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Behind the Scenes: My Lessons Writing the Irreplaceable Service Manager Book

It was never my goal to be an author. 

I fell into the car business at 17 and built my career turning around dealership service departments. 

Writing a book was never part of the plan. 

But in 2006, a mentor suggested I share my approach to help more Service Managers succeed.

Thus began a 3 year journey – with plenty of mistakes made – to create Irreplaceable Service Manager. 

That “two cups of coffee” book has resonated with thousands of readers since.

But how did I go from mechanic to author? What worked and what didn’t?

Today I’m revealing the untold story behind writing my book – including the secrets that give it an authentic Service Department voice.

Let’s dive in!

attracting new customers

Hiring a Ghostwriter: My First Misstep

When I decided to write a book, step one was hiring a ghostwriter to interview me and put it all on paper. 

I paid $10,000 upfront and provided an outline and transcripts of my classes. 

A few months later, I received a completed manuscript.

I read the first chapter and immediately knew this would never work.

The ghostwriter didn’t have an auto industry background. The terminology was wonky and insights felt generic.

It lacked authenticity. No Service Manager would believe I’d written this.

I tried to correct the draft but quickly realized – I’d have to start over from scratch. 

Lesson learned. Direct experience matters. Abstract concepts mean nothing without grounding in real service department life. 

No shortcuts here; I was writing this book myself.

Crafting an Outline That Resonated

Next I created a new table of contents focused on quick wins and practical steps. 

Theory was out. Concrete how-to guidance was in. 

I included topics Managers ask about constantly:

– Increasing technician efficiency 

– Better telephone skills

– Handling comebacks

– Creating accountability

These are the in-the-trenches concerns that keep Service Managers up at night.

I had finite pages to work with. Every word needed to pack a punch.

Approachability was also crucial. I used conversational language and bigger fonts. 

The goal was an easy read – like chatting with a peer, not decrypting jargon. That you could read it in two cups of coffee.

Writing the First Draft

With my outline completed, it was time to write. 

Between a busy travel schedule and narrowed focus, this took about a year. 

I wrote at night in hotels, on planes, even bartops when inspiration struck.

The words came easily because they were my stories to tell. I’d lived these challenges firsthand.

My mission was to translate hard-won experience into succinct lessons readers could apply immediately.

If I gave them field-tested tactics without fluff or theory, I knew they’d achieve results.

Adding the Secret Sauce

As the draft came together, it lacked a human element. The chapters were more technical than emotional.

So I added what became the book’s most impactful section – the story of Mr. X. 

This candidly chronicled my friendship with a struggling new Service Manager. It resonated because it was vulnerable, not sugarcoated. And it was the only chapter in the book not written by me but by Mr. X himself. 

The pressures Mr. X faced were real and raw. My mistakes were on full display.

That warts-and-all authenticity meant everything. Reviewers called it “the most important chapter.”

It gave the book a soul. Without it, the guidance fell flat.

The Mr. X story grounded sterile concepts in the realities Managers wrestle with daily.

Lesson learned – transparency trumps polish. Lean into your experiences, even imperfect ones.

The Rewrite Grind

With a complete rough draft done, the real work began.

I sweated over every chapter, every paragraph. Refining. Polishing. Honing.

Strong writers make it look easy. It never is.

After the initial ghostwriter debacle, I was adamant the book sound like it came from an insider, not an outsider.  

I cut jargon and made examples specific. I added character and color.

Writing about real people at real dealerships made the tools relatable.

Managers saw themselves in the stories – it clicked.

After about a year I finally had a final draft I was proud of. The voice resonated and guidance proved useful.

Even then, the book still needed…

A Real Service Manager’s Review

Before publishing, several colleagues reviewed the full manuscript. 

I needed raw feedback from Service Managers in the trenches.

The responses were incredibly helpful:

– They flagged unclear passages to refine

– Caught typos my eyes glazed over 

– Called out where examples would resonate more

– Suggested additions to make sections more thorough

Their insights made the book even tighter and more relevant. Don’t skip this step!

Fresh eyes catch what you can’t. Reviews keep you honest.

Heeding feedback ensured everything tied back to real Service Department needs.

Landing a Publisher

With final edits complete, it was time to get published. 

I shopped the book around and struggled for traction. Most publishers felt it was too niche. 

Their loss – that niche happened to be an $80 billion a year industry!

I believed in the book enough to self-publish through a small publishing house familiar with the auto sector.

Once printed, I sent copies to every contact I knew to generate buzz.

The book sold steadily through grassroots networking and word-of-mouth.

Within a couple years, it became the #1 book on Service Department management.

Not bad for an auto industry book deemed “too niche!”

Writing for the Reader, Not My Ego 

From misfired ghostwriter to painstaking edits, writing this book was no quick job.

But I wasn’t checking a box or stroking my ego. I wanted to help Managers succeed. 

That reader-first mentality proved key:

– I focused on their tangible concerns, not abstract theory.

– I opened myself up, not speaking from some ivory tower.

– I provided specific solutions, not just problems.

– I road-tested guidance in real Service Departments first.

– I optimized language and format for absorption, not impression.

– I wrapped principles in engaging stories and characters.  

When you lead readers confidently through the Service Management jungle, they follow you anywhere. 

Keeping their perspective top of mind ensures advice that sticks.

The Book’s Impact

To this day, I’m floored by the book’s impact on readers. 

Their personal stories of how the book transformed their work and lives inspire me daily.

My painful writing journey proved worthwhile because of the Managers it empowered.

They’re running thriving, profitable Service Departments that customers love.

And the profits they generate allow dealers to reinvest in better tech training, tools, and facilities.

Seeing that positive ripple effect throughout the industry confirmed something:

Serving others always supersedes serving yourself.

Keep that mission and the rest takes care of itself.

The truth within the book still resonates over a decade later because it came from living within Service Departments day to day.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to practical wisdom. You’ve got to earn experience the hard way.

Looking back now at its impact, every tough lesson along the way was worth it.

Because that’s how you write a book that truly makes a difference.

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