Economic indicators were already falling and a recession was looming when the catastrophe with the planes hitting New York's World Trade Center added to our economic pain. I'm already seeing a major slow-down in many shops in my area. "Business-as-usual" can be deadly at a time like this. What should a shop owner be doing to counteract the impact of these world events on his or her business profits?
There's an old saying: "When everyone is responsible for it, no one is." If everyone is responsible for seeing the door is locked at the end of the day and no one person is designated to do it, there's a fair chance it won't be done at all. The same thing is true of marketing. There must be a specific person designated to do the job and to follow each initiative all the way through to a satisfactory conclusion.
It's been said that one of the most effective tortures of all time was the Chinese Water Torture. Supposedly interrogation using this technique was always effective. The person being interrogated was placed under dripping water that slowly drove the man mad while it gradually dripped a hole in his head.
How's this for a wild claim -- a consultant with whom I'm acquainted would guarantee to solve any company's problems if they would allow him unlimited access to question every employee without revealing or reporting to management who said what during his interviews. Well, maybe it isn't such a wild claim.
I have recently finished re-reading Stephen Covey's excellent book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Simon & Schuster Fireside Book, 1990). As I read through Covey's basic principles of personal vision, leadership, management, communication, cooperation, renewal and interdependence, it occurred to me that for every positive trait, there is an equal and opposite negative trait.
Shop owners are generally strong-willed men and women who have had to fight their way to ownership of their businesses, then fight even harder to make their businesses work. As an owner they are in a position of leadership. But are they really leaders, and does it matter?
Quite a few years ago, one of my clients was a fast food establishment. They were having a continual turn-over of managers and couldn't seem to keep one for more than a few weeks. We did an analysis and found that the job called for simultaneously watching the cooks, the clean-up people, the take-out window, the lines where employees were taking the eat-in orders, and the cash registers. When we asked a couple of ex-managers what the problem was, they said while they were watching one employee, one of the others was certain to make a major mistake. They felt it was impossible to keep track of everything they were expected to.
The autobody business has changed dramatically the last few years. Consolidators are now even moving into smaller communities that few would have ever expected just a few years ago when they started in major metropolitan areas. Insurance companies are getting more and more aggressive in their efforts to control claims costs and repair facilities -- even to the point of getting into the autobody business themselves!
Almost every shop owner I speak to tells me he or she wants more business. But when we start talking about business growth, I begin to hear reluctances. Too much growth means hiring more people, which means more paper work, more reports to the government, more insurance, and on and on. It also means more capital investment to cover additional equipment and to cover accounts receivable during the interval between the time parts are purchased and checks arrive for completed jobs. Everyone wants to grow in profitability, but very few want to face the costs and pains of growth.
"Power" is a peculiar word, having both negative and positive implications. The first definition in the dictionary is simply "the ability or capacity to act or perform effectively." Hopefully your estimator possesses selling power. The most common definition that comes to mind when hearing the word is "strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted" -- military power, political power, or financial power. Similarly we may think of the meaning: "a person, group or nation having great influence or control over others."