Small-Business Owners May Be the Most Gullible People in the World! - Transmission Digest

Small-Business Owners May Be the Most Gullible People in the World!

When you own and operate a small business of any kind, especially one as challenging as automotive, you’d like to think that there is a magic answer to all your problems, especially the financial ones. Whenever a large group of people is that desperate to find a solution, you can bet that at least a handful of ne’er-do-wells will come along to claim that they know what it is. They always make the answer seem simple, but it usually turns out to be quite expensive and sometimes overwhelming to implement or maintain, if indeed it works at all.

Small-Business Owners May Be the Most Gullible People in the World!

It’s Your Business

Subject: Owner involvement critical to business success
Essential Reading: Shop Owner
Author: Terry Greenhut, Transmission Digest Business Editor

It’s Your Business

  • Subject: Owner involvement critical to business success
  • Essential Reading: Shop Owner
  • Author: Terry Greenhut, Transmission Digest Business Editor

When you own and operate a small business of any kind, especially one as challenging as automotive, you’d like to think that there is a magic answer to all your problems, especially the financial ones. Whenever a large group of people is that desperate to find a solution, you can bet that at least a handful of ne’er-do-wells will come along to claim that they know what it is. They always make the answer seem simple, but it usually turns out to be quite expensive and sometimes overwhelming to implement or maintain, if indeed it works at all.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of hearing that someone can make me a millionaire overnight. All I have to do is spend $10,000 to $20,000 with them and it will happen because they know the secret. They try to make us believe that we can devote far less time to managing our businesses and make lots more money in the process. If that scenario were to work at all, it would be possible only after many months or years of excruciatingly hard work to get a business like ours set up to run that way. Then, as soon as a key employee such as a manager leaves, the entire process of getting it back on track begins again.

My ex-partner taught me a good lesson when I first started my business. He said: “Don’t get too attached to anything or anybody. Business is a revolving door. People and business techniques come and go. The best you can do is to be ready for the changes and implement them when necessary. To do that you must continually be learning and involved. Don’t ever think you can walk away and it will run by itself, because that’s the day it will begin to crumble.”

We are not in an absentee-ownership business, and nobody is ever going to convince me otherwise. Can we tweak it? Can we make it better? Can we make a really good living from it? Yes, yes and yes. But we have to be there in body and mind to do it. Just think about all the little decisions you make every day that save or make the shop money despite the fact that you have a good manager or service adviser, a well-educated crew and a state-of-the-art computer. Those hands-on decisions made from a wealth of knowledge and experience can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars every day coming in or going out. If nobody is there to make them, what happens then?

Consultants will teach you how to set up systems. Some will tell you that if you follow their systems everything will be wonderful. The key word in those sentences is “YOU,” in case you didn’t get it. It always comes down to you, because any system you employ always depends on how well it’s administered and whether the employees responsible for it can or want to carry it out. So if it all comes down to you, I guess you have to be there.

What is this obsession some consultants seem to have with getting you away from the shop? If you bought the business or started it from scratch and worked your tail off for years to make it what it is today, it’s my guess that you wanted to be there. If you now want to lie on the beach for the rest of your natural life as they depict in some of their advertisements, sell the business, retire and live anywhere you want, but while you’re still in charge do yourself, your family and your employees a big favor and run your business.

Have you ever seen the bridge of a modern ocean liner? The ship is equipped with a zillion computers and it pretty much drives itself. There are officers who check all the systems and instrumentation continually. Then there is a captain who oversees the officers while making all the important decisions. He doesn’t say: “I’m going to lie on that beach over there. Pick me up on the way back.” He’s on that bridge to make sure it all goes well and right. If it doesn’t, he’s the one responsible to fix it now – not later, when the damage is far too severe, but now, when he might still be able to make it right.

Can you take a vacation? Do you have to be there 24/7? Yes, you can, and no, you don’t. You can take vacations if they are well structured and if all your key people are trained, understand and want to carry out your philosophy of running the business for the short time you will be absent. And no, you don’t have to be there all the time, but you sure better be in a position where you can monitor the business anytime and from anywhere so you can help make decisions that require immediate attention; otherwise, you’re going to lose a boatload of money.

The cellular telephone is one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. It allows you to be somewhere when you’re not, to be informed so you can make good decisions that can make or save the company money. Too bad it doesn’t work when you shut it off. Do you want a call from the shop for every little situation that comes up? Of course not. If your manager and employees can’t handle the day-to-day stuff you shouldn’t be on vacation in the first place. You need to be immediately informed about the important stuff, such as “One of your wholesale accounts is very upset” or “A retail customer is threatening to sue unless something is done right away.” These things can’t wait until you get back from your ski trip; by then it will be too late.

You aren’t afraid of working hard, are you? I didn’t think so. You have been doing it all your life. And if you really get to thinking about it you might realize that it isn’t the hard work that’s bothering you; it’s the aggravation that goes along with it – the aggravation of not being able to make enough profitable sales or not getting enough productivity from your crew, or the lack of interest displayed by some of your employees, or how you’re being taken advantage of by some of your customers or vendors. That’s what wears you down. Get a handle on all that, and going to work will not be the chore it once was. You might even look forward to being there.

Your best course of action probably would be to learn as much as you can from people who have done it successfully. When someone says they can make you rich in this business, make them show you how they did it for themselves in their own shop. If they haven’t actually owned a shop and haven’t had to live through the daily struggles, if they’ve made their millions being a consultant, or if they’re 22 years old and passing along to you numbers that someone else made up, be wary. Somebody needs to have walked a mile in your shoes before they can know what you face. It’s always easy to play with someone else’s money.

When someone tells you they can turn your business around overnight, you need to find out whether that means turn it from bad to good or the other way around. I recently heard a claim that a shop went from regularly doing $30,000 a month to $60,000 in one month after signing on to this program. All that was said was that the shop had an instant increase in one month of $30,000, not how or why. I’d like to know what it will do next month or, for that matter, next year. A one-month track record doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but a desperate shop owner who might pick up on only the words he wants to hear could believe that the same would apply to his situation.

I know that people in our business are not really good at checking references when it comes to hiring employees. Today it’s very difficult with the number of questions we are not allowed to ask, but when it comes to hiring consultants it would be foolhardy not to talk with as many of their clients as possible. Ask for a complete client list, and you pick the people you want to talk with; don’t let them pick the people for you. When you make the calls ask what it really cost for the entire package, including travel expense and time away from the shop; what the actual results were; how long it took to achieve them; whether indeed there were good results; how much additional work was involved during the learning process; and how much ongoing. Then, of course, ask the biggest question: Would you do it again?

There are many good consultants out there, but the ones who lure you in with cheap introductory offers to convert you to high-priced consulting contracts and the ones who would lead you to believe you will become an overnight millionaire need to go on your “Be Very Careful” list.

Visit www.TerryGreenhut.com.

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