I really can’t think of many industries whose people work as hard as our friends in the collision repair industry. When I spend time in shops discussing the “values” they find most important in life, hard work is nearly always on top of the list. After all, many of us were taught by our parents that you can have anything you want in life, if you work hard. Unfortunately, what our parents forgot to teach most of us is that we need to work hard doing the “right things.” This is especially true for those of us that chose the path of an entrepreneur, business manager, or leader. Sadly, many business ventures fail to reach even the tiniest portion of their potential, because they don’t work hard on the things that are necessary to achieve success and fulfillment in life.

Proactive vs Reactive

Before I discuss what exactly it is you should be working on, I want to point out the obvious yet massively ignored success factor of being proactive instead of reactive. Ask yourself this question honestly:  “Am I running my business, or is it running me?” If you are running your business, chances are you take time every day to plan your day in accordance with goals you have set for your life and business. If you do not set goals and spend time planning your day, your business is likely running you. That simple. Far too many collision business leaders were never taught the skills necessary to set goals and daily tasks that will move them in the right direction. And that direction can only be determined once you know where it is you want to end up! The skills of goal setting and time management are absolutely critical to those wanting to be successful. It doesn’t take long to learn, but you have to start!
The 5 Pillars of Success
5 Pillars
It is very important to use a balanced approach when it comes to setting goals in order to spend time on all the important stuff that will bring real success in the long term, as well as in the short term. For example, if you take a myopic approach of only setting a financial goal, you could very well attain that goal, but at what costs? Several years ago, I was asked to help a collision repair shop that during a series of very large hail storms in the area, was able to double its annual revenue for two consecutive years. They quickly doubled their staff with less than ideal employees, they quit performing the lean processes they had worked so hard on implementing, and they lost touch with their customers and their insurance partners. Sure they may have made a million bucks, but they literally destroyed over fifteen years of development almost overnight. They lost sight of all 5 pillars and only focused on one! Despite a strong effort to rebuild, this business was never able to reclaim its former glory, and soon sold out to a competitor.
Financial Health – What are your financial goals for your business? Financial goal setting is a must for any business. I recommend that goals in this pillar include financial forecasting, understanding financial considerations for expansion plans, building improvements or whatever. I like to include goals in this pillar that include learning the skills to produce and read financial statements. Like in the story of the doomed hail repair shop, it is good to make money, because it is the lifeblood of your business, but there are 4 other pillars to consider as well! If you choose to ignore the other pillars, as displayed in the diagram above, your potential is severely at risk and the roof will likely collapse!
Cultural Health – If financial health is lifeblood, then cultural health is the soul! The people in your organization are indeed the most important asset. In your work day, what are you doing to create the kind of culture that will ensure success for the long term? If you are not proactive about building the culture you want, you will end up with the culture you get, which may not be pretty. Include daily actions and goals that will enrich the company culture through learning new leadership skills, hiring the right people, and losing the wrong ones. I also recommend that businesses continually look for talent even when they don’t immediately need them. I hear a lot of people complain that there is a technician shortage, but I only rarely see people taking a proactive approach to find and cultivate the right people over the long term.
Customer Sustainability – Clearly it is hard to make money, so what are you doing to make sure that the customers and your insurance partners love doing business with you? Customer sustainability is not only about making happy customers, but also making customers for life. You should proactively set goals and take actions that will continually improve your performance and customer loyalty to not only keep them coming back, but equally important raving about your business to all their friends and family.
Process Stability – A stable business is one that can produce a product or service with a high level of consistency and predictability. Continuous improvement is something that you have to proactively work on (“Continuously.”) Goals and daily actions need to take place every day to make sure that you are implementing and sustaining processes that will continue to support your financial, cultural, and customer goals. Most of my clients set goals to create a written “playbook” and then implement it. Goals and actions can also be made to audit process or procedural standards, and provide additional training as needed.
Risk – Risk is one of those things people don’t want to talk about, or deal with until it comes back to bite them. Risk is the unpopular 5th pillar that requires you to take action towards making your business safe to work at, and with no damage being done to the environment. This is also the pillar that asks you to continually work towards understanding legal, and other human resource laws that could put your business in jeopardy. Finally, risk aversion also means that you must train your people to properly repair vehicles using the manufacturers recommended procedures, and performing quality control inspections to verify it.
If you can spend a little bit of time identifying what is important to your business by using the 5 pillars, you can take a balanced approach to being as successful as your imagination will allow! You will be working hard on the right things and not just working hard! The end result is that your business will yield repeat customers, happier employees, and bigger profits – while you will have less frustration, and experience a more valuable expenditure of your energy and attention.