Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00

Re-structuring for Renewal

Written by Tom Franklin

Nature provides us with many wondrous examples of renewal. The snake sheds his skin and appears with a new one. The caterpillar metamorphasizes into a colorful butterfly. 

As we once again move into a New Year, perhaps it's time to renew and re-create a powerful forward thrust to gain new, better, or more profitable business. I see the most successful shops in my area looking to a future of change. Technicians are being re-trained to repair new vehicles. 

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Many shops are taking marketing into cyberspace and creating a presence on many social media sites. They also now ask customers and prospects foe their e-mail address. This task of actually doing it is often left to office personnel, customer service representatives and estimators. In the rush to get a customer's information so an estimate can be written and hopefully the job and the keys to the car obtained, asking for an e-mail address and other vital statistics is often omitted.

A book that's been around a while called "The Path of Least Resistance," by Robert Fritz, tells us why this new task (and many others) are not carried out and put into practice by employees. Fritz says, "Structure determines behavior."

If behavior isn't changing, the problem is often with the structure. To illustrate this fact, he describes someone driving a car with a structural problem, out of alignment. If the car is pulling to the left, the driver steers slightly to the right to keep the car moving straight ahead. Steering straight ahead will not improve the situation.

Similarly, giving an employee a new or additional task to perform, without changing the structure to facilitate the task, will seldom result in the employee consistently carrying out the task. From his or her own point of view, the employee may feel the task is "out of alignment" with the structure of his or her job or workflow.

A vehicle's structure must be corrected and aligned to fix the steering. Fritz says to make a change that will be accepted, the change must be structural. In our industry, we are keenly aware of the importance of structural integrity. We're all familiar with the structure of a vehicle, but what are the structural elements of an employee's job? Time is an obvious element. If an employee's day is fully scheduled and you add more time-consuming work without reducing something already being done, he or she will either reject the new task, or drop out some other task arbitrarily. Time must be restructured to accommodate the new task. Another main structural element, from the point of the view of the employee, is compensation.

A typical attitude is, "If I'm not being paid more to do this, why should I do it?" Adding a bonus or commission is a structural change that may motivate many employees to take on an added task (if it's profitable enough for them). And, of course, if it's profitable for you!

Some re-structuring is similar to the "replacement principle" used to help smokers quit the habit of smoking. Cigarettes are replaced with gum, a patch or perhaps eCigarettes to bridge over the change. Some habits are so ingrained, we're hardly aware they're habits. For example a couple of shops have been trying to upgrade their images. Both shops have spray booths that are seriously out of date. The problem is, both shops have been turning out good quality work for a long time with their existing spray booths. It's hard to change a habitual activity when it seems to work well. But insurance companies are becoming more demanding every day, pushing for faster and shorter cycle times. If these shops are serious about growing and acquiring new insurance business, they will break the "old spray booth habit" and replace it sooner rather than later.

When we think of renewal, it's natural to think of adding new equipment, new facilities, and new procedures, but first it may be necessary to engage in some subtraction. Even the snake that sheds his old skin to display a new one has to first get rid of the old skin. 

As noted earlier, old marketing habits have to change too. Many new marketing methods require costly personnel familiar with all of the social media strategies. What can a shop owner with a limited budget do to get marketing results? Perhaps the answer can be found in the concept of "structure."

The structure of a vehicle is a fixed base. It doesn't change from day to day. Effective marketing must go on day after day. Contacting referral business monthly is a must. Communicating with prior customers on an on-going basis is a structural necessity. But a better structure may exist and finding it may be the key to profitable renewal.

Read 1228 times Last modified on Friday, 23 January 2015 22:57