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Whether it is 20 groups, webinars, podcasts, or shop owner meetings organized by your favorite parts supplier, learning from peers is one of the best ways of getting better in any aspect of running your business. Join Bill, Uwe, and Ken Anderson in this week’s podcast to listen to Ken’s ways of bringing home the knowledge acquired from his peers.

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 if you reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we gather on Wednesdays at 12 o’clock central to have our shop owner panelists share some words of wisdom with you today I’m here with Ken Anderson, owner of B and L Quality Repair, LLC, that’s joined us many times. Welcome back Ken, we certainly appreciate it. And I also have Uwe AutoVitals’ founder, Uwe Kleinschmidt, and today join us to learn, so whether it’s 20 groups, webinars, podcasts, shop owner meetings, organized by your favorite parts supplier, learning from your peers, I hope you’ll agree is one of the best ways of getting better in any aspect to run your business. As always, teamwork is required within your own shop to provide great results. You’ll take away some tips today from learning from your peers on how to put what they’ve worked or what they’ve learned from their peers to work for themself and their team. As always, you learn from our guest panelists who operate shops just like yours. So Uwe, if you wouldn’t mind, how about you go ahead and get us started off and we’ll see if we can’t stay focused on the topic.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:15):
Oh, thank you. Thank you Ken. Always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you. So yeah, we have been covering so many topics in the podcast and we thought it might be a great idea to find out what the best way is of learning. And when I say learning, I don’t mean just reading, I mean understanding and implementing new stuff in your shop because that’s hard, right? Let’s face it, it’s always hard to do something new. Oh yeah, absolutely. And what I have learned over the years is that what is an amazing way to learn is surround yourself with peers and learn from them and try to bite the elephant one or eat the elephant one bite at a time. Not try to swallow everything at once. That’s the risk that you stop prematurely, but it has the benefit. You know exactly what you’re getting into and you have instant gratification, right? And so what we want to do today is pick your brain, how you have implemented new things, how you have changed over time and how did you take your team with you on that journey. So if I may, would you quickly summarize how did you get into this business? What was driving you and what if you compare what you are today and who you are today with that time, what’s the biggest difference? You can tell us.
Ken Anderson (03:24):
Wow. One bite
Uwe Kleinschmidt (03:28):
At a time.
Ken Anderson (03:29):
Remember one bite at a time. Quick synopsis right off. I mean basically from high school on, I’ve been to attorney wrenches. So we started out, I started dealerships, multiple dealerships, found out that’s really after a number of years, things just didn’t really sit well with me. I saw the angle of the industry where it was headed didn’t, didn’t really fit well, give me a sour taste option to kick off on my own. Like most mechanics always want to. You can go out and hang your own shingle and there’s a point that after you do that you regret that you didn’t do it sooner, almost always. But there’s also, you’ve got to have the right mindset. You are jumping out on your own and that’s a whole different set of scares if you will, and survivals because that’s your livelihood, that’s your business, that’s you, you’re providing for everybody.
Once I did that and then discovered that there was more to it that I was wanting to push my business a little bit more, it started out with just myself. My shop’s been open, just try 13 years now, and it was just me and one other person and I was working in the business and as I slowly started getting to where I could be on the business, even working in it, I don’t know, I wanted to work on it because there’s things you can’t do when you’re working in your business. If you turn renters every day, you just can’t push your business the way you need or where you want it to go. So we finally started making the transition, hire some employees to hire some key people and then we were able to actually, I was able to finally work on my business and one of the big pushes was obviously finding, trying to step up with the technology to equal or surpass the dealerships and some of the other high end shops we have in the area.
Of course that came across AutoVitals. That’s one of the third program I tried, which is, and then this podcasts, and it’s a lot of it between this podcast, some of the locals that we’d get together with, I didn’t have any, we tried like HEC up here to get grouped together so where we could talk about ideas, Hey, I’m starting my own shop, how did you do it? Or we could hash ideas back and forth and it wasn’t, it was just a loose group of friends that did the same thing. They went out, they left the dealership, they started their own, these two failed, this one survived, this one survived and retired out of it. So there’s really nothing cohesive. You just sit down and talk, have little tidbits here and there and you see, okay, well I don’t want to do it that way.
That obviously didn’t work. But then to be able to get a group together, once you get your employees, then you change your focus, your employees are suddenly you’re revamped, you suck everything back in for a bit. Once you start getting employees for a little bit, you want to focus and get your employees see your same vision and go the same direction you want to go or direction your company, you want your company to go. And now for where I’m at now at this point in time, huge difference. One is a lot more confident in the business, understand a lot more because I still have plenty to learn as we all do, especially if you don’t come up on the, like I say, I came up on the mechanic side. I had come up on the business operations side of the industry, but there were a lot of little things along the way that I was able to pick up and glean and little tidbits to grab. But there’s, as you mentioned, growth at this point in time is huge. I’ve made myself leaps and bounds and I’ve, I’ve brought my team along with it, but getting them to be focused and have a goal and everybody going the same direction, it’s kind of mutually helpful for both sides of the shop. And I can say I do regret that I did not start this 10 years sooner than what I did.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (07:30):
I agree with that by the way. I had the exact regret as well. So I mean again, from a personality perspective, when you started and you are working in the business to now working on the business, I assume it wasn’t always a smooth ride. I mean there must have been scary moments where I said, what have I gotten myself into?
Ken Anderson (08:07):
Oh yeah, there was, and it would be with anytime you could jump like that and you start realizing that suddenly you’re in charge of all the bills, the buck doesn’t stop with you, passes to your end and it doesn’t go into your pocket. But you have to have that understanding, which so many, I’ve seen some mechanics that have failed and they open their own shop is they don’t understand some of the basics behind the business. You’ve got to have a little bit of a business understanding before you make you hang your shingle up because otherwise you will constantly be struggling and you won’t actually be able to make that progress that you want to make.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (08:45):
Was it the sequence of event takes a pause, go ahead Bill. The buck
Bill Connor (08:50):
Doesn’t really take a stop at the owner, it just kind of pauses there and you get to keep a little bit of it if it goes on, unless you go ahead and learn to dial in your processes to actually run your business.
Ken Anderson (09:02):
Exactly. I was lucky in the way that coming through the dealership I saw a bunch of different facet facets of operation. Probably a lot of things maybe I should not have been privy to, but it was nice because I understood the different departments and then some of the financials behind it so I didn’t go come into a blind. But there was a big difference. I’ve seen a lot of people that you have a typical mechanic that’s sees it out there, Hey, you’re charging a hundred dollars an hour and I’m only making 20 so I can go hang out my shingle and make all that a hundred dollars is mine then. But they don’t realize how much support they have backing them up. Even if and if you discover that that’s when you’re talking back and forth with each other, your peer groups or your friend groups, what happened or what happened to you, you were doing so good, what happened?
And you’ll hear them, well, I didn’t realize that I’ve got the parts guys getting me parts, I’ve got somebody talking to the customers and I don’t just turn wrenches anymore. I actually have to talk to the customer, order the parts, shuffle the cars around. So my day’s tied up, I’m not able to be a production mechanic. And that’s one of the big facets that gets overlooked so often and that’s usually the ones, if they don’t adjust and realize right away, that’s when they fail. They have to shift over thinking methods. But that’s hopefully if that was the case, you had a partner that you were able to split the load with and maybe one was better in business and one was better at wrenching and you were able to get through it. In my case, I did not have that luxury in my case, but my partner was one that did not have the business sacrament and did not want to pursue that. And it, not everybody’s cut out for it. I mean if you realize you’re just not cut out for it, then that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing to be ashamed of on that by any means.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (10:55):
So now, I mean you are one of the most loyal attendees of the podcast if I may say that. So there must be some appeal. But beyond the podcast, how do you learn today from your peers?
Ken Anderson (11:22):
The podcast was a really start was the start of it for me. I’d always tried to find something locally groups, as you mentioned, sometimes just after hours classes, mechanics are talking to each other, a couple of business owners are talking to each other, that type of thing. But there’s nothing really cohesive or nothing written still nothing consistent. And when I finally got found AutoVitals wanting to go the same direction, same basic principles that I wanted to have in my own business and the same basic industry improvement, not just your business, you want to improve the whole industry because that’s kind of the feeling of it when you’re in it. All of us want to take pride in what we do and we do take pride in there. We don’t like being bad mouthed or second guess by a service advisor at the front desk when you were working in the back of a shop or being a scapegoat.
So you want to be in charge of yourself. So now finding a company, turning that up, going through all of that, then discovering, finally discovering that I want to do get into texting. I want to get some of the technology because that was the only way. I did not hand write tickets. I did not. From day one I was at a point of sale system. I was not going to have to go through rummage through for history of warranty stacks of paper. I want to push a button and I see what I did three, four years ago on your vehicle. Here’s what we did. I want to be able to print that off for the customer. I wanted to be proactive and using technology and utilizing it. We don’t want to be slave to it either, but we want to be able to balance it out.
Once I got hooked in with auto vials for the onboarding and discovered this podcast initially, I honestly thought it was just for help in using the program initially of that was a lot of good pointers and how to implement it, how to onboard, and then some of it diversify a little bit and the information that you have on here with all the different guests you have and even some of the recap program that Bill has done and then have the audio podcast afterwards that you can download and re-listen to something. If you pick it up as you mentioned it, it’s like the elephant well able to, you break it down to where you can take a bite at a time and kind of store that little bit away trying to get at the same token. Now I have actually joined a coaching program, which I was kind of opposed to before. I did not really. I interviewed with a few of them. I did not like the field. They didn’t give a good real vibe off of ’em. They were very much, well you’re bottom line here’s your numbers don’t look right, you don’t. Just very blunt. And it wasn’t really what I wanted out of a coach company.
Now that I’ve got a group, it’s basically, as you mentioned, it’s 20 group where we can share back and forth with each other whether it is financials or it’s, Hey, I have a security camera issue or I have a mechanic with a bad attitude or I’m remodeling my waiting room. What some ideas you guys, what did you do with your waiting areas? So it’s the gamut and that’s being able to not be criticized if you have a question because that’s one of the biggest things everybody is so embarrassed about or concerned. If I ask this question, I’m going to look stupid. Well, my first meeting was I need to know numbers better KPIs, what are the most important KPIs I should be watching because I was just doing it by common sense and feel of my gut and I know that I was pretty well at a plateau. I wouldn’t be able to go further if I didn’t learn more and that’s where I was able to share.
Bill Connor (15:02):
So you actually sought out a group that was a peer to peer group versus a coach to a bunch of peers.
Ken Anderson (15:09):
Exactly. And that’s where it was awesome to have this show on a weekly basis was what you would bring in. You could get little tidbits, little info as we mentioned like last week with Fix it with Fred mentioning that he has three sources of financial assistance, financial options for customers. I have one maybe that’s something maybe I should look into having done an additional one. And then so prior to that there was the, and I apologize, I don’t want ruin her name, I don’t know, but I do remember it was the a hundred day challenge that I don’t remember the names, but you remember some of the ideas and then that way you could always grab the podcast, the downloads and re-listen to it again to say, okay, that’s something I think on my shop is ready to hit that right now. And I think I’d like to try that idea in my shop, go back, listen to it and implement it.
But like anything, and there’s so many times even when you’re talking as a peer to peer, you’re trying to understand that it’s not all inclusive, it’s not all boom, you’ve done handled. Yes, you’re going to have struggles. Yes, you’re going to have, you might have a few people kicking and screaming as you drag ’em through some of the areas that you’re trying to go to. But if you’ve got to approach it in a way that it’s, again, it’s a team effort. I mean you’ve got to have a good shop culture and that’s one of the things that podcasts here has preached. Many of your guests have talked how do your shop culture, how well do you get along? Do you have a good team dynamics in there? In my case I did mostly, but I did have to make some personnel changes and that made all the difference in the world.
I mean nobody wants to do that. It’s not exactly, it’s probably one of the most miserable parts of being an owner is trying to fire somebody or get rid of somebody. You don’t want to do that. I mean that’s very disturbing most of the time because you want to provide for them. Your whole goal is to provide ’em for your employees first. And my opinion is employees come first. Customers just come second because once the employees are happy and content and understand that they are a viable part of your company, they’re important. They will step up just human nature that they will make a difference and it works very well that way. And the same thing. Hear
Bill Connor (17:29):
That so many times that happy employees make happy customers.
Ken Anderson (17:33):
Very, very true. It happens. I mean it’s 99% of the time that it happens and you can count on it and the value you mentioned peer-to-peer or at least the value I put on it, it’s very much like advertising. We could spend thousands upon thousands of, and we have social media, radio, tv, newspaper, phone, all these different sources, but what is the golden big thing that we strive for? It’s word of mouth. It doesn’t matter what the advertising says, it’s word of mouth, which is another form of peer-to-peer interaction that is you as humans. We value another person’s opinion more so than we do a fancy glitzy ad on the tv. There’s same thing when you go shopping, you mentioned in the past you go Amazon and next thing what do you do? You start looking at the reviews. What are the, try and humanize it a little bit there to see if you’re making a good decision or if it’s something that you, I’ll take the risk of that a peer to peer part of it.
And a lot of it comes up just from being mechanics in general because we mentioned before, mechanics tend to be more as you said, tactile, they were more hands-on, not necessarily. They’re more of their brains and thinking is in the here and now on the concrete, we’re not in the theoretical in the mind and that’s why you have so many mechanics that can fix a car but can’t take a test. And I’ve seen that for many times. Great, great mechanics that really know other stuff but they couldn’t take an as SE test and pass it, but they could put another person to shame on the knowledge of what they can do with the vehicle. So that’s where there’s a lot of those things you kind of have to take all that into account with it. It’s very good. So
Bill Connor (19:23):
Is a peer-to-peer mindset more of a trust factor or is it because that they’ve not only walked in your shoes that they’re still walking in your shoes today?
Ken Anderson (19:33):
I think it’s both. They have been in there. If somebody’s already crossed that bridge before you are or you’re both on the same bridge trying to get across it and you figured out what’s working. Hey, you made five steps ahead of me, what did you do? Oh, okay. It’s just little things that you get that you understand. It’s more, again, small bites. Small, small and able to be consistent. That’s the consistency. If you make a sudden huge change, you can’t maintain it. I mean it’s like if you have your business sudden growth, if you’re a $500,000 business or a hundred thousand business, suddenly you’re a million dollar business in six months you’re probably not going to maintain that. You’re going to have some serious problems. If you have a nice stable, steady growth and in say two to three years you’re a million dollar business and you’re maintaining it, you just keep on climbing.
It’s the consistency of being able to take small chunks, implement it and form that little piece to be part of if you will, a pearl. It’s a piece of grit that nobody likes to and they don’t want to deal with it and suddenly it’s all covered over like a pearl and you move on to the next one and you make your next little pearl if you will. And as a team, as a group and as a shop, it’s the things that happen. It’s amazing when you include, but again you have to include everybody in that. It’s not just you as an owner. That’s my way or the highway and you talk to your peers and sometimes you will bring your employees, a couple of your key employees with you to talk with other shops or set up a time with one of your other neighbors. As we said before, it’s the thinking of that we are peers and not competitors.
The competitors, it’s kind of old school thinking and in my mind the times, a lot of the shops, you see the old timers now that I’m one of the old timers, if you’ll, they’re constantly thinking that you, well, I can’t do anything with you, I can’t make any change. I’m not going to make any changes. It’s worked like this for the last 20 years. Why do I want to change anything? As Frank has been on the show many times as well, you don’t know what you don’t know and if you as an owner or even as an employee as anything, if you have to know that you don’t know what you don’t know, you need to know that you got to get figured out. I mean if you don’t realize you don’t want to make that effort at it, then you’re not going to progress and get very far. You’re just stagnate and you stay there.
Bill Connor (22:06):
So learning from your peers is the most effective way. So now that you’ve learned something, how do you take and present it to your staff and roll it out without going ahead and going in there as a dictator and just saying, you guys are going to do this. What’s your process?
Ken Anderson (22:21):
There’s a couple different ways. Most of the time we have regular Tuesday meetings and the first Tuesday meeting of the month, everybody has to bring something to the table. All the employees have to bring something cool, not lunch. No, we have it, we shut, we actually stopped 10 o’clock in the morning, we stop the chop and we have a half hour meeting. Lunch was good but sometimes it didn’t work over real well. But to have everybody participate that way and then also a lot of times it’s presented to talk to, I might talk to some of the guys individually and say the ideas that I’ve heard or that I wanted to implement and they start mull it over and think about it and then they will bring it up at the meeting and then we can say, okay, so it might be a little psychology or whatever there make them think they presented the idea.
But a lot of times I will bounce a lot of the ideas off my team. Hey, what do you think about this? Is this something that we want to give a try? If it’s something I’m really firmly believe in, then I might try a little bit more of the psychology stuff on it. But honestly most of the time it’s just upfront we’re open and we say, Hey, what about this? We want to change our methods of how we’re doing inspections or we change, we want to revamp our intake process or we’re going to shuffle somebody around. We are now going to hire somebody else and we want your opinion on this. So if all the hires, everybody talks to everybody here, it’s not just like, well surprise, here’s a new guy we got in the shop here. He started two hours ago, so his name is Bill and here he’s over in the corner and to bill the stage is yours now come on over.
We don’t do that to have everybody involved in everything for the majority of it, everybody feels the value and they feel like they know where they are, what cog in the machine they are and if you will, and it actually is a lot better if people return on investment because they feel more valued. And if somebody says No, I don’t think that’d be a really good idea, okay, how would you counter that? They can’t just say, no, I don’t want to do it. They got to have a reason. Then all of a sudden they’ll stop and think about it. Well okay, let’s give it a shot. But again, you don’t make a dramatic change. You have to keep it small enough that because by and large this industry does not change. You get in your rut and you just travel down the rut and that’s where you stay.
And so it is hard to get out of that rut and be mobile if you will, ins today’s market where we need to be to be able to respond to a few things as it goes down, something changes whether we’re having the economic economy the way it is or we’re having suddenly your clientele base changes, your neighborhood changes. There’s all kinds of things you’ve got to be able to be able to respond to and if without getting too deep in the ruts, you do want some ruts for routine because as Bill would drive beating into everybody’s head, muscle memory, muscle memory for the inspections, but you don’t want to get so deep that you can’t see outside the rut. When you’re in your own little world, you need to be able to look around and see everything around you.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (25:37):
Ken, do you have an example for your shop where you started implementing something you learned on the podcast and was very early so you didn’t even know yet what the best way of implementation is? Can you remember? It’s
Ken Anderson (25:59):
A blur. It’s been a wild ride. I’ll tell you it’s been a wild ride.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (26:05):
Well one where it was the colossal failure and you learn from it and changed. Those are in hindsight often the most valuable ones.
Ken Anderson (26:15):
Those are the most valuable, but I can honestly say we’ve not had any of those horrible ones. Once I got
Bill Connor (26:20):
The one that you talked about when you were actually onboarding your team and you were struggling a little bit and you said, I’m going to do it my way because I’m different. And you actually started by onboarding them with the work order first than the inspection. Totally backwards.
Ken Anderson (26:33):
Totally backwards. Yeah. Well no, I just had to change the routine a little bit, but yes, that was because this was not the first DVI system that we’d been with, but it offered, I could see where it would take the company because of the workflow management and some of the other features in it. And the big feature for me was I, as it was a hallmark of our business, was we had thorough repair orders when the customer received their invoice, there was description on there, what was done, so it was in the system and it was in for the customer, even if they didn’t understand it, it was well described there, but we could look at it a year later and understand it. So if something did happen on our work, oh, we understand what was going on and that we had some bad experiences with some of the previous other companies and it was just that they didn’t take off, they didn’t go.
It was surprising at how well the guys took to going backwards because we were already doing with our system, we had the work orders were already being typed, the tech was way more responsible for the work order than they are now. Now with the text to speech or speech to text, excuse me, it’s much simpler for them. And then I do have a couple of guys now that they prefer typing it and so they have their keyboards out there, they stick the iPad there and they type up their stories. They type real fast, which is awesome, but once they realized what it could do for them on the work order side and make their life that much easier, then they took to that within, honestly within a week. And I did not push at all the inspections. I mean we approached it as a whole different operating, we’re not doing it, we’re not going to be doing any inspections. That was the
Uwe Kleinschmidt (28:25):
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Maybe we just discovered a new way of making technicians like to do the inspection. How exactly did that work? You didn’t push anything and they embraced it right off the bed.
Ken Anderson (28:46):
They embraced the technology because they could see by just having the option to be able to talk and have it type for them and they loved it and then they could just use it for the work order. We were going paperless, so what am I going to do? What am I going to write on? How am I going to do, we don’t have to write, you just talk into here. And they were within a couple of days and by the end of the week they’re like, wow. And you would have a hard time getting it out of their hands by the end of the month. Forget it. I mean their tablet or their phone is part of ’em now. They don’t want to let that go. So that
Uwe Kleinschmidt (29:20):
Was, can I repeat what I heard? You said the fact that you can document work order items so much easier with speech to text made them embrace the inspection part even faster
Ken Anderson (29:40):
And pictures they were able to actually take a picture, take picture, yes, take a picture that went with the, Hey, here’s the work, here’s what I did, here’s how deep I was into your car. So again, they kind of kicked into the pride factor that what they did and
Bill Connor (29:53):
Did the service advisors kind of cheer them on because they could then go ahead and copy and paste or import the notes rather than have and type ’em all out and decipher?
Ken Anderson (30:01):
Well, that’s when we threw out our old point of sale system, went to the new point of sale system that just transferred nicely. That was the worst part of the whole thing. That was a colossal failure. It was just a struggle and now we’re way better off for it not realizing the power of what this program can do and how it interfaced with the point of sale systems. That was just phenomenal and boosted the efficiency of the shop. I mean that was a quarter million dollar raise just by that in and of itself for me on the bottom line and we were not even utilizing it, but a fraction of it. So it was huge. Again, that was again trying to get the whole team on it because at the way we had it, we had one service advisor and three mechanics at the time and they would have to do their stories or whatever. The secretary or the perceptionist, she could actually, excuse me, a service writer. She could actually type, so they would’ve to dictate everything to her because she got tired of trying to read what they were writing. Was
Bill Connor (31:04):
It conversations with peers that led you to change your POS system at the same time or what drove that?
Ken Anderson (31:10):
It was a combination through AutoVitals, through some of the other Facebook forums. So their auto shop owners groups, that type of thing. Finding out, looking out what was out there for availability and it was hearing to people and then listening of all the times you had, I believe it was John and Adam were on here with, in this case I ended up with Protractor and that was the one that at the time was the most deeply integrated with AutoVitals and it is more programmed than I need. I’m not using all of it, but it’s something I can definitely grow into. There’s lots of avenues. It’s so much more robust compared to what I had. And of course that makes me, forces me. I have to learn the program so that I can do all the reporting and all the other items that are in there.
And then again, you refer back, it’s just like training. You don’t necessarily refer to the company. That was one of the big draws as well was that in my case, looking during the research, AutoVitals had a Facebook forum that was active and welcomed. Whether you owned it or not, you were welcome to come on and you could peruse the forums and ask questions. There were some companies that if you had to own it and you wouldn’t be let in unless you owned the product. So you didn’t really know, have a feel who else was using it or if it was something you would like or there are little glitches with it. Again, peer-to-peer ask questions. The fact that many times you can go to the Facebook forum, ask a question and there were times that suddenly Bill would call me on the phone and ask and say, well here’s what you need to do to fix that wouldn’t even get out to the forum.
And then at other times it would be the same thing with ProTrac. You put a question out there and suddenly sometimes within minutes you’ll have five or six answers and you realized it was very simple right in front of you. You didn’t know the program because it was different and there’s five or six ways to do the same thing in that program. So suddenly again, it appears somebody else has already done it and so it’s quicker and easier instead trying to pick up the phone and hope you get a service, put in a service request call. I’ve done that before with my old software and again, that’s where peer to peer comes in so much better. Somebody else has already dealt with that and a lot of times you get a faster answer and people want to share.
Bill Connor (33:28):
When you’re looking for these different peer groups, what specifically are you looking for? Are you looking for people that don’t have the Oh woe was me attitude and what are some of the things you’re looking for in a group and maybe what do you expect to get out of them?
Ken Anderson (33:46):
Something if you can, in my case obviously like Facebook groups or something like that. Some of the, if you could actually, like most people would do a lurk anyway, you can lurk a little bit, read some of the historical search for some questions you might have about it and you start looking at the answers that they’re getting. You don’t want exactly like you said, bill, you don’t want the woe is me, this is the worst ever. I can’t stand to be here. We don’t want that. The idea is you’re want to be able to be helpful back and forth. You’ve got to be helpful back and forth because if it’s not, it defeats the purpose of having a peer group. It’s all one sided. You have somebody takes take take and doesn’t give anything that ruins the whole feel of it and the whole reason to have a peer group for anything.
And that’s where we’re now after doing all of these things we’ve done, we’re trying to start a smaller different peer group in my area here of just different shops. I mean we’ve had shops, I’ve had some guys come in and look at how we’re set up here with AutoVitals and protractor and what we’re doing. And a couple of ’em are still literally, like we mentioned before, they’re still on paper writing and they know they need to move out of that era and move up here. They want to text, they want to do all these other things but they don’t know how to make that jump. And that was something that I’ve already gone through. I didn’t know to start with either how to make that jump and I think none of us in this field really did to start with to make it cohesive. I mean thinking that you don’t want to have five or six different phone numbers or everything. You want one cohesive phone number, your main phone number you can call on, you can text on, you can email to it, you can do everything with one phone number and that’s what, so you want something that’s consistent.
Bill Connor (35:31):
So how do you change the mind of some other shop owners that view everybody that’s around them as a competitor? How do you change your mind to help them understand how to turn everybody around them into an ally instead?
Ken Anderson (35:44):
That can be a tough road to hoe if you’ll there on some of it. It does depend on the person. If they’re finally, if they even would show up to the meetings, they come to a meeting like that and you want to talk ideas, hash ideas out, hey, you’re part of town, what’s your labor rate at? Or what are you running across? And they realize it’s not to share bottom line dollars. We’re not trying, it’s not divulging big secrets. And once they kind of g let the guard down, you’ve got to get to the point where the guard is down. We’re not here to steal customers, we’re here to help each other out. We are an industry, there’s plenty of customers out there.
The only time your competition would be if you’re literally next door or across the street from me, then we might have competition. But even then you can work that out to where it’s everybody’s just a little bit different and customers are always going to pick the shop they prefer. They prefer, they may not like me but they like bill next door or they want on the other side, they prefer somebody. They’re going to go to who they like and who they trust. So it doesn’t matter if you’re side by side or if you’re across town from each other, the customer is the driving force.
Bill Connor (36:56):
You have a shop, come with my name.
Ken Anderson (37:00):
Well we have a spot for you maybe.
Bill Connor (37:04):
So I also hear a lot of shop owners say when they network with each other, it creates a lot of opportunity. So we’ve got a lot of people that have been in industry since the dinosaurs room that are about ready to retire and networking with other people gives ’em the opportunity to maybe find somebody that might want to go ahead and acquire their business and maybe their business will have a better value by going ahead and learning some of the new things.
Ken Anderson (37:28):
Absolutely. But there’s also, even in our area, everybody’s area, there’s always a shop or something that has gone out of business. They decide to retire, nobody wanted it. They didn’t really know how to sell it didn’t really push it at all. And maybe we weren’t set up at the time to do it, to acquire it. And that’s something that you don’t realize until you start really be working on your business that you could actually start acquisitions and you could expand yourself. But everybody thinks it’s great to have just one shop and hey, you make a living and you’re surviving or you’re comfortable living comfortably if that’s all you want, doing a good job. But all of a sudden you realize if you really want to push the industry, if you could get another shop and run it the same way yours is being run and have that not get too corporate-y, still have a good team attitude, still have a good vibe that the customer doesn’t feel because customers feel that when they walk in the door. If you have a good cohesive team gets along, they can. And any place you go, you can tell that yourself as well. If you can keep that up and offer the level of service that an independent can offer compares to a dealer. If you think about it, we’re not near as restrained as corporate entity would be. We have much more flexibility and that’s where we as independents can strive and actually surpass many of the other shops, dealerships in particular just by our level of service that we can offer. So
Bill Connor (39:11):
Does that flexibility actually comes from the processes you learn from your peers and laid out and you’re enabling your staff to make decisions rather than have to go up a ladder to make a choice?
Ken Anderson (39:21):
Absolutely. You need to empower. I do all my guys. If there’s somebody, if customer comes in and they need to be fired, I will stand behind them on that because if they feel threatened by the customer, customer’s obnoxious, we’re open, they come in and have a conversation and talk. But if they cannot do that and we are doing the phone recordings, we’re doing the things to make sure that this is a legitimate, we’re not just giving you free, free reign you can get if you don’t like the way they looking, kick ’em out the door. It’s got to be a legitimate serious person with an attitude that’s just not a fit for our shop or they just are not going to very rude and obnoxious. We don’t need that and we won’t put up with that. I don’t need my employees being buffaloed by a customer and we’re not going to be a shop as run by our customers. We will work with them gladly, but we’re not going to be run by them.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (40:11):
I have a question about how more if ever risk friendly you have become. I mean what I mean with that is the more disruption, the more feel and so you have to, in the beginning probably the changes were smaller and then as you saw, wow, this pays off. I try bigger things. I mean I’m assuming that’s why I want to know success breeds success and often a bigger change gets you a higher success and it comes across disruptive. But if you have, as you said, the team behind it, you can have little failures on the way, it doesn’t matter because you know it’s going to work. So can you tell us a little bit about how that evolved over time? If it did?
Ken Anderson (41:18):
It did. It did. Some of the changes we’re making, it was, well obviously the biggest change, you just taking the jump to go on your own and then realizing because you don’t at that time, I venture to say 90 plus of us that do that don’t have the long-term vision that we were. It’s changed. It’s way changed from what it was. And as we start making these changes, having employees realizing building your team that you can trust with them and they know you trust them. All my guys have credit cards and they’re limited. I can’t go get steak and lobster every night or anything, but they don’t have to come running to me or running to hey, they go up to service advisor, I need to go get a car wash. I can go with fuel this car. Hey, if it needs it, take care of it, handle it.
Bring the receipt back. They know that they’re entrusted with that. If we need something in the shop, go buy it. If a couple dollars, hey we’re missing some nuts, bolts, whatever. As soon as you get the team behind you and these changes you make as you say the things. Now I don’t have near the qualms of making changes. I used to, you get used to it just like when you start out and you start realizing how big these checks are that you have to write every month to your suppliers and it’s like you’re buying your first house and you’re signing the bottom of that and how many digits is that that I’m just sending my life away to? And you don’t realize it the same thing in the business. And there’s so many facets of it that you have to learn and understand that pretty soon you to some degree you get kind of dulled to it. So it doesn’t hit you as hard when you make that decision and you don’t even realize that you’re making a bigger, you’re taking bigger bites of that elephant.
Bill Connor (43:11):
So really what you’re saying in this industry, leaders aren’t born, they have to be built. So what are some steps you did to build yourself as a leader and how are you going to coach your staff into becoming leaders to replace yourself
Ken Anderson (43:27):
To be a leader? I put myself second. I put my employees first. That was one of the first things that I had learned that at the hard way through the dealership I was nothing but a number and it was you were worthless, you were replaceable. Different pay plan literally every other week. Two pay plans, different pay plans a month, all that stuff. You don’t want that. Your team wants stability, you want to be able to pay fairly and you want to understand that they, what can, we’re going through that now. Pay plans, we’re revamping all that. So they’re going to be ask the tech, what do you think you’re worth for the year? Okay, that’s your base pay. You’re going to be salary, you’re not going to be a commission. We don’t do flat rate, we’re hourly now, but now it’s going to be something with an incentive that they can understand that they have some control over their future. They’re not this, right.
Bill Connor (44:22):
You’re asking them what did they feel their worth and then you’re letting them go ahead and tell you what they’re going to do to go ahead and earn that worth.
Ken Anderson (44:29):
Bill Connor (44:32):
It works again,
Ken Anderson (44:34):
That’s amazing. But after you get your team set up and you realize you’re investing in your team as much as they are investing their lives into your business. And then once you acknowledge that and treat them as such, they are basically your business partners. You would not be where you’re at without your employees. I mean you need to make sure that they understand that and not to the point that it gets abused. I mean it has to have checks and balances, but they have this mutual respect. There’s not, if you have good camaraderie, you can do, as you say, the shop culture gets to where you can do things together. Whether it’s going out for a weekend camping, going out to an ax, throwing even it’s a night for dinner, go to the bar or whatever. There are things that, and they will realize that you are not there taking all the money, that you’re not there to make them.
You’re just concerned about them as well and that you want to make sure that their lives are, you take a genuine interest in your employee’s lives as well. That is one of the biggest things that has worked and garnered loyalty is they know and they understand that what something happens, we’ll do what we can to help ’em out. I mean if there’s a problem, it’s an open door. If there’s something not right, if you guys something not getting that means a lot because you see, and also as again, during the onboarding, you have their ideas. What is it that, what would you like to see out of this program? What would you like to see out of this? What we’re doing? What ideas do you want to bring to the table? And all of a sudden you implement those plans and say, okay though we will try your idea out here for this month.
Let’s see how it takes it. We might fine tune it. And all of a sudden that person mentally takes it as pride that, hey, that was my idea and we’re running with it and now I made a valuable contribution to the business to have that right there. You garner the loyalty because you actually care about your employees. I mean kinds. It’s not your number. You’re replaceable next. Okay, those days, well, they should be long gone. That’s why as you say, most people, you quit jobs don’t quit the job, they quit the manager because they’re being treated poorly. There’s no reason to treat anybody poorly. And that right there, you’ll garner many, many dividends from that.
Bill Connor (47:08):
So specifically on the peer group that you’ve joined, I don’t know if you’ve mentioned what group you’ve joined, but what do you expect to go ahead and get out of that group of your peers? So you just ideas or you expect them to hold you accountable. What are your expectations from that peer group?
Ken Anderson (47:26):
Well the group today ended up joining was Transformers and I got the connection again through this podcast and Frank and a few of the others that have been on here. And it took me, I researched them for probably two, three months really to see if there was a fit. And just like you said, they hold you accountable. If you say you’re going to do something you get checked up on and your peers are the ones that are pushing you. It’s not just some guy on the phone, your coach. So you’re more likely to actually want to do that. You want to follow through because you don’t want to disappoint the group and it’s back and forth that way. And also the same token, it’s getting the ideas. It’s not that it’s same size shops in the particular group he mentioned basically a 20 group if you will.
They’re from all over the country, from New Hampshire to California to Washington to Texas, to Arizona, to Florida and everywhere in between. We’re all from all over. So you get a good cross ideas of what everybody’s going through and it really opens your eyes up to more than just your little. And you have other people that think you suddenly you realize you’re not the only one, that you’re not the only oddball out there that’s doing some of these things. Oh yeah, we did the same thing with that three months ago. And then you realize, hey, okay, that kind of self affirms. So it’s
Bill Connor (48:50):
Kind of like a slap in a forehead saying that if they can do it, I can do it too.
Ken Anderson (48:54):
Yeah, exactly. Or thank God somebody else is doing it. I’m not the only one. And that’s where you feel, because again, it’s somebody basically on your level and it takes a bit to, it is a commitment definitely you’ve got to want to improve. You can’t just be, well, I’ll sign up and that’ll improve me because I signed up. You need to actually realize that there’s more to learn, but you also have to get to the point where you be able to give back and I just joined this last December 1st of the year and it’s taken me a little bit of time to where I can feel like I can actually give back in a group.
Bill Connor (49:41):
So learn from your peers and go to your shop, discuss it and have them make it their idea and then you got it home run
Uwe Kleinschmidt (49:50):
Sense and agree on what the accountability rules are, right?
Ken Anderson (49:55):
Yes. At the time,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (49:56):
We’re not going to do it in five years, we’re going to do it now and next week we’re going to see X, Y, Z,
Ken Anderson (50:03):
Right? Yes.
Bill Connor (50:05):
The old goal with the timeline trick, there’s a whole episode on smart goals somewhere, isn’t there?
Ken Anderson (50:12):
We did this, that was our big, I don’t run below here, but our last year we finally crossed a million dollar gross and that was really big for us. I mean we’ve been stuck at around the seven 50 mark for a couple of years and a previous business partner that I had said, this place would never do it. I’m not capable of it. And so I still had it, it’ll never work. Oh yeah, that’s always, there’s too many problems with it. You’ll never do it. Never do it. And this year we’re on track to do 1.5 because we’ve finally done and a lot of that was the guys. Yeah, there was a big bonus at the end of it. Hey guys, if we cross it, you’re going to get a thousand bucks cash. Let’s make a goal go of it, but we are not going to sacrifice our standards to do it.
We are not going to fleece the customers, we’re not going to, we are going to do what we do at a higher level and then we will attain that. And that’s what everybody and then once we again got our systems in place with AutoVitals and a few other inspections that just took us the next jump up and it’s piece by piece. It is not. And it has been, I mean it’s about two years now, bill, was it roughly or year and a half probably. So yeah, I think about two years and was making a big change like this. It’s going to take time. You’re not going to, well, I’ll have it done and I know other shops out there that could do it, you had a couple six months, they’re just cruising right along. But the majority of shops are going to have to grin and bear it and really work with it and fine tune to make it fit themselves. Even though you have that. That’s not my shop. My shop’s different, but everybody’s shop is really not that different. And again, your peer groups, you talk about that and you realize they’re having the same problems you’re having. It doesn’t matter if they have 10 mechanics or five locations or what their background is, they still have the same day-to-day issues that you do with the single shop or with three mechanics or with two mechanics.
It’s really affirming that other people are going through that well, okay, Jerry, you ask right now I’ve got four mechanics, three with an apprentice who’s just going to turn, he’s on the bottom end of the line. He turn into a high ctech. I’ve got one helper helps a little bit. Everybody. We don’t have a GS guy. I have one counter person and I’ve got one production parts manager and we split them up here just a couple months ago and that made a world of difference right there. They were both on the front counter both doing it. So I had two service advisors. Now it’s split the duties and my production parks manager will do all the estimates and then pat forward them on My service advisor takes care of all of the customer contacts, doctors up the images, make sure everything’s spelled correctly, that type of thing. And it has made some significant, in our case, it has made a huge difference on efficiencies and the flow in the shop and that’s constantly what we’re constantly tweaking.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (53:30):
Dang, we out of time, but I was
Bill Connor (53:32):
Just fixing to say, we’re down to the end here and I’d kind like you to go ahead and tell the people listening, the top three things that you’ve learned that they should go ahead and study up on and implementing your shop to make their lives better for themself and their staff.
Ken Anderson (53:47):
Bill Connor (53:48):
We can’t have all of them.
Ken Anderson (53:51):
Definitely get to where you’re working on your business not in it and make that transition. If you can do that, the sooner the better. As long as you’ve got your people set up. If you don’t have a front counter person or somebody help to help you like that, you need to get one. It’s an investment and it will suddenly make your life a whole lot better. Efficiency, shop efficiency in general. What can you do to help your techs? What can you do to help your people work better, smarter as well as automatically that’ll breed efficiency. If they’re not running across a six bays to go get an oil filter, a little changes and then actually sit down and have a good, really focus on shop culture to the point where you have a true team where everybody’s not scared to have an input if they come in during a meeting or come to you after hours or even during the hours and say, Hey, I’ve got a problem with this. We did this with inspections. If something’s not right, hey, we need to add this or this that. Okay, we’ll take care of it and respond to ’em and have them realize that they are. Make sure you make your employees feel that they are a very important part of your business because they are a very important part of your business.
Bill Connor (55:06):
Uwe, you have anything else that you’d like to add?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:09):
The only thing I would love to keep discussing when we have 30 seconds left, I feel like we are now in Congress. I have 30 seconds to make a point. 1.5 growth is kind of the volume where you can afford to specialize is what we found out in the, can you confirm that? Is that
Ken Anderson (55:37):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:37):
It shouldn’t be done too early so to speak, because then the cost doesn’t justify the income. What’s your take
Ken Anderson (55:46):
On that? We’re just a general repair shop. Asians and very light European. We work in conjunction with our neighbors in the area.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:58):
Sorry, when I meant specialized, I meant production manager, service advisor instead of two service advisors.
Ken Anderson (56:06):
Okay. Alright. That would be, honestly, even if you’re at 800, that will take you to the next level. Plus I had a service advisor took me from 500 to 800 because I had somebody else to answer the phone. Do the writing, take care. It takes a load off of you and you can start stepping doing some of on your business, not in the business. Very cool. I mean that’s very important. Very cool.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (56:30):
So you just say it’s worth investing no matter where you are in your development, you just need to track and see that it pays off.
Ken Anderson (56:39):
Exactly. And don’t be disappointed. You may not track and it may not pay off right away. Right. But generally it’s good. It’s well worth it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (56:48):
It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Right? I mean, that’s just every change.
Bill Connor (56:54):
You look at it a certain point that business is just math. If it fits into the math formula and there’s still a net profit at the end of the day, then that’s what you do to go ahead and make everybody’s life better. So Ken, I’d like to sincerely thank you for joining us. Again, it’s always a hoot to go ahead and have you on here. There’s no telling what you’re going to come up with and that’s always good. I’d like to encourage those of you that are listening to go ahead and encourage other shop owners in the area, maybe around you to go to Maybe join us live or listen to the 174 podcasts that are actually in their stored up, ready to be harvested. Or maybe invite them to go to their favorite podcast platform and listen on their way home or while they’re on the beach somewhere by searching for the digital shop talk radio on that platform. So once again, I’d like to thank everybody and go out there and make some money and go out there and wow your customers in the process.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:51):
Thank you, Ken. Thank
Ken Anderson (57:52):
You very much. It was really good. I enjoyed it. I’ll be looking forward to it again. Anytime. Anytime, guys.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:58):
Thank you.
Bill Connor (57:59):
We’ll ask you.
Ken Anderson (58:00):

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