For other installments in this 12-part series, click on the corresponding number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
I was pampering myself at the beauty salon when an afternoon of relaxation became way too familiar. While the owner styled my hair, we were interrupted a minimum of five times by employees who needed help performing everyday tasks. Every time the phone rang, the proprietor had to stop and explain exactly how to respond to client questions. The shampoo girl had to be warned to “read” the labels when she started to refill the alcohol with acetone. Finally, the receptionist left a customer unattended in the waiting room while she asked the owner prices for basic services. Understandably, the customer walked out. Moments later, the confused receptionist noticed the empty waiting room and boldly asked the owner, “Did you get her contact information?” Losing her cool for the first time, the owner’s hands froze mid-curl before replying, “That’s your job.”
As I watched the owner spoonfeeding her employees instructions, I felt for her predicament. Her employees may as well have been asking her how to clean the solvent recycler, for help to write an estimate or where to fax a parts order.
No matter where you go, from the hair salon to the burger joint to the body shop, all businesses should have standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Written SOPs not only clarify the roles of support staff, but also provide an opportunity to make full use of the expertise of each team member. Sure, every shop runs differently, but to attract insurance companies, a streamlined process is paramount.
Direct repair programs, by their nature, create new policies and procedures with specifications for each client. With the many aspects of the business, writing clear procedures for every situation is overwhelming. Thankfully, our local paint supplier representative has been a great resource, offering ideas and functional templates we can use to adapt our own SOPs.
Of course, typing up SOPs is one thing; making certain the team follows them is another. It’s up to the owner and upper management to fully define the new roles and expectations and back them up with actions. Once one person is cut some slack, others expect the same — until, one by one, minor indiscretions turn into business chaos and eventual failure. In our case, failure isn’t an option. SOPs must be adhered to, even if that means employees who don’t want to fall in line have to take
Impartially enforcing the rules is easy when it comes to the guys on the floor, but when it comes to working with family in the office, things get a little touchy. There’s a thin line between mundane conversations and “you’re not the boss of me” confrontations. So instead of having one boss with everyone else on lower rungs of the hierarchy, a team management style has been our best option to keep SOPs in place.
With the team management approach, each rule is evaluated and accepted based on the core principles of the group. This way, the responsibilities of running the business are evenly distributed among each of the staff by fostering accountability, training, freedom, initiative and flexibility so each member can be a leader in their specialty.
The key to keeping a well-ordered machine is building SOPs that reflect our goals, rules and vision of success. For us, that includes working toward DRP relationships. Sharing the organization’s goals and visions with each team member from the office to the shop floor keeps everyone on the same page. That means making time to
speak with team members — and not just in weekly “campfire chats” but one-
By showing and telling them how supporting the company vision and mission will benefit them directly in attaining their personal goals, everyone has a vested interest in keeping with the SOPs. In doing this, they’re comfortable offering ideas to make the system better, knowing we’ll give them serious consideration and implement them if they move us closer to our goals.
We’ve learned that a good day is a boring day. And with SOPs in place that support our team vision, our DRP goals may be attainable. Either way, the streamlined process frees me up to spend another “relaxing” afternoon at the salon.
Writer Monica Dorsey is a partner at Classic CollisionWorks in Philadelphia, Pa. You can reach her at [email protected]