getting all the things
Bill Connor (30:37):
That you want, what are some of the things you want brought to your attention during that five or 10 minute or whatever? How long morning scrum, what do you want them to bring to your attention?
Sheldon Barthlama (30:51):
Well, if they’re running into something that is slowing them down on the inspection, then we usually, that’s one of the big topics, say that we are running into and we’re doing an inspection on a vehicle and it’s a four wheel drive Jeep and the guy’s got a lift kit on it and now the tires are bigger, this is going to take longer to do. And so that’s when we have to have that conversation with the service advisor and the tech to that would be a big one of, that’d be a main topic of are we still going to pull the wheels to check the brakes? Can we see ’em through the wheels? Also, it’s a topic of does everyone have their tools for testing when they get ready to do their inspection, their brake gauges, their tire gauges, their brake fluid tester, all that, because we’ve had enough new people come in. That’s a constant thing.
Bill Connor (31:47):
Any barriers that is going to go and take time, if they got parts missing, wrong parts, a tool missing, they’re going to need a special piece of equipment. You expect that to be all brought out in the morning. So that can be solved in a timely manner,
Sheldon Barthlama (32:02):
Especially in the morning on that morning meeting because we’re running in such a snag for parts availability. We’ve really had to play a game when you’ve got 40 or 50 cars here of who’s going to, what are we going to do with this vehicle when we’re waiting for two weeks, it’s in the stall, et cetera. So using the smart flow process where you can move them from waiting for parts to waiting for approval has been gigantic. And it helps because we also have a parts person, a parts manager, and that’s what he looks at. He’s got about screens he looks at or six columns he looks at to know, okay, this has just been moved into order approved parts or this has just been moved into waiting for approval or whatever. That’s a big topic in the morning meeting especially, is getting them into the right call.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (32:58):
Very cool. Steve, same question. Two locations. Do they ever do meetings together or how do you, actually, before I ask Steve, I’m sorry, I wanted to ask Sheldon, how does the tech submit to the form and changes to the inspection sheet? Is that in that meeting or does it happen? Anytime they have an idea, they use chat or whatever.
Sheldon Barthlama (33:26):
Hopefully we send it through chat on AutoVitals depending on who he wants to see it. That’s been the best way because our shop is very long. I mean it’s 10,000 square feet, just the shop and then the service advisor area in the waiting room is another six. Wow. So it’s a long ways from one end to the other. So you better have your processes in place for that or they’re spending a lot of time coming back and forth chasing their parts or whatever. So sometimes I feel like it’s two shops truthfully.
Bill Connor (34:01):
Is somebody assigned in your shop to go ahead and edit the inspection sheet or they just send that request into a team chat for maybe everybody in the office?
Sheldon Barthlama (34:12):
Yeah, normally it’s my manager, Shane or myself that do the changes because I was always the one doing the changes. And now that I have tried to work more on than in, Shane has been taking on some of that role and I’ve been putting him in with my monthly meetings with Zack and Cheney so that he started on some of that stuff and run the business panel side too. The business control panel,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (34:44):
Steve two locations. How do you do meetings? Who owns the inspection sheets? All five of ’em. How are requests be submitted?
Steve Schlaff (35:02):
So we do a 15 minute meeting, 7:45 to eight o’clock every day with, usually it’s the store manager, the foreman and the techs at each location, just kind of planning the day, what’s carrying over, what are the promise times, what’s coming in, parts issues, stuff like that. We don’t really discuss a lot of infrastructure issues like that. What we’ve done once we went to multis shop is found slack. Setting up a slack for the whole company has been really beneficial. So I have a Slack channel with all team members on it that’s just called shop wear and AV improvements. Since the recent switch, it’s obviously loaded up mostly with shop wear stuff right now as we’re getting that dialed in. But yeah, anybody from the lube tech to the A techs, store manager foreman, anybody can submit requests. We usually talk ’em out as a team how that’s going to look best and work best on the inspection sheets. And then I implement ’em on the sheets for both stores. But as we’re growing, we have a goal of store three by end of the year and store four by hopefully Q1 or Q2 next year.
I want copy and paste on the inspection sheets. They’re going to be identical from store to store. So yeah, that’s worked out pretty good.
Bill Connor (36:26):
And do you have that does the editing?
Steve Schlaff (36:29):
So we’re between production managers at my one location. I’m looking for one right now, but typically we utilize a production manager role. Inspection sheets go right to him, they do all the editing and they build the estimate and all that. What has really worked to help build the culture, no feelings to it. Nobody’s calling anybody out, but we have a lot of workflow steps. I split it up last year and added about four more steps. And so it seems overkill, but every one is just a small task, work your way left to right every time. But the number one rule to the workflow steps is you never push bad data forward. So when it gets moved from our building work order step, that’s the default that it goes to and kicked over by the advisor to waiting for inspect for it to be dispatched. The foreman reviews it if it doesn’t look right, if there’s a complaint on there, noise complaint 0.5 and that’s it.
They forgot to put notes of what it is and when it is kick it back. Same thing when the inspection comes through and the production manager sees something. I don’t care if it’s as little as we recommended a set of four tires and they forgot to put the tire size, drop it back from creating estimate right back to waiting for in inspect and get on the walkie-talkie to the tech and say, Hey, putting that one back on, you forgot X. So every step of the way, your first job is to double check the person in the last step, did theirs right? Then continue on, do your job in that step and kick it onto the next step.
Bill Connor (38:06):
I hear you say that your production manager is actually building, they’re doing the editing and building the estimate. Is that correct?
Steve Schlaff (38:12):
Bill Connor (38:13):
So your service advisor, what they’re focusing on period is customer experience and presenting and obtaining authorization.
Steve Schlaff (38:21):
And with this year being the slow time of the year, and I think the economy’s a little weird right now too, is chasing down leads, getting out there, landing some fleets, handing out some business cards, giving out. We got tons of promotional one free LOF coupons for them to hand out and just draw a business call through the deferred work list, whatever they need to do. Yeah,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (38:43):
So how did the discussions go when you started introducing formal workflow steps? And I bet there was pushback. Oh, slower and we’re not going to make what we used to make. I mean I’m just assuming, but I bet stuff like that has happened. How long did it take you to get and now nobody can even imagine how it was without it.
Steve Schlaff (39:17):
Yeah, the whole team’s not the most tech savvy. And so a big change like that just shortly followed by the big changeover from Protractor to shop wear, there was some resistance and now everybody’s getting used to it and they’re loving it. But yeah, they thought that was a little bit overkill and I just kind of explained everything is a small step. It comes to you verify the last task was done, right, do your task on that, verify you did it right, kick it on to the next one. And we also wanted it scalable, so it’s not just in a Foley staff shop, it’ll go writer to dispatcher to tech to pm to advisor to pm to PM to dispatcher, to tech to advisor. But our third store that’s going to be kind of far out in the sticks and it’s going to be a smaller shop. So at that one we’re probably going to have a store manager who’s also an advisor, another advisor and three techs to start with. And so we may not always have a PM at all locations, but regardless of your staffing, you still know what tasks need to be done in each step. And so you can quickly get off that phone call, get back to work, or finish checking out that customer and go back to your workflow screen and you know exactly what the next task is on each set of tiles you have in each column.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (40:52):
Or there might even be the same workflow just in the same roles, just one person has two roles or three or something like that. But the process is still,
Steve Schlaff (41:03):
The advisor may have four steps in a row that’s theirs, but they can still utilize the steps to know where they’re at in that ticket.
Bill Connor (41:11):
And what the awesome thing is about that is those in a smaller store, when they want to go ahead and get the workload reduced into these other roles, what they do is they go and help you grow because they know that there’s something in it for them to go ahead and get workload shifted off onto that other person. And I’m sure you share with ’em exactly what revenue dollar amount gets the other additional people added in.
Steve Schlaff (41:35):
Bill Connor (41:36):
Exactly. But that’s a good way to grow and let them see how it works at your other location also.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (41:43):
How far are the locations from each other? Do you also shift work between the locations or is it too far?
Steve Schlaff (41:51):
Very rarely. They’re about 40, 50 miles apart, but they’re going to be the furthest apart. All the additional stores will hopefully be somewhere in between on the map for a while. I’m the only one that drives around to every location each week, so it’s my guess. But no, we don’t shift a ton. That was a newer shop in Castle Rock. It’s definitely a much higher end demographic than where the other store is. Average household income’s more than double at that second location. So a couple times we shuttled stuff over for a 1, 2, 3, 4 YF service or something like that where the other store doesn’t currently have a machine, but for the most part, yeah, they don’t do a lot. But the other thing I try to keep the teams really in touch and the one thing I built into our Slack setup was a channel called the Tech Assistance. My one store, I’ve got a diesel expert, I’ve got a GM expert, I’ve got a Volkswagen expert and a Chrysler Dodge Jeep expert. The other store I have several BMW experts, a Honda Acura expert and a Subaru expert. And I said, I don’t have an expert of each of both stores, but you have a problem, you’re running into something, talk it out. And so that channel has been pretty helpful for them to share communication between the two stores.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:14):
And do you have the full diagnostic equipment on both locations or?
Steve Schlaff (43:18):
Yes. Yep.
Bill Connor (43:21):
When you started out using AutoVitals, did you go ahead and convert your paper inspection into digital or did you take one of the generic ones we had and then start modifying for day one? Can you talk through that process, how you started out and how it’s been modified over time?
Steve Schlaff (43:40):
When we started out, we were still with RO Writer for the first couple years with AutoVitals I believe. I was actually in A tech role at that time and I picked up on the process pretty quickly and the functionality of it. But of course AutoVitals wasn’t quite as robust then either. And RO Writer and the API between the two was pretty primitive versus what it does with Protractor and shop wear. So I think we started with the generic one shortly after I was picking up on it and realized the potential of it. I kind of moved into a foreman role and I went through and that’s when I started really building out the inspection sheets.
We didn’t have the full five sheets at that time. It was mostly the complete and that was it, and then a prepurchase. But yeah, about four years ago, five years ago, we switched to Protractor and I rebuilt them all and that’s when I really did a refresher on everything. I got a lot of input from the teams and went through and really built them out much more. And I did one and they get updated now and then whenever something comes up. But this most recent one end of the year switch over when I had to remap all the jobs for shop wear, it gave me a chance for rebuilding ’em one more time. So I probably added not that many more topics, but I probably added another 30 to 40 actions available to the newest revision that went into with Shop Wear
Uwe Kleinschmidt (45:18):
Sheldon. How did you do it, if you remember? It’s a while.
Sheldon Barthlama (45:23):
It’s been a while actually. The way we started out was we took the generic ones and actually Lindsay came in and put a whole bunch of stuff in, helped add some things and then later on Bill took and came in and just added a whole bunch of tan jobs since we use Napa Trac. So it’s been a little bit of a learning curve with Napa Trac because they went from legacy to enterprise, which was a whole different platform. Everything was there, just you had to find it again. That took us a little bit of time to get that going.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (46:00):
Sheldon Barthlama (46:00):
Ever changing. You’re
Uwe Kleinschmidt (46:02):
Still on Napa Trac Enterprise? Yeah,
Sheldon Barthlama (46:04):
We’re on Enterprise. They just made a big update. Again, it’s hard to get out of it since we’ve had it since early nineties. It’s kind of tough to change that world. I mean I’ve looked at all the others of course. I think one of the big things is that the immediate change you can make and it’s right there. I think we talked about this, the paper, you couldn’t make your change right away. You had to send it to the printer right now you can make any change you want as fast as you want, and it’s right there right now. It’s fantastic. One of the big things too that we did was in this world of Covid, on a side note, I had my parts estimator parts, man, the get covid and he was out for a month. We remoted him in so he could do dual screens with TeamViewer and he worked from home doing most of the things he could do here, which took the load off of having a missing person in the process. And that’s huge for us is those kinds of things that can happen with this setup, especially with the workflow process.
He knows when he’s got to look at something and say, okay, I need to estimate these parts, and then he can go through the inspection and find out what all he needs to do.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (47:26):
Did you have challenges to ask him to come back when he recovered? Was he still at home?
Sheldon Barthlama (47:31):
Actually? He was ready to get out of the house, but we’ve done it many times. I went on, I think an ATI trip or something. I was in Wisconsin and I had some tickets I was in charge of because we always had so many people missing. I was asking to do some of the service advising and I finished out those tickets and did all my own work from Wisconsin. It’s pretty cool that you can do that. And I foresee that in the future that we’re going to have more and more of that happening.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (48:02):
Can you imagine having more locations and have a service advisor for more than one location, right? Oh yeah,
Sheldon Barthlama (48:12):
Definitely. I think that’s the way. In fact, I think that’s actually happening. I’ve heard it. Yes, it’s a couple of different places.
Bill Connor (48:20):
Yep. They’re running a satellite location. That’s just a big building. No service writers go there. It’s just there to go and produce and everything is done from their main office remotely. So it is actually kind of interesting. Instead of multiple locations with full staff in each, now they’ve got a satellite location that the staff is just there to work period and everything is controlled from the main office.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (48:43):
So how about taking that to the next step? And that’s a business idea. You build a service advisor company and sell service advisor services to shops. Do you think that’s going to work?
Sheldon Barthlama (48:56):
I think the hardest part will be the employee engagement part of the whole world. Everybody’s still has that, we’ll call it that problem with the newer, we’ll call it the newer generations, whatever you want to call them. They need the touchy feel. They really do. And that’s the only thing is the human interaction. That might give it a little bit of problem, but otherwise it’s great. I know there’s people doing it right now.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (49:26):
Very cool.
Steve Schlaff (49:27):
I did the PM roll from home several times over last year and some days when the shop’s busy and when we had a PM and we were really rocking towards the end of last year and he was out for a long trip, I just sat in my office at home and did all the estimation. The only thing I can’t do is check in the orders and sign for ’em, but they would even scan in and send me the invoices so I could receive and post ’em all from here. So we’ve toyed with that idea as we grow, like could we have three offsite PMs that are supporting four to five stores maybe? And it could be possible. I think a lot of limitations are going to be software that’s a lot of incognito tabs open. So other programs, shop wear was weird like that. Even with incognito tab, it does sign me into the other store when I switch on both tabs. And then worldpac I think is going to be a problem too, using speed dial, trying order for three different stores, four different stores on one app, but I think it’s doable. Maybe just multiple completely separate terminals, something like that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (50:36):
Your laptop is what? 200 bucks?
Steve Schlaff (50:38):
Yeah. Yep.
Bill Connor (50:40):
It will definitely see more of that. So people get stretched thin, so a remote estimator or remote production manager, we can have remote appointment bookers and things like that. There’s plenty of ways to go and do that and to be able to go ahead and gather up some really first class people that don’t want to live in the snow country, live in to work remotely. You may be onto something for sure. We’ve got about maybe six or seven minutes left. Oh
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:07):
Wow. Time.
Bill Connor (51:09):
I’d like to hear from these guys, what are the top things that somebody listening should be thinking about doing to go ahead and actually streamline their processes and so on? And what would you like to share to go and inspire them to improve their processes? Because we know just having an inspection tool isn’t any good unless there’s a process attached to it. Just like having that nice lab scope in the toolbox if nobody knows how to use it.
Sheldon Barthlama (51:40):
Yeah, I think my biggest, at the very beginning, my biggest takeaway was our world was not very high tech here in Loveland. We didn’t have, all we had was DSL.
So you got to make sure you got the right equipment to start off. You want the biggest, baddest router, you want the other things. And that made things go so much smoother. Having good wifi, having good routers, all those things and good tablets. I mean, this is your other toolbox tool in your toolbox, so you want to have the best one. You don’t want to buy a Harbor Freight salvage, you want to buy a snap on Mac, whoever your preference is. So that was one of the big things that I would have to tell someone is if you’re going to do this, that will make a lot of glitches go away. That’s hardware problems of our world. Then the other, because that’s usually what the problem is. If you do have weird things going on, that would be one of the processes. I would definitely use my team as my designer of workflow, steps of inspection sheet, the way they’re put it laid out because then they own it. And that’s made it huge for us because nobody, I don’t hear any complaints about it. They more want to add stuff probably more than they need to sometimes.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (53:17):
That’s awesome. That’s a good problem to have.
Steve Schlaff (53:22):
Thank you. I would say the same thing. We signed up with AutoVitals and first thing they did was remote in and did a speed test and they’re like, yeah, we can’t integrate yet. This was so long ago. They said, you got to get over five meg to download. And so yeah, that was a game changer. Having good, reliable, consistent internet, lots of extenders so that they can get a good signal to do their four corner pictures out in the parking lot or way in the back lot where it gets towed in. But I think as far as building the inspection sheets and improving just constant full team engagement, I think is the way to go. The other thing that is, I do a lot of things remotely to support both stores with a two different pieces of software and vendors and all kinds of other things going on training.
And that is one, I move to the very top of my priority list. When they put in a request for something, I try to get on it immediately because I think that’s going to get the ultimate engagement. They’re asking for something and the next car they inspect, they see it, they see it right there on the inspection and understand it’s always a living document. It’s always growing. So I always tell the techs under oil leak, pick the can job that applies to it. If it’s not there, just put the level one, two or three and put a note in a picture. And if you find yourself typing the same note for a repair that’s not an action more than once or twice, let me know. And it’s an action on the list now. So yeah, understand they’ll never be perfect and they’re always going to grow.
Bill Connor (54:56):
Steve Schlaff (54:59):
Bill Connor (54:59):
We’re at the end here. So I’d really like to sincerely thank both these guys for sharing a lot of wisdom today. We’re hearing from a lot of different types of shops and different processes, but it seems that the underlying thing that we keep hearing over and over again is involve your staff early and often. Let them go ahead and get everything that they need or want built into the inspection sheet. And then as Steve said, go ahead and move it to the top of priority list. Don’t go ahead and put that stuff in the back burner. If they’re asking for it, there’s a reason for it. Give it to ’em and they’ll go ahead and dig in a lot deeper. So again, thank you guys both for attending here. You guys are great. I’d like to encourage those that are listening in to maybe go to and sign up to go ahead and actually join us live or go to your favorite podcast platform and listen on your way home by searching for the digital shop talk radio. And once again, one of the best things that we can do is anybody that’s another shop owner in your area that might be struggling a little bit, maybe kind of bringing down your marketplace, maybe invite them to an episode or send them a link to it or something and try and help somebody else. So once again, everybody go out and make some money and while your customer’s in the process and we sure do appreciate you guys joining us here today.
Steve Schlaff (56:21):
Thank you, Steve. Thank you Sheldon. We appreciate it.
Bill Connor (56:25):
Great job guys.
Steve Schlaff (56:26):
Thank you.

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