Are you prepared for your own absence?

Shop owners: if you missed a day at work, could your shop run without you?

How about if you missed a week of work?

What if you wanted to open a second location or pursue a different business opportunity? Would your shop be able to produce the same level of results, both for customers and for your bank account, while you focus on growing your business in other ways?

You might say “no, but I do need to hire someone who can start taking over management of the day to day. It would be nice to take a day off and have someone I trust handling everything.” I’ve fallen into that role before. Wearing the shop uniform, manning the desk, managing the techs, and making decisions based on direction from the shop owner.

This isn’t the ideal situation. I work with shops to transform day to day operations, not join them. You do not need to hire a business coach to run your shop in your absence, and I obviously shouldn’t have stepped into that role in the first place. Instead, use policies and standard operating procedures to simplify your shop and empower your team to take control, whether you’re in the shop or not.

There are lots of different customizable options for implementing structure in your shop, but I want to cover three main areas in which you can focus your efforts:

- Standard operating manuals

- Sales training and resources

- Customer policies

Standard operating manuals

Are you a shop owner that doubles as master tech? You can be a big bottleneck or annoyance to your team when you’re responsible both for what goes on in the workshop and running the business. Looking over your techs’ shoulders, no availability to tune, diagnose or QC a car, or requiring your approval for every little decision makes it impossible for you to take a day off.

Do you go through a standard procedure to QC a car before shipping it? Write it down. Do you have a decision framework that you use when considering whether to approve a custom fabricated piece or figuring out how to handle a small mistake in a wrap? Write it down. Do you keep having to remind your techs to check the alignment and torque the lugs on every car that comes in, as part of standard policy? Write it down.

Take all the standardized procedures and policies out of your head and put them on paper. This will accomplish two things: First, you have an opportunity to review and improve your procedures and policies. Second, you can distribute a copy of the manual you have just created to your team, so they can learn and take ownership independently. Watch your workload vanish and create the freedom to take a day off.

Sales training and resources

Perhaps you’re a shop owner that handles the sales and admin side of the business. Now you have your front desk team asking you for prices all day long, bothering you to decide whether or not the shop can handle a fastback conversion on a ‘71 Mustang, or confirming how much horsepower you can get from our stage 2 tune on a Mk5 Supra.

All of this information is stuck in your head, and each time the sales team has to ask you a question, it wastes time, risks losing the sale, and interrupts you from whatever else you were doing. Stop those things from happening. Write it down.

I know, in a lot of cases your knowledge is complicated and highly tailored to each customer situation. That doesn’t mean you can’t give your sales team the best information and resources possible to close sales or at least leave your potential customers better off than before they called.

Create horsepower charts based on what bolt-ons and fuel are used. Give rough price ranges for custom work and create standard price lists for repeat jobs. Use a CRM (customer relationship manager tool) to track your relationships with customers and leads so that your shop isn’t giving out inconsistent information. Each of these actions will take time upfront, but save you multiples of time in the long run. Your team can keep closing and booking jobs when you go on vacation.

Customer policies

When something goes wrong with a customer, the responsibility to come up with a solution often falls on the shop owner. Maybe you didn’t get authorization before buying an extra part, and now you’re under water on the job because the customer is refusing to pay. Maybe your team wrongly promised the customer to have the car done by Tuesday, but by 5pm they haven’t called to extend the deadline. Both issues will come back on you to solve in the best way you can.

Create clear and simple customer policies that address and prevent issues and help your team handle your customers without your input. Make your customers read and acknowledge (i.e., sign) those policies before you take their keys. If your shop thrives on efficiency, create and enforce a storage charge to make sure cars keep moving. If your shop values the highest quality and your customers know it, your team should be prepared to give regular updates, but not deadlines. Your customers should be aware of this.

Put a customer policy structure in place as soon as possible. You’ll quickly see how it can greatly reduce customer issues and improve your online ratings, all while helping your shop weigh on your head less. You don’t need to be there every day to put out any fires that come up.

In conclusion

Before you jump to hiring a shop manager to make sure the business can continue to function in your absence, put these pieces of structure in place. Then, when you grow so big that you eventually do have to hire someone (or another someone), they can come in to a well structured job and begin producing from day 1.

Driven Performance Advisors

Driven Performance Advisors helps shop owners and specialty parts companies increase efficiency and improve profitability to grow from $1M to $10M in sales. Schedule a consultation at


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