There’s that old saying to describe this kind of problem…when the tail is wagging the dog. It just means that as a manager, you’re not running the show. Either your employees or your customers have the upper hand in the day-to-day operations. So how can you tell if the business is running you or you’re running the business? We have a lot of experience in this department and we’re going to share our key indicators that something might be up. If you’re paying attention, there are a handful of telltale signs that your business is running you.
Problem 1: Your Service Manager is Handling Customers
I like to go into a parts or service department and sit in the manager’s office. I watch how often the phone rings, and how many people come in and lob stuff that they should be doing. When the tail is wagging the dog, I’ll see service managers just catch all of these things as they come up. They never stop to ask their advisors…why am I doing this for you? Why are you getting a paycheck and I’m doing your job? If your advisors are constantly saying “Hey boss, this customer wants to talk to you,” something is wrong. That’s their job. And if the phone is ringing off the hook, that means that customers aren’t getting called back soon enough, so they’re reaching out to the dealership, and they’re likely upset. Dealing with angry customers is going to take up even more time
Problem 2: In Late, Out Early
Let’s say we open at 8. Are your advisors starting to come in at 8:05? Then 8:10? Then that becomes 8:15? If your advisors are coming in at the same time as the customers, that’s a bad sign. Those customers are going to be way more awake than the advisors are, and that’s just going to slow everything down. And then there’s the “out early” part of the equation. If your team members are always coming up for excuses of why they need to leave early, pay attention to that. Doctors appointments and other things can usually be scheduled on days off.
A good way to check the pulse on this issue is to call a meeting for the next day, 20 minutes before doors open. See how many people are late. If you have multiple people coming in late for that meeting, you know something’s up, and it’s an easy way to tell that your business is running you.
Problem 3: Reactionary Mode
Another key indicator is that you’re spending the day in reactionary mode. You’re dealing with upset customers and putting out fires. You’re not planning anything for the future because you’re too busy running around. There’s that old analogy: you came in, you grabbed the cat by the tail, it dragged you around all day, and then you let go at the end of the day and you have no idea if you won or lost.
Another way to think about it – you’re triggering your fight or flight response. And if you’re doing that day in, day out, a lot of managers get to a point where they just freeze, and they don’t do anything. And that’s even worse.
Problem 4: Only Drama at the Watercooler
One of the easiest ways to tell that you’re headed in the wrong direction is when the conversations around the store are never productive. Are your team members just talking about personal drama, the news, and what they’re watching TV? Sure, some of that kind of talk is normal. But there also needs to be a real focus on making the customer experience, and the business in general, bigger and better. What you talk about and think about all day is who you are.
That means that you can only improve if you’re constantly talking about it. There’s always time to be training up on new methods of increasing CSI and optimizing the way you work. It can’t just be at weekly or monthly meetings. Your team needs to be holding each other accountable, and they need to be consistent. This may seem like a small problem in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an easy way to tell if your business is running you.
Problem 5: Being Held Hostage by Bad Employees
So…the good employees have all left, and you’re only left with the bad apples that don’t have anywhere else to go. This happens a lot in the shop…you’ve lost a couple good techs and you’re down to the bad ones. And as we all know, bad techs have a bad attitude…they don’t want to work on this, don’t want to do that, and then that becomes your new reality.
And you never once think “Hey, I gotta work really hard at getting some new ones.” That’s game over. You’re not in control. And then you start saying stuff like “I can’t hire any techs.”
In some of the more severe cases, you may need to just burn it all down. Cut off the cancer. Get rid of the bad attitudes and start fresh. In other cases, the situation may still be salvageable. It’s case-by-case.
When the tail wags the dog, your shop will slowly become more and more chaotic. You’re so busy reacting to stresses as they come up that you can’t slow down and think. To truly get ahead, your team needs to have a clear strategy in mind, and they need to be communicating and collaborating to achieve your goals. Otherwise, your shop is going to be stagnant at best.
Recap: 5 Ways to Tell If Your Business is Running You
Your employees are only as effective as their manager, and that’s an important reality to keep in mind. With an ineffective manager in place, it’s only natural for employees to take advantage of the deficiency in the system. And before long, they’ll be wreaking havoc. There are a handful of dead giveaways to tell if your business is running you:
- Service managers are handling customers
- Your team is in late, out early
- You’re always reactive, not proactive
- The office banter is all drama, nothing productive
- Bad employees are the only ones left
Pay attention to these telltale signs and do your best to nip them in the bud. You might meet some resistance, but that’s your gut telling you it might be time to cut the dead weight. Put new rules in place and hold them accountable. When your whole team is in alignment on your business strategy and plan moving forward, you’ll be blown away by the results.