Thursday, 12 May 2016 00:14

Change Can Be Scary but Can Take You to the Next Level in Your Business

Mike Lanza

Mike Lanza is manager - business consulting services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. He has 30 years of experience in the collision and insurance industries, including that of a multi-shop owner, large regional MSO group operations director and direct repair manager for a top-tier insurance carrier.

Let’s face it, change can be scary. From collision shop owners making adjustments to the front office, shop floor or staffing – it can be challenging. But, what if these changes would mean even higher revenue and take the shop to the next level?
The collision industry is full of change. Days, weeks and months go by with every customer that comes through the shop – vehicles are repaired and there’s a continual fight to be compliant with insurance partners. An owner may view setbacks as, that’s “the way we’ve always done it,” but there may be a better way of doing business.

However, it’s not always so simple to initiate change. The issues arise when you try to define these solutions and put some type of order, process or accountability to it. When that happens, a shop owner might shut down since change can be hard work. Plus, it’s proven that most people don’t resist change, for the sake of change, rather, they resist being changed. That’s according to a study conducted by Dr. Peter Senge, director of the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT.

Dr. Senge concluded there are nine types of fear relating to change, including:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Creatures of habit
  3. No obvious need
  4. Loss of control
  5. Close minded
  6. Unwillingness to learn
  7. Fear the new way isn’t a better way
  8. Fear of the unknown
  9. Fear of personal impact

Now, owners shouldn’t be discouraged about their business and think they’re the only one who can’t seem to make changes stick. Many are overwhelmed by their facilities and how they are run becomes the reality. Shop owners attend trade shows, like SEMA or NACE, and leave with so much new information. Or, they may be reminded of great ideas. Often, owners will even start off with good intentions: going back to work full of eagerness and excitement with plans to implement all these wonderful, new ideas. Well, that was when they started the day at 8 a.m. – but two hours later, the day just got hectic and plans of a new, fresh start just went out the window.

Most business owners know change has to happen to stay relevant in the fast-moving collision repair industry but don’t know where, or how to start. Ultimately, everyday life gets in the way and that owner may just give up and say, “It’s the way we’ve always done things.” Don’t feel bad … it happens to everyone. In 1899, the commissioner of the United States Patent Office Charles H. Duell said, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.” That seems pretty close-minded, right? Well it was, but in 1899 he didn’t have the access to the world as people do today. He only knew what was in “his circle,” kind of like when owners are in their own circle … such as their own body shop.

Change is hard. Getting everyone in the organization to see the big picture is extremely difficult. So often compensation (or rather, lack thereof) is the true fear. An employee/owner might ask themselves, “If I change and follow this new way, how will it impact our bottom line? Or, me personally?” Employees know the way they’re doing things today may not be the best way, but at least they can depend on it.

During my 30 years in the collision industry, which I’ve been privileged enough to work with hundreds of savvy operators throughout the country, one thing has always held true, “You can’t eat an elephant in one bite.” Simply put, if you truly want to change the way you do business in one swift blow, it will never work. You need to change the culture of your organization through leadership. Employees look for leaders to feel secure that a new, better way will not be detrimental to their livelihoods. You must start with small and simple tasks and decide how to improve them. Get key people involved so they feel their roles within the company are valued. Receive feedback and input and you’ll see them beginning to row in the same direction. Communicate daily, set goals and time frames on achieving them. Create and understand a baseline on where you are and what success looks like. It’s important to celebrate even the small incremental gains along the way.

After you’ve achieved the desired change, celebrate and deliver the results to the entire team. This is leadership, not management, so don’t get the two confused. After you have achieved the new state, then it can be managed to adherence and compliance.

Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Good Luck!

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