It’s game day! We’re suiting up, reviewing our plans and ready to charge the field! That’s the analogy I’m using as the collision repair industry prepares for the winter season after a slow summer due to COVID-19. It’s football season, and while it’s the most unique one I’ve ever seen, there are some important principles you can take away from the gridiron.
Coaches as Leaders
I am a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State Buckeyes. Their coaches – from Chuck Noll to Woody Hayes to the coaches today – have been inspirational leaders for me over the years and have guided the way I manage my three CARSTAR locations in Ohio.
“I can’t tell you how much you gain, how much progress you can make, by working together as a team, by helping one another,” Noll, who coached the Steelers from 1969 to 1991, once said. “You get much more done that way. If there’s anything the Steelers of the ’70s epitomized, I think it was that teamwork.”
As business picks up, I’m looking at how to motivate our team to work at a faster, more intense pace while keeping the same quality standards. In our morning meetings, I remind them to “Keep your mind where your feet are.” As you get busy and start going 100 miles per hour, it usually makes things worse, not better, so you have to work smarter, not harder. If your mind is on the tasks at hand and you think them through, avoid wasting motion and stay focused, you will go faster in the long run. The real challenge is to stay focused on your assignment, just like on the field.
The biggest motivational tool I have for my staff is me. Sometimes I feel like the coach on the sidelines, calling in plays and encouraging my players. They usually watch and feed off of me, so I must always be positive and motivated so they will follow my lead. I’m a positive person by nature, so that part is easy. I’m always repeating little one-line, positive quotes, and it’s really neat when they start saying them back to me. It lets me know they’re getting it!
The competition between the teams at our three locations plays into my efforts. Our culture is a family/team culture of, “One for all and all for one.” However, I do like to have a little team rivalry between my three stores, as by nature we’re all competitive and want to be the best. It’s interesting to watch each store try to outperform the other in KPIs but still have each other’s back if they need a helping hand. From my point of view, it’s the best way to create healthy competition but still keep the company strong.
Having a great game plan is a fundamental element of success for us. For a coach, that means mapping out the potential scenarios and plays for the game. For our collision repair facilities, that is DFR, or disassembly for repair. Knowing what will unfold during the repair process allows us to plan the right repair strategy. This helps us have the correct parts, have the best players lined up at the right time in the repair process, and avoid getting flagged for lengthy cycle time or KPIs. DFR is the game-changer that gets us to the end zone.
When you look at running a business and coaching a football team, especially the great football franchises, they have a few things in common:
Great leadership at the top. It all starts there! You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to be willing to listen, able to explain your thought process, and make decisions and see them through, even the tough ones.
Family/team culture. Surround yourself with good people and develop a family/team culture with the attitude, “Whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Respect. Treat people fairly and always do what’s right.
I believe team culture is critical because without it, a shop won’t perform as well as it could. To be the best, all of the departments (office, body, paint, detail) have to be on the same page and play as one team. When they do, it’s awesome to see and a lot of fun for everyone.
One thing that helps with building this culture is our rookie orientation program. When we bring in a new tech, usually from the local career center that we have a partnership with, we do goal setting, training and stats for them. We have one of the senior techs shadow them to help train them in the right processes and procedures. We also keep production sheets to measure and monitor their progress and help them achieve their goal of being a technician.
So that’s it: teamwork, game plan and motivation. It works for the Pittsburgh Steelers and it works for us, too. Now, we’re ready for some football!
Tom Martin is the owner of three CARSTAR locations in Ohio – CARSTAR Sidney, CARSTAR Troy and CARSTAR Piqua. He started working in a collision repair shop at age 15, then went on to purchase the business. He joined CARSTAR in 2003 with his first location. He opened his second CARSTAR location in 2014 and a third in 2019. He has long been a champion of advanced technology and also training for his team. He also donates his time to a variety of volunteer organizations, veterans in need, the homeless and youth sports. He can be reached at [email protected].