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The Digital Shop Talk radio had many panelists sharing their success as a result of being open-minded and focused on teamwork when introducing the Digital Shop process. Two of them, Ken Anderson – Owner – B & L Quality Repair LLC, and Rebecca Levey – Owner – Metropolitan Garage, join Bill and Uwe as they look back at 2021 and prepare for 2022.

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’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we get together on Wednesday afternoons and have our panelists share their wisdom with us. You can find us and join us live and I encourage you to do so by going to and registering. And so today Uwe and I have invited back Rebecca Levey, owner of Metropolitan Garage, way up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Ken Anderson, owner of B & L Quality Repair, LLC in the Montana area. So these are some really cool guests in more than one way. AutoVitals very own Chief Innovation Officer is back with us today. And today we’re going to be discussing with our panelists their success as a result of being open-minded and focusing on teamwork when they introduce the digital shop processes, a new shop. We’ll be looking back at 2021, learning what they did that they’d really like to build on for 2022, and what are their plans for continue leveraging the digital shop going on into the future. Listen closely, you’ll take away some solid information putting the digital shop to work for your shop. As always, you’ll learn from our great panelists operating shops just like yours. So Uwe, I believe that what we’d like to do is have you go ahead and get us started out here and get us on track and we’ll move along.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:31):
Thank you. Yeah, I was out last week and I listened to Rebecca’s recording with Bill and I was so inspired that I thought let’s do a different kind of look back at 2021. I mean the time is opportune, right? We have two more days to go, but we don’t want to look at numbers. We don’t want to look at how do I grow my shop in numbers and KPIs. We just want to look at a pattern we have seen in this Digital Shop Talk Radio during 2021, which is shops of any size, you don’t need to have a touch more hall to be successful shops of any size, embracing process change, teamwork, open-mindedness, not shy, away from difficulties. Introducing the process basically turned into exceptionally successful shots. And Rebecca and Ken are perfect examples and so we would love to pick your brain again and thank you for joining us. What were the factors for success for you and I bet being successful and working now in a more fulfilling environment? What are your goals for 2022? Big task today, sorry, but the time is right to talk about that. So yeah, thank you very much and I would just maybe start with Rebecca, if you look back 2021 and you’re not allowed to use the World pandemic, what is, I’m just kidding. Of course. What are the top three things you remember?
Rebecca Levey (03:58):
Oh wow. Top three. Well first of all, thanks for the gracious introduction, both of you, Bill and Uwe. I’m really happy to be on this show because I love what AutoVitals is doing in its intention to transform the industry and I use AutoVitals as a tool because it is one of the tools that I am using to transform my participation in the automotive industry. Giving me the task of looking back and naming three things. Is that what you mean of naming three things? Perhaps
Uwe Kleinschmidt (04:40):
If it’s five, it’s five. I don’t want to limit your
Rebecca Levey (04:45):
Right, right. It’s hard. I mean you learn so much in a year, so maybe I will, I’ll categorize my comments and focus them because there’s so much I could talk about what I’ve learned as a leader. That’s what I learned that’s most valuable, so I think I’ll talk about that. What I learned about as a leader in 2021 is that my most precious resource is my staff. And of course as owners we know that for sure. But in 2021 it was through caring for my staff that we were able to care for our customers in, I’ll call it an interesting climate. We were able to care for them and the way that I cared for staff was in making sure that they were actually making personal and professional progress. And we did that through a culture of teamwork and we’ve been working on teamwork for a few years actually, and we made a great deal of progress last year I think because the climate was a little bit like a simmering pot.
We were all stuck in the building together. The doors were closed, our interaction with customers was limited, so we were really able to focus on the relationships inside the building and the digital platform. It really helped that one specific thing I want to give people something they can really chew on when they go away from this, and one really specific thing that I noticed that happened using this digital platform is all of my technicians are people who are really proud of what they do. There’s scientists, they love puzzles, and the DVI platform actually enabled them to show their work in a way that they haven’t been able to do it before because they knew communication was limited with the customer and through all of the pictures and the narrative that they wrote and that my service advisors were able to curate, they were able to show their work and have a level of integrity that I think is hard to do on a paper form.
You can’t communicate as thoroughly what you’re doing and what you’re proud of and whether it’s all the zip ties you’ve used and snip the ins off and made it all pretty, that means something to the customers. It also means something to the technicians and their level of participation in the team. It grew last year and so I’m really happy with that. That’s one really big thing that I learned and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, Ken, I really want to hear what you have to say as well. So let’s look forward to 2022 and what I expect to see from 2022 in terms of climate, I expect to see inflation in terms of economy in my area. I expect to see people with less disposable income and I include my staff in that. So I see a more hostile economic climate and throughout that I want to show up in that economy the way I’ve been showing up and it’s with integrity.
When my employees come on, I always give them a list of 100 values and I ask them to pick their top three, what do you value the most? And the interesting thing about my employees is all but one, I have 11, all but one chose integrity and they really enjoy being a shop where they know the work that they’re doing is benefiting the customer. Now, that’s a tricky situation. When your techs work on build hours, they’re caught in a little bit of a vice because in order to make a living they need to bill hours and yet they have integrity and you don’t want to have a business model that forces them to work outside their integrity. And AutoVitals has really helped with this because they are able to communicate the work that needs to be done and they’re able to do it in a way that they don’t have to actually kind of tweak the narrative to make it seem like the work maybe needs to be done more than it needs to be done. They’re able to give the service advisors the tools to give an honest viewpoint of the work that needs to be done so the service advisors can do what they are born to do, which is they are a couple’s therapist, they are divorce lawyers.
They act as a therapist between the grandparent and the child. That’s what they do. And the techs have learned that they need to give the service advisors all of the evidence that they can in order to have this conversation and this relationship with 100% transparency. And so the integrity actually it happens in the relationship between the tech and the service advisor and translates itself from the service advisor to the customer. So in 2022, I want to care for my technician’s ability to really act within his integrity and make a living at the same time. And the digital platform is helping us do that among other things. And we talked yesterday about the kind of psychological transformation that happens when you have a technician who comes from the industry where upselling is the only way that he can really make a living and the psychological transformation that happens when you come to a shop culture that is the opposite of that. And as leaders, what do we need to do to reassure that technician that he’s going to be able to make a really good living without upselling? I feel like that’s a whole episode in and of itself, but that is work that at our shop we continue to do and it’s a big ask, it’s a tall job, but our shop has proven that you can do it actually.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:46):
Wow, that’s a lot. He’s speechless. I can’t believe it. What I would like to do is have, I mean I have so many questions, but I’m going to put them on the back burner and let Ken chime in and give us his top 1, 2, 5, whatever number you want to pick in looking back on 21,
Ken Anderson (12:16):
Rebecca’s a hard act to follow, so say that I could not put it as eloquently as she did for sure, but I can see that between both of our shops it’s very, very similar in the approach and I can’t agree more with what Rebecca said. That’s one reason I’m going with AutoVitals as well was for the fact of how it brought an open transparency and it seemed to reinforce the integrity factor because by and large, every mechanic out there is very particular and like you said, they’re proud. I mean it’s not like they’re proud of their work and they want to do it right and they’re not trying to fleece a customer. But without this platform that we started leveraging a little bit more last year I made some changes in our shop. I’ve only got, I think eight total now, eight guys total, two in the front counter and four techs and then a couple of shop cleaners and helpers and we had some personnel changes and that we brought in a new mechanic and it was eye opening for him. We brought in a different service advisor and it took us a while all year to kind of utilize the system, but we started breaking down the small pieces and everybody realized that it was what the system was doing that they can maintain integrity. We were not trying to
Bully the customer in any way, shape or form. We are just laying it out there. We’re educating the customer, we are being upfront with them, they can share the inspections, they can share, and we utilized it predominantly, like I said yesterday was we were using mostly on the work orders first. So we kind of worked a little bit backwards because we had a system down that we would do picture or very, very thorough stories on the work orders with our old systems. But of course there were more pictures or anything like that or movies or anything like that. And once we got with AutoVitals and the techs were able to see, just like Rebecca said, they could actually show off their work, here’s that wine repair I did, here’s why it looks factory again after I got done with it. Here’s what was wrong with it and actually show the customer after they dug into it so deep, excuse me, they suddenly took a lot of pride in the fact that they were able to show the customer and the service advisor and everybody, they had a record of it.
Here’s the work that I did and I’m proud of it. And that really kind of bumped everybody up a little bit more. We tried to have a decent good team, a good group dynamic here very much like Rebecca has at her shop sounds like. And it hit this. Having the pictures, the movies, the ability to work like this over the last year and then having the new guys as a team help bring the other guys up to speed with it. Everybody has that whole feeling of, it makes the team dynamic work a lot better because it’s not suddenly I’m saying, okay, hey, you do this, you do this. They’re actually helping each other out. Hey, I didn’t understand what this is. Oh, okay, I do this way. Okay, push this button or I work on the tablet this way or we show here’s why we were showing the service advisor this information and they worked together back and forth.
It was extremely good this year or last year as well. That’s what we were trying to take little snippets and we’d focus on quality of pictures, little things like that. But the big thing was trying to make sure that everybody would work together and you can’t have the shop, you can’t have success if you don’t have a good team and you have to include your team and they’ve got to be got a lot of, as an owner that sometimes we have to stop and step back and realize all our ideas are not the word of God coming down from on high, so we can’t actually run a shop that way. But if you ask your guys’ opinions, your employees, and suddenly they feel a lot more value and they feel like there’s somebody that cares and then you can implement, you might have an idea that’s completely just takes you to the next level because one of your employees that you made a suggestion and utilize it and it’ll work great. And they feel extremely proud of that as well. And they feel valued.
Bill Connor (16:49):
More and more interesting is as we get further into the digital shop talk episodes, we’re at 150 now, but we hear more and more shop owners talking about their technician taking pride in what they’re doing, demonstrating it through the digital tools we have. And in the past if somebody asks a technician what do they do? Fix cars. But now it’s more like they’re actually grasping this and they’re going out there and showing off what they do with pride. And that’s something that they really couldn’t do before. They could invite a customer in a shop every now and then, but this is a whole different way to get it done and share it
Ken Anderson (17:26):
Huge. It really brings them up to the forefront. Originally when I started the shop, we were just two of us, two mechanics and one of our tagline was, you talked to the person fixing your car, so you don’t go through three or four people. And we’re not quite that way now. We have one person in between, but we still have, if there’s a need to, we’ll bring ’em up and the customer can go for a ride with the tech for some of these oddball situations. But the ideal is that puts the customer at ease. We’re not trying to, again, we’re trying to be upfront and transparent with them. We’re not selling them, we’re not trying to sell. Yes, money’s important. So is the, as Rebecca mentioned, integrity and that’s what the majority of good quality shops around have high integrity, whether they’re being watched or not being watched, they’re still, you want to keep your integrity level high and there’s a reason for that and you bring good quality people that way as well.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (18:24):
And do you have a quick 2022 goal list or are you still working on it?
Ken Anderson (18:34):
Yeah, we’re working on it actually. It’s a work in progress every time. There’s really no set perfect little take I am setting to try and get my service of virus to training out of area training. I want them to from a different perspective. Excuse me,
Sorry about that. The thing we’re trying to do is as we utilize more and more of the platform, I’ve tell you pretty much chopped it up a little sections and we’re just going little by little taking little steps and integrating it into our day-to-day routine because one of Bill’s favorites for saying muscle memory, do it till you have muscle memory, but we got to make sure that muscle memory doesn’t put us in a deep rut. So we’re all just taking little pieces, little pieces and working it into, we’re focusing on pictures now and we’re getting our inspections up very good with good videos, good documentation, much more thorough. It took a while for the new service advisor to understand and he’s on board and we’re rolling. Good. So we want to improve on that, we want to keep that going. And now we’re going to move that over because we’ve kind of gotten a little bit away from our original work order, which is what was so nice about AutoVitals is it compliments the work order and we want to get back to that again.
We kind of lost a little bit on there, so we’re going to bring that back up to where the clarity on the work order, the pictures and the thorough story there as well. So for this year it’s just little by little and hopefully war training. It’s kind of hard to get training. We’ve lost it over the last couple of years with what was going on there and some little things. We’re just trying to keep the team, keep the team spirit going because really you want be a good, especially now that we have a couple of new people and they’re actually, we’ve got lucky, we’ve got a good group of people that fit together very well and it is really the last couple months of the year has been awesome and we’re looking forward to having a good group of guys. Awesome. Next year,
Bill Connor (20:40):
2021, did we really learn a lesson that not only do the customers not have to go ahead and hang around the shop and wait for results, but did we go ahead and learn that it’s really better for the customers and for the shop overall to go ahead and get away from the waiter type business?
Ken Anderson (21:01):
Rebecca, go for it.
Rebecca Levey (21:05):
Oh, I think for sure, I mean I think it was a natural transformation that was happening. It was going to happen. I think the climate, it forced, it happened much faster than it would have otherwise, which I think is awesome. I love being forced to run faster than I want to. That was wonderful. I think the other thing, transformation that is happening in the industry and everybody’s going to have to get on board with this I think too, whether they want to or not, is that the industry, unfortunately it morphed from a service industry to a retail industry and I think as we reintroduce transparency and we’re fighting for our lives because people want transparency and they can have it now because of the digital medium, they get to have that now. They’re going to want more of it, then naturally we’re going to have to back off and notice that we’re not a retail industry.
We are a service industry and as we talked about yesterday, Uwe, the exit interview is a very natural part of that. Being the family mechanic being you think of the family doctor, you get the best care when you get checked out by the same man or woman every year because they know you Well, the same thing’s true for your car because it’s a service. So doing the exit interview through AutoVitals and asking people if they want to schedule their next appointment for their inspection, it’s a very natural progression for our industry as it writes itself because we’re not a retail, we don’t sell stuff, we serve people. So anyway, I think that’s also kind of in an overarching terms where I see 2022 going and we can go there willingly or we can try to catch up because that’s where transparency is going to take us.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (23:20):
I mean we can fill hours with that discussion, but I mean on the one hand I agree with you. On the other hand I see it a uphill battle because there are so many trends which try to commoditize the service industry, not just auto repair because of the transparency, oh, I need to see your car otherwise I cannot make an assessment of your needs is kind of complimented by, I don’t know, thousands of user forums online where people discuss challenges with their car. So where is the kind of healthy medium between the two where you are still the expert and with the highest transparency possible, deliver the service to the customer though they don’t need to look for a user all especially in the context of the industry’s wrap of there’s always this little rip off and you mentioned that in the last episode, if we’re still preferring a root canal over the visit of an auto repair shop, there’s some work to be done, right?
Rebecca Levey (24:52):
There is, but ova, I can keep you from that root canal, right? Yes. I can actually
Uwe Kleinschmidt (25:00):
Rebecca Levey (25:01):
Exactly, and you know that and if I’m doing my job correctly and I have integrity and I have transparency, I’m going to be able to communicate this to my customer and they’ll see that, wow, I’m getting three visits for about 200 bucks each per year and I never break down.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (25:20):
No, I totally agree with you. I am just saying it’s going to be, there’s going to be, or it already is a certain hesitancy to become more transparent, remotely fearing. It leads to commoditization if I’m making any sense. So there is the healthy medium where it’s your core, it’s my expertise. Combining the two and presented on the website, even if the car is not in the shop for example, is one of those things I predict personally there will be a need to give estimates without having the car on the shop. And I know that’s going to be an outlandish idea and I get a lot of pushback, but I think that’s a trend the industry cannot escape and as you said before, let’s just talk about how we can do it and increase our value in that environment instead of avoiding it. I remember we had a customer a few years ago canceling our retention service because we provided recall information automatically
Rebecca Levey (26:57):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (26:58):
The reason was that’s my job to give that information to my customers. I don’t want you to do it. And I didn’t say it out loud, but my first question was in my head, have you heard of Google? So that sums up in what the predicament is we are in and I think we should leverage it instead of fearing it and trying to control it anyway.
Bill Connor (27:30):
Maybe the first step down that path is not to provide an estimate but to go and give them a complete understanding of what their vehicle needs based on the symptom without pricing,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (27:41):
Right? Yes.
Rebecca Levey (27:43):
But Uwe, are you saying they’re going to want the price though? Are you saying that price point is going to actually dominate?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (27:49):
No, I’m saying what am I saying? I’m saying the price. It’s something everybody understands, right? Everybody knows how much X amount of dollars is and that allows everybody to compare, right? Whereas everything else is hard to understand except your for the car aficionados and auto repair people and want to be engineers and so on and so forth, the Google mechanics, but that’s the common nominator. Everybody understands. I actually believe it’s less about budget or can I afford it. It’s more about having something to compare. And so to Bill’s point, I think we would make a huge step forward to say if it was possible, your call typically in the following mileage range experiences, the following symptoms, all of a sudden you have a comparison and that engages the conversation with the shop without the price. But we as people, we are so good in contrast and comparing, we are looking for it and all we need is something we can relate to. Put it in context, it’s true. And if that’s not the price, perfect. That’s what I’m trying to say. So thank you for asking.
Rebecca Levey (29:30):
And that points out, and I don’t know Ken, maybe you’ll have a different take on this, but is going to be one of the main challenges in 2022 is a water pump is one price one day and literally it is a significantly different price one week later. And so comparing, it’s hard to communicate with the customers that the price fluctuations,
Ken Anderson (29:57):
We used to be think about getting parts for the by and large they were fairly stable. I mean the price of the part, you might have an annual or a quarterly little bump or drop or raise Now like Rebecca says, you order a water pump one week, it’s this price the next week, the same exact thing and you have to almost double the price of your repair because the part went up twice, twice as much money as it was. And it’s hard to say if that’s ever, that’s one of the upcoming battles for 2022. I think we’re going to be trying to figure out how to work around that and work with that, work within that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (30:31):
How big, can you give some examples if you wouldn’t mind? What’s the range you already dealing with today in parts price fluctuation with the supply chain issues?
Ken Anderson (30:48):
A simple for oil change, a barrel of oil, we buy it by the bulk and because it used to be super cheap, well relatively speaking and that barrel of oil has gone up for $200 since last April for the same barrel of oil and that’s the cheapest local supplier that we can find. So suddenly you don’t make a lot of money on your oil changes anyway. It’s kind of a value added anyway. Excuse me.
Rebecca Levey (31:16):
Yeah, oil is definitely one of those things. I use the example of a water pump because just recently quoted a job and then the customer called back and said, wait a minute, I can actually buy this part from this part store for a hundred dollars cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. And so we called the parts store and said, how come this guy can get a hundred dollars cheaper than my cost? And they had changed their pricing literally one week earlier and stuff like that’s embarrassing. But at the same time in working with customers, we can expect a little bit of understanding from them because experiencing it everywhere. So that’s a good thing.
Ken Anderson (32:01):
Bill Connor (32:01):
That’s what I was thinking is how can we turn adversity into opportunity and really if we focus on it and say, remember sir, I can get the part now. I may not be able to get it two weeks from now when you broke down on the side of the road and the price may be higher, should we maybe do it today? Every time there’s something adverse going on in the universe, we can kind of turn it around into a useful tool if we understand what’s in it for the customer and explain it to ’em in that way,
Ken Anderson (32:29):
Give them the option. That’s true. Trying to get a lot of the parts too, like Rebecca was saying in the water pump situation, when you have a parts house making price changes like that, a lot of times it’s the inventory control. I mean we’ve had some troubles where we order the parties here, we call an hour later, Hey, the part’s not here, where is it? Oh well we didn’t have it. The inventory was wrong. So you’re forced, you’ve already made the commitment to the customer. So the next thing you know you’re forced to try and tracking another one down. They have the only one that’s showing up. So then you end up calling the dealer. It’s kind of a last resort because usually their prices tend to be higher. And sure enough, that same part is two to three times and you’ve got to figure out how to eat crow or call the customer, explain what happened, the part was unavailable or we got the part and it had been dropped, it was broken in the box. There’s all kinds of things, but the customers honestly are experiencing a lot of this already in their day-to-day, going to the grocery store, seeing how empty lot the shelves are. So they kind of understand it. They’re starting to understand it.
Bill Connor (33:34):
When you hear stories like we do every day today, that maintenance and inspection is more important than ever. When we have stories where people are ordering an engine, a replacement engine because of poor maintenance and they’re being told it’s going to be six months, what is their choice? They rent a vehicle for six months or they buy a new one. I mean, so a lot of things can go ahead and change just by going ahead and understanding what’s going on in the world around us and some replacement parts. Who knows, they may not even go ahead and get produced.
Ken Anderson (34:05):
We’ve had a couple that we had on order for, we had one situation, we had a computer was on order, it was a special one year, one model computer. It kept checking on it, kept checking on it, kept getting pushed back, pushed back. Nine months later it got canceled and it’s not produced and the customer cannot drive their car without it. Only in the winter, in the summertime the car won’t start when it’s warm, it starts fine in the winter. So it at the circuit board level. And in this particular module there’s no, they’re going through the internet, I dunno, went through 20 different places that worked on computers. They would not touch this module. So here the computer has a nice car in the driveway, it looks maybe a great planter or a fountain or
Bill Connor (34:45):
Something. Rebecca knows a nice place that vehicle could be transported to two.
Rebecca Levey (34:51):
This brings up an interesting question about the approach for 2022. And when we have adversity, it can divide us or we can actually use it to become stronger teams. And when I talk about teamwork, I actually include our vendors in this. We can actually treat them as adversaries or we can throw our net around them because they want things to go well just as much as we do. And so what we’ve been doing is trying to figure out how to work with our vendors, how to believe in them, how to have a generous spirit when we work with them and really determining what they are capable of and adjusting our procedure to work harmoniously with that. For instance, in working with one dealership, parts would be backorder without the dealership, without the manufacturer notifying our dealership. So the three weeks would go by, the shipment would come in and the part’s not on the shipment and no one knew.
And so the way we’ve worked, rather than really being disappointed in that dealership for their process, we’ve figured out, oh, so we’re going to order this part. And we figured out how many days out the manufacturer is going to know that that part’s back ordered. So it’s on us. We put a note on our calendar to then call the dealership after three days time so they don’t have to remember to do it because their process is not going to allow for that. So really being able to throw a net around our vendors. So our team is not just the people in our building. Our team has become literally our vendors as well.
Ken Anderson (36:47):
We very much agree that would be,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (36:50):
Can I ask you a question, Rebecca about this? Are you then stop parts shopping and commit a certain volume or any other commitment to one particular vendor? Or how does I as a vendor know I’m part of your net now?
Rebecca Levey (37:15):
Well obviously you have, I mean it evolves, right? You have the parts you like have the parts that work well and then you have a price point and no, I don’t think you stop shopping, but you are handcuffed to certain relationships. And of course the minute you can get out of those handcuffs, of course you’re going to do it. But the places where you are handcuffed using that, rather than allowing that to be a division rather than allowing that to be a stumbling block or a barrier, you just learn to actually work with it and the responsibility is on your shoulders to make it go harm not on the,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (38:01):
So you go to the next level of detail and manage a relationship better. So there’s no emotional,
Bill Connor (38:07):
They’re going to know when they’re in your wheelhouse because you’re going to handle adversity when it comes up a total different way than 99% of their customers are.
Rebecca Levey (38:16):
Oh for sure.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (38:19):
I wanted to mention one other thing. If you are known for transparency and in every other inspection report or other communication with the customer, there’s a clear transparency, then explaining why a part is not there or more expensive is so much more believable because it comes out of the same value system and it doesn’t come across as a excuse. So I think your overall transparency is going to help that.
Rebecca Levey (38:57):
Yeah, I think that’s true.
Ken Anderson (38:58):
Absolutely. Absolutely.
Rebecca Levey (39:00):
Yeah. And another thing on that line, Uwe, is just comfort in taking responsibility, really being able to say, one, I didn’t order the part, that’s how we forgot to order it. And encouraging your staff to take responsibility with confidence and compassion. And I think with all of the things going on that’s going to be key to 2022 is in having a climate in your shop where people can and want to take responsibility at a really high level.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (39:42):
Can I rephrase that and find out whether I understood that correctly? So instead of assuming something is going to run perfectly, you deal with surprises by complete openness and managing. And as Jocko calls it, extreme ownership.
Ken Anderson (40:08):
Ownership is actually a good way to put it. I try to instill in all of my employees and all my guys, if you make a mistake, own it. Let’s see what happened and what we can do to fix it and then what we can do to correct it so it doesn’t happen again. Is there a procedure needed to tweak? Is there something that we can do to prevent it or to minimize its future reappearance, but also knowing that you stand behind them as an owner and they make a decision of how to handle that customer in that particular time. And you’re not going to chew ’em up one side and down the other for doing something wrong. You’ll stand behind ’em that time even if it was something you wouldn’t do and then move on. And so that they realize that they can make that decision with confidence knowing that they have suddenly that puts a lot more on their shoulders as well.
Not just as an owner, you’re trying to absorb everything, but you’re passing it on to them to the point that they feel like they are extremely an extreme part of the company and what their decisions, their thoughts, how they handle the customer are valued and they have confidence they can do it. They handle the customer. And it’s where, as Rebecca was saying about bringing in the other vendors. In our case, I’m a NAPA Auto Care Center, Napa Gold first one here in the state, which had been took a few years to get there, but I’ve had a great relationship with my local nap store and he’s grown. I sit down, you can go down and talk with him back and forth, Hey, I got problem. You call a couple of different people up there and he asks a question, they say, oh, I say, here’s a mistake, here’s what’s going on there.
Or just the act of civilly having a conversation with your vendor, whether it’s, in my case, the napa’s first call, they’re our first their go-to vendor. If they don’t have it, we move down the line. So I do get the majority of my parts from one vendor because, and we don’t get the economy parts, I refuse to sell those unless they’re absolutely necessary. We do middle or premium grade only. With that being said, the vendors know that and they learn you that your business is that way and they treat you a little bit differently compared to a shop down the road that just gets all the economy line parts and wants and always beats ’em up over price. If you sit down because you’re not worried as much about the price, you’re more concerned about the quality of the part. And when you suddenly come back and say, Hey, why is this part?
I put two of these parts on, they don’t work. We had to go to a dealer and get the dealer a factory part put on here and the car’s fixed for the part that we diagnosed, what’s going on with it? And then they suddenly get behind you and they go and it sends it up the line to the manufacturer. So you actually have a better working relationship, just the act of taking the time to go talk to that store manager or the store owner or whatever your situation may be, and even talk to what your plans are or how you’d like to better the relationship. And we’ve got three, four different vendors around the area and they come in and what can we do for you today? And the vendors are out there trying to do the same thing that we’re trying to do for our customers. They’re trying to do for us in this field, at least in my area, in my area.
Bill Connor (43:25):
So we know in the shop, regardless, every shop has a culture. It’s a matter of whether the owner defines the culture or the employees do. And you guys spent about a year going ahead and overhauling the culture in your shop. So we’ve got a lot of shop owners that might be listening now they’re a year behind you. What is the steps that they need to take to go ahead and move forward to changing the culture in their shop to one of transparency and things like that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:53):
And if I may add, because just looking back for the last 45 minutes, everything is hunky toy easy. Just do it. And we all know it’s not right. All this extreme ownership and accountability, that’s tough. It’s uncomfortable.
Ken Anderson (44:15):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (44:18):
If you could add also, what did you encounter where you had to overcome resistance and how did you do and not just give up the first time? It’s uncomfortable. I’d appreciate that.
Rebecca Levey (44:37):
So I think I can frame that in a question for Ken because I would just love to know how he approaches this very challenge, but we were talking about ownership and taking responsibility for when we make mistakes or when I call it tuition, right? When we learn something. How do you balance at your shop, the owning something, making a mistake and saying, yep, I did it wrong. How do you balance that with not leaning over to the, and I don’t know how to express it in a clean way, but the stuff happens, attitude. How do you not dip over to that side where people actually are ending up taking responsibility by not having to take responsibility for anything at all? How do you balance that?
Ken Anderson (45:29):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (45:30):
Was super clever, Rebecca, to drill our questions into another one that’s kudos. Can you on the spot? Sorry.
Ken Anderson (45:41):
Nope. It’s a good spot. A very good question. It is. That can be a tough situation to be in, especially you start to think about it as an owner, you are relinquishing some control for this. You’re giving it to your employees, but you have to watch it. And myself being that I was a mechanic and for 25 plus years on the line, I know, hey, if something happens, as she said, stuff happens. We understand that, but if you suddenly start having a lot of stuff happens, we’re going to have to sit down and have a conversation because it’s not normal. That’s usually what I watch for is, hey, once or twice a month something goes wrong. It happens. But if you start having a couple times a week, a couple times a day or every day, okay, there’s something else going on in your life, let’s sit down and pull ’em off and have a personal conversation with as a whole, I’ve been lucky my guys, they don’t abuse it.
They take it very personally. They don’t want to screw up. They don’t want to make a mistake, but they understand, okay, I did make this mistake. Okay, one of the first questions I ask ’em is, what did you learn from that? Do you know something now that you don’t have to take that apart or don’t have to break that piece to service and do this job next time? Well, yeah, I don’t have to even touch that piece there. Okay, don’t do that again then. Okay, let’s move on and let’s figure it out. But what did you learn? The first question is what did you learn from that mistake? And then all of a sudden they will generally look at that, they step back and it’s harder. Like you’ve mentioned some of the ones that have been groomed for the upsell, push, push, push, kind of caught off guard by that because initially they’re trying to hide it again, you can tell when they’re trying to hide, they screwed something up and they know they did it wrong, but they’re trying to hide it.
And that’s one thing I’m very upfront in this job saying, no, if you make a mistake, let me know. I mean I will be way more forgiving, way more understanding. And if you hide it from me and I find something later on, there’s going to be repercussions come out. We are all human, we make mistakes, let’s just relax and deal with it and move on. And I learned that it was a very good question because I learned that from when I was working at a dealership. The owner was behind me one day in the parts department because I had my last year I was working in the parts department because I didn’t know if I was going to turn wrenches the rest of my life and I made a mistake. I didn’t get a piece ordered properly for one of the mechanics and I said, oh, okay.
It was my screw up. I’ll get that taken care of right away and we’ll have it here tomorrow morning. We’ll overnight it, I don’t care. I’ll eat the freight. It was my mistake and he’s standing behind me. And then after everything said, why did you do that? This is a question from an owner and that’s why I don’t work here anymore. Why did you do that? I said, do what? Why did you could have blamed anything under the sun for that. He, that’s not, you need to take ownership of what your mistakes are and move on. I mean, don’t try to blame and pass the buck. Passing the buck doesn’t get you anywhere. And that has made a huge difference. And I instill that with all of my employees and I give them that little story there that is way better to deal with it. Move on and you learn something from it. Don’t try to not learn. If you don’t learn something from it, maybe you may not be a good fit here if you keep screwing up and don’t learn anything.
Bill Connor (49:12):
Really, the sign of a good leader is somebody that lets people make mistakes as long as they learn by it and as long as they learn and shared with others what went wrong. Now what you’ve done is you’ve created a more valuable learned employee than beating them up and dwelling on it the other way around.
Ken Anderson (49:30):
They feel much more confident, they feel secure and they feel that they, okay, I’m not going to get my butt chewed because I made a mistake. Hey, I made a mistake, I owe it up to it. I learn from it, I move on and they feel much more secure and they know that their job is down the line because they made a simple mistake
Bill Connor (49:47):
Until they go ahead and come to you every day with a broken part saying, I’m a more valuable employee today, then it’s okay. Right?
Ken Anderson (49:53):
That will draw the light on. Okay, we stop.
Rebecca Levey (49:57):
So it might be really useful to everyone listening, if we can articulate what is the skill, what are the skills that we’re giving to our employees to be able to take responsibility. We can create a climate in which it’s collaborative and we’re all learning together, we can create this climate. What are the specific tools? Is there a way we can articulate for people? What are the tools we need to give to people?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (50:26):
Rebecca, would you mind answering your own question first?
Rebecca Levey (50:32):
Well, I actually want to know from you guys what are the tools, what are the tools to do that? Because it’s a problem.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (50:40):
We have eight minutes left, so let’s do four minutes for one and four minutes for the other. How is that? Okay,
Rebecca Levey (50:46):
So we’re experts in our shop. We are really good at what we do. And so when you have this level of expertise, how can you be an expert and say, I didn’t know. And the thing is, in our shop you’re an expert because you didn’t know. And the tool we have is collaboration. It is going to the guy next to you and saying, Hey, I didn’t know. Now I know. Isn’t this amazing? So I guess my main tool is collaboration, like sincere collaboration.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:28):
So how did you take away all the, let’s call it false pride. I’m an expert. I know everything. The moment I start asking somebody, that title doesn’t apply anymore. There are a lot of people super proud of what they know and they feel asking a question as a weakness instead of a strength. How do you take that away?
Rebecca Levey (51:57):
Well, you’re describing something again that we can’t talk about in four minutes. You have traditional knowledge, right? There’s traditional knowledge and there’s corrective knowledge. Traditional knowledge is knowledge. It’s all about what has been known before. Corrective knowledge is constantly updating and you have to model the corrective knowledge. And so yeah, your leaders have to model this. The shop foreman, our founder, have always modeled this from day one.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (52:26):
Cool. Live by example,
Ken Anderson (52:32):
Or at least try to,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (52:34):
Ken Anderson (52:36):
The other big part of it is it’s kind of hard because especially if you came up old school, but you want to one show that you trust your employee. I mean, do not try to micromanage them. A lot of times simple. I’ve worked at places that, for example, all my employees have a company credit card, so they can run over to two blocks over. We have the gas station. If they need to go give a gas to customer’s card or for test drive, they can just go over take it. They don’t need to get permission and be treated like a little kid. We have a car wash right next door to that. So hey, you did a job, you feel that car needs to be washed, go wash it. Or if you want to wash the engine off, go wash it. I don’t have the facilities here in my own place to do that with, otherwise I’d have that set up.
But in the meantime, don’t have to go up and run around and chase somebody down. Hey, can I get the correct company card? So I’m going to go put gas in this customer’s car, just do it. Of course, bring a receipt back. Otherwise you might get charged for it. But otherwise, so they have to take, they owe that card. There are some limitations to it, but the simple little gesture of that shows that you are entrusting them with basically company financials, even for that letter as far as their thinking. And then along the lines of what was mentioned earlier by Rebecca there, how do you get the tech that knows it all? It comes in. You need to find a group of people. A lot of times, unless you’re desperate for a mechanic or a person, you want to find somebody who has a little bit of humility.
That is extremely difficult to find these days. But at the same token, you want to make sure, and every day is a learning. I mean, every day you’re, every day you come to the shop, you learn something every day. I’m now working on the business, not in it. I’m learning something every day as an owner. And a lot of times I will keep my guys in the loop on what I learned and I’ve got guys come up and they’ll keep me in the loop of what they learned. Hey, I just discovered this happened or this is doing this. And if you keep the doors of communication open back and forth and you don’t have that, that’s what makes you actually build trust and loyalty that way. And then there’s a lot of times the guys will collaborate together extremely well. And there’s things that say, Hey, don’t need to include me.
You guys take care of it. I trust you to do that and I’ll come down and catch up with you later on it. You don’t have to get my permission to do what you think is right. You keep everything open and then it makes a world of difference. And you suddenly will have a group of people that are not only proud of their work, but they’re also proud of where they work. And that makes a big difference. And then customers pick up on that. And again, like I said before, I believe put the employees first and they will take care of the customers, and it’s worked real well for me.
Bill Connor (55:33):
We got about three minutes left. Now it’s time to go ahead and get a summary.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:39):
I don’t know. I’m struggling. I’m going to get out of this and say this was part one. How about we do part two?
Ken Anderson (55:50):
Would love to do part two
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:53):
Because I think the devil’s in the detail and it’s pretty hard to overcome things which are uncomfortable. One of my favorite sayings is become comfortable with the uncomfortable. That’s the only, and get a kick out of the unknown and not fall back into what’s, but that’s not what you can expect from everybody. So the question is, and I run into this and had my bumps along the way, but back to your question, let’s have another 2022 topic about that pretty soon.
Rebecca Levey (56:52):
The thing about it is, I don’t think there’s anything comfortable about a business that is not vital or fulfilling. And in order to have a business that’s vital and fulfilling, you really have to have enough courage to confront anything that’s uncomfortable.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:13):
Yeah, no, I agree.
Ken Anderson (57:15):
You’d have to add to that real quick too. As part of the comfortable part. You’re not going to plant the seed of change and harvest at that afternoon or even at the end of the week. You are finding the change that you want to make and expect it. You’re in it for the long haul. Is it? Super simple. Pieces of it are great, super simple, but the transition can be difficult, but it’s really only as difficult as you make it yourself. I mean, it depends on how you break it down. Break it down to how you can take it and your shop and your guys can handle it,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:46):
Right? But as both of you said, learning for me, I translate that into you’re constantly curious. It’s just part of you. You don’t need to, okay, now it’s noon. I have the hour of learning today. You take a shower and think about stuff. The weirdest moments happened when you said, oh, I need to look into this and that. I get a kick out of this. Personally, I didn’t even know how else to do it, but
Ken Anderson (58:26):
Curiosity is a very needed.
Bill Connor (58:28):
Well, speaking of noon,
Ken Anderson (58:31):
Good segue. Good segue. Here we go.
Bill Connor (58:33):
So we’ve run up against the end and I’m sure that we’ll go ahead and continue this on at a later date for sure. I’d like to thank Rebecca and Ken both for coming in and sharing with us today. Always good to have people that are willing to share. I’d highly encourage people to go to and join us live. Or go ahead and listen on your favorite podcasting platform or share some of these episodes with some other shop owner in your area that could really use some help to go ahead and kind of turn things around and help improve the industry. So once again, I’d like to thank you guys and invite everybody that’s listening to go out and make some money and while your customers while you’re doing it. So thanks guys. Thanks Bill. Happy New Year. Yeah,
Rebecca Levey (59:18):
Happy new
Ken Anderson (59:19):
Year. Happy new Year, two
Bill Connor (59:20):
Days early.
Ken Anderson (59:21):
Nice to meet you. Thank you, Rebecca.
Rebecca Levey (59:22):
Yeah, thank you, Ken. Thanks everybody. It
Ken Anderson (59:25):
Has been awesome. Thank you.
Bill Connor (59:26):
Ken Anderson (59:27):
To a good 2022.
Bill Connor (59:28):
There you go.

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