Learning on the Fly! Rally Champ, Drifter, Lawyer Turned Auto Entrepreneur with Andrew Comrie-Picard

Learning on the Fly! Rally Champ, Drifter, Lawyer Turned Auto Entrepreneur with Andrew Comrie-Picard

In the auto industry, your career path can go in so many different directions. Sometimes, it doesn’t even look like a “path” at all and the twists and turns don’t make total sense when you’re taking them, but looking back, it all does. That’s definitely the case for my latest guest on Service Drive Revolution, Andrew Comrie-Picard, also known as ACP. ACP is a former high-profile lawyer, pro rally car racing champion, Hollywood stunt coordinator, pro drifter, and founder of ZipTire. This guy’s won a lot of races and awards, and I mean a lot: Canadian Rally national champion, North American rally champion, Baja 1000 class winner, Pikes Peak record holder, Formula DRIFT pro drifter, and BFGoodrich official spokesperson, to name a few. I think we could all learn at least a thing or two from him.

ACP’s obsession with cars started at age seven, when his dad owned a trucking and moving company in Canada. At age seven, his job was to back the cars and trucks they were working on into the yard, lining them up like soldiers. ACP ended up rolling one of the trucks and when he told his dad about it, he pointed him in the direction of the welder and told him he better figure out how to fix it…so he did just that. He drove his first semi at the age of eight or nine. The bottom line is…he started to build his expertise really, really early. It’s no surprise that he’s pretty shocked that so many 16-year-olds don’t even want to get their licenses or learn to drive a standard these days (though he drives an automatic in LA, like the rest of us). 

Growing up in Canada had a big impact on ACP’s interests. He chose to become a rally driver and an off-road driver because in the Canadian tundra, he was forced to drive in slippery, frozen conditions. He calls this “kinetic friction”–sliding on a road rather than actually driving–and it was the perfect primer for a career in drifting and racing. Living in a rural area, ACP also grew up valuing collaboration and community. The mentality in his town was that everyone lends a hand to one another. It was more communal and less competitive. He’s not sure that’s still the case these days, though he definitely has some strong opinions about Tim Horton’s, which I won’t get into here…you’ll have to listen to the episode for that.

Another important piece of the puzzle for ACP is that his mother was an academic, which was not typical for the farming lifestyle. She was a professor who really valued schooling, so while ACP was learning to fix cars, he was also crushing it academically. He ended up getting five university degrees, including one from Oxford, and eventually landed as an attorney in New York City. All the while, he was racing cars on the side in an amateur capacity. We talked about his experience and came up with some key takeaways for you:

  • Always read the contract, no matter how long and boring it is.
  • You should have 3 lawyers: One who’s a friend who gives you a lower rate and helps you with most of the smaller things, one that specializes, and another that strikes fear in the opposition, should you ever need that to happen. 

ACP also got a graduate degree in Political Economy from Oxford, which he says has given him a certain level of cred in every industry he’s worked in. Sometimes, you’ll make a career move that doesn’t directly relate to your end goal, but if you spin it the right way, it can still make a difference. When it comes down to it, it’s all about branding.

Before he started his work as a lawyer, ACP had a $2000 racecar. Once he started raking in the big bucks, he invested in a $40,000 car. He was racing every weekend and then heading back to New York to hustle as an attorney, working 60 or 70 hours a week, sleeping under his desk, and climbing the ladder. At a certain point, it hit him that the racing was going well enough that he could do it full time. He could feel himself caring less about work and knew that his heart was half in it at most. 

ACP realized that he wasn’t looking for work-life balance. If you ask me, there’s really no such thing as work-life balance for people that are obsessed with accomplishing something. He was looking to do what he loved and was good at day in and day out…and that was racing. So he quit his job as a lawyer and became a full-time racecar driver. 

At that point, he realized that if this was going to be his full-time gig and livelihood, he really had to commit 100%. That’s where it all came together. Even though making the transition from being an attorney to become a racecar driver might not make sense on its head, it all lines up in ACP’s story. Being an attorney gave him the funds he needed to invest in racing and then, once he started doing it full-time, he brought a lot of his skills with him. He knew how to negotiate his own contracts, he could talk about cars in an elevated way, and he understood the business side of things, which differentiated him from his peers. Here’s how he put it:

“I’d like to think I am the best rally racer in North America, but I’m probably one of 10, 20, 50, 100 guys that are really good drivers. But of those guys, how many of them can also talk about what’s going on or deal with the business [side of things]? That’s a lot fewer guys, so once you take two different areas, disparate areas, and melt them together, then you’re more weaponized, to use the analogy again, but you’re able to get further.”

ACP started competing in the X-Games when it opened in 2006 and went on to compete five times. It was a coveted position to be in–the X-Games only invited 12 drivers to participate and in the first five, which ACP calls “the dream days” it was him, Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, and Tanner Foust. They were doing rally racing and rally cross and the course escalated every year. His stories are pretty epic, out there head-to-head on the course with the best of the best, doing crossover jumps and tricks. He learned how to do a backflip on a motorcycle from Travis, who he considers to be a good friend and who is practically the inventor of backflipping a dirt bike. To do it, you really have to go for it full throttle–you can’t hold back. According to ACP, Travis is missing a “self-preservation gene” that allows him to really go for it on the course. ACP isn’t missing that gene himself, so Travis was able to give him the push that he needed to do the backflip. The story is pretty epic–listen to the episode to hear it in its entirety and get a play-by-play for how it’s done. It was an epic time for racecar driving and ACP’s tales about what the culture was like and being a champion rally pro are well worth a listen.

So, at this point you know that ACP is an award-winning racecar driver, a lawyer, and an all-around badass. But there’s more to his story–he’s also a well-known TV host. It started in 2004 in Canada, when he saw an ad for a reality TV show where guys had to compete to build a car in three days and other similar challenges. He pitched a team of mechanics he knew who’d been crushing it for a long time and when he was in talks with producers, they started to talk about who could host it. ACP himself was an obvious choice, since he wasn’t just a talented racecar driver, but also knew how to talk about cars in a way that was smart and compelling. He auditioned, got the gig, and started as a host on Global TV called on a show called War of the Wheels. He continued to race, got better and better, and was eventually cast on a Discovery show and it all blew up from there. Through that experience, he met the producers of Top Gear. He drove a car with Charlize Theron in the passenger seat in Atomic Blonde, and when she went on to produce a show on Netflix called Hyperdrive, she brought him on as the stunt coordinator.

Would you believe me if I said there’s even more to ACP’s story? Cause there is. He’s the founder of ZipTire, a mobile tire business that comes to you rather than the other way around. The idea came to him after he’d been sent Michelin tires and BFGoodrich tires and realized he’d have to go into a shop to get them put on his car. The idea came to him that there should be a company that comes to you to change your tires. He did some research and found that there were a few companies out there using Sprinters to get tires out to people immediately and he knew that he could use his expertise to build a company that would do it even better. Today, ZipTire is a preferred installer for Tire Rack and they’re working on scaling the business. 

Hungry for more of ACP’s story? Makes sense…he’s an interesting and incredibly successful guy. You’ll learn more on his episode of Service Drive Revolution, such as which poem he’s carried in his wallet since age 12 and which dealership ACP thinks of as “the only game in town”? Is it Mitsubishi? Ford? Toyota? Subaru? Place your bets and then listen to the episode to find out. 

And one more thing before you go…have you entered the $50,000 Service Manager Challenge yet? In this contest, you’ll literally compete against yourself for the chance to win a fully loaded 2020 Jeep Gladiator. Find out the details are here and get your name in the game before it’s too late. 

 

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Want Better Results? Drew Tarvin Says Have More Fun

Want Better Results? Drew Tarvin Says Have More Fun

Leaders in every industry are always looking for ways to be better. They want to increase productivity, boost sales, grow, scale, keep leveling up. One place where even the best leaders fall short is in developing a solid company culture that actually supports all of that growth and productivity. I recently sat down with best-selling author and Humor That Works CEO Drew Tarvin on Service Drive Revolution to talk about just that. 

Drew spends his time teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He’s the world’s first and foremost “humor engineer”, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He has worked with 35,000 people at 250 organizations, including Microsoft, the FBI, and the International Association of Canine Professionals. Combining his background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with his experience as an international comedian, Drew reverse engineers the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable and gets results in the workplace.

Given his career and how successful he’s been, you might be surprised to learn that Drew identifies as an introvert, meaning that he feels recharged when he’s able to spend time away from people and likes to process internally rather than aloud. To him, being an introvert doesn’t say anything about whether or not he’s able to socialize. Drew looks at socializing, networking, humor, and the ability to engage in good conversation as skills that anyone can build rather than inherent capabilities. Because personality assessments are just that…assessments. They don’t dictate or limit our behavior or the skills we’re able to build. Personality assessments aren’t what define us. Our actions are what define us. And when you look at it that way, it’s really 100% up to you which skills you want to build and capitalize on, regardless of your “personality type”. 

Social skills, like almost anything else, can be practiced and improved. Generally, introverts end up having fewer conversations when they reach adulthood because their nature is to seek solitude to recharge. This means that they often have less practice–or less “reps”, as Drew puts it–in engaging in dialogue. Drew realized this and decided that in order to build his skills in that area, he’d go into improv. Maybe it didn’t “come naturally” to him, but that didn’t matter. He’s a smart guy who was able to develop a strategy for delivering content that he knew would land with his audience. 

He did the same thing to develop his networking skills. Networking wasn’t his strong suit, per se, so he developed a three-step process that would allow him to engage with others comfortably. It took some practice to get there, but now that he has the process down, he’s solid enough to train others on how to do it successfully too. If it had always come “naturally” to him, he wouldn’t have this process and structure in place and likely wouldn’t be nearly as successful as he is. He put in the work and he’s clear on the process, which are two of the most critical elements in getting results. 

These same principles apply to the auto industry. Service advisors and salespeople who claim to be naturally good at selling and talking to customers end up being inconsistent in their delivery and outcomes, and inconsistency just isn’t scalable. Without a process in place and a toolbox for making the process happen, it’s almost impossible to evaluate what works and what doesn’t and adjust your strategy accordingly. And when you someone doesn’t have to create that process, they won’t. They’ll rely on their “innate ability” to sell or speak, which can only take you so far most of the time. 

The fact of the matter is, even when someone makes their work look easy, the people who are at the top of their game have put in the work–the “unseen hours”–on the back end to get to that level of “ease”. From LeBron James to Jerry Seinfeld to Dave Chappelle, just to name a few, these people are putting in tons of work to make small tweaks to their game over time so it’s as good as it can be. It’s methodical, not “natural”. The service advisors and salespeople who are killing it are often the ones who had to put some effort into their game. 

So to boil it down, our main points are:

If you’re an introvert, embrace it and recognize the strengths that come with it. Focus on your powers of observation, skillful planning, and ability to help others understand how to do things, rather than pretending you’re an extrovert or trying to change yourself. 

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you have to do the work to get results. Introverts may be more naturally inclined to observe, plan, execute, evaluate and tweak, but extroverts need to do it too. 

Another principle that guides Drew’s work is that humor and fun in the workplace are absolutely critical to a company’s success and it’s really centered around one key question:

Would people rather do something that is fun or not fun?

It seems simple, maybe even too simple, but the impact of this question is important. That small question drives a lot of behavior because more often than not the response is that people would rather do something that’s fun, right? So in order to sell more products or services and engage more customers, we need to make the process more fun for them. 

Let’s take a client I worked with recently for example. It was a gym and like many gyms, they were doing the Groupon thing, inviting people to come in for personal training at a discount with the goal of getting them to sign on for a monthly membership once they try it out. If people just take the Groupon training session and never come back, they’re operating at a loss. So, what can a gym do to get people to come back? The answer comes from the same place as it does in the auto industry–curiosity. What can you do to make sure that your customer really wants to come back? More often than not, as Drew says, it’s fun that brings people back. You have to look beyond the tired and annoying tactics that have “worked” in the past and find ways to engage people that they will truly enjoy. This is another place where introverts thrive because most introverts are curious. 

I asked Drew what happens in a company when they’re not having fun and how he can tell when a company has changed after he’s taught them how to change the game so they are having fun. What are the characteristics that demonstrate that the company has changed? Productivity increases, turnover decreases and retention increases, and profits increase. Isn’t this pretty much exactly what every company is trying to accomplish?

From a behavioral perspective, Drew says that he sees workplaces that have made an effort to infuse fun into their culture start to show up on time more because they’re looking forward to go to work. At work, they’re laughing more and they’re less stressed, and that impacts literally everything. Again, it seems simple, but the truth is, as Drew puts it:

“We live in a society in which more people believe in ghosts than actually like what they do for a living.”

So it might be a simple concept, but not many companies are actually looking at their culture and making an effort to develop a workplace that values fun and humor. 

If you’re skeptical, there are numbers behind the theory that fun in the workplace leads to the positive outcomes outlined above, which Drew outlines in his book. According to the American Psychological Association, for example, the average cost of a stressed out employee is $7,500, in terms of healthcare costs, lost productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism (when someone is physically at work but not fully present). This might not seem like a big deal until you learn that approximately 83% of Americans are stressed at work. That’s a whole lot of cash being lost because people aren’t happy in their jobs.

When your employees are disengaged, it doesn’t matter how well you train them or how efficiently you calibrate their workload. As Drew puts it, “The problem with time management is that, it doesn’t matter how much time you have, if you don’t have the energy to do anything with that time.” The impact on the world outside of your business is huge, too. Disengaged employees can easily become disengaged humans. If someone is spending their time slogging through work all day, do you think they’re going to head out of the office and have a positive impact elsewhere? No, probably not.

So, then, what does it take to be happy? Here’s what Drew has to say:

  • Happiness doesn’t always result from or follow “success”, so stop waiting to suddenly become happy once you reach whatever your definition of success is. Humans have what Drew refers to as “hedonic adaptation” or the “hedonic treadmill” that causes us to perpetually seek happiness. When we accomplish something, we feel an increase in happiness momentarily and then return to our baseline. This short-term impact serves us well when it comes to negative feelings, but it also means the happy feelings are quick to pass. Happiness doesn’t come from accomplishing or buying or achieving. It’s a choice.
  • We need to stop comparing ourselves. There’s not one set bar for happiness and when we compare ourselves to other people in other industries or who are doing things differently, we lose sight of our own happiness.
  • Gratitude is everything. Try to be grateful and mad at the same time. Drew challenged me to do it, and it’s honestly impossible.

All of this said, I need to make one thing absolutely clear: Stress is not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, on the show Drew tells a really poignant story about his time at Procter & Gamble and how he came to learn that stress expands your capacity up to a point. The problem is chronic stress–stress that isn’t ever relieved and only continues to build. 

That’s where humor comes in.

Humor acts as a critical form of stress relief and basically allows people to counteract the negative effects of stress. Laughter literally lowers blood pressure and decreases muscle tension. It’s powerful. It works in the auto industry and I’d venture to guess most others. No matter your location, budget, or the services you provide, if you find ways to make your work more fun and allow for humor, you’ll see positive results. 

Listen to Drew’s episode of Service Drive Revolution here. He has tons more information and guidance up his sleeve. Then, you can learn more about Humor that Works and Drew Tarvin on his website.

A Little Southern Hospitality Goes a Long Way – Customer Loyalty & Tech Happiness with “The Humble Mechanic”

A Little Southern Hospitality Goes a Long Way – Customer Loyalty & Tech Happiness with “The Humble Mechanic”

When you think about the ecosystem of a dealership, do you place techs and salespeople in totally different areas? There’s no overlap between those skillsets, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, when your techs have knowledge and understanding of customer service, it can make a HUGE difference in terms of client satisfaction and retention. And this is just one of a few adjustments your shop can make that will bring in more customers and keep them coming back over time. 

To talk about what these changes are and how to implement them, I had Charles Sanville, better known as “The Humble Mechanic”, on Service Drive Revolution. He’s seen the impact of things like techs who know customer service firsthand. A million and a half years ago, as he puts it, Charles started as a technician for Volkswagen Audi shop in North Carolina…and that’s where he stayed for the majority of his automotive repair career. He references taking apart VCRs in telling the story of how he made his way to tech school–that’s how many years ago he’s talking about–but you’ll have to listen to the episode for that part

Charles came to VW with no professional experience fixing cars. Before starting as a tech there, he’d been a salesperson at a different dealership and worked in retail while he went to tech school. But unlike many other techs, he’d never worked in a shop as a tech in any capacity before. And the thing is, that’s what he sees as being his biggest advantage. Why? He came in with an understanding of how to treat and take care of his clients–a skill that those other techs often lacked. So many techs would rather avoid contact with clients, focusing on doing “their job” well. Charles, on the other hand, wanted to build relationships with his clients and created what he refers to as a “tiny service station” inside the dealership. He didn’t necessarily do it with the goal of retaining more customers than his colleagues, but that’s what happened. His customers didn’t just choose to keep coming back to the dealership for repairs, they chose to come back specifically to see him. The way he put it is pure gold: 

Never wanted a customer to think, “Oh my God, what do I do? Or how much is this going to cost me or what the heck? Who is going to look at this and figure this out? Am I going to get ripped off?” It was always, “I wonder when Charles can look at my car.”

This mentality took away the stigma so many people associate with taking their cars in to get repaired. Rather than thinking about getting “ripped off” or what a pain the experience would be, Charles’s clients were eager to bring their cars to him for a dependable, trustworthy repair and a friendly experience. 

With this mindset, Charles was able to take ownership, and ultimately control, of his business as a tech. He wouldn’t waste time blaming the system or other people if business slowed down–which it rarely did. 

So, where do service advisors fall in all of this? They’re usually the ones talking to clients and making those transactions happen–not the techs themselves. The problem is, more often than not, techs and service advisors operate so independently that it’s detrimental to them both. For example, in order to give a good presentation to a client on what kind of work their car needs, service advisors need to have a solid understanding of what the problems are. But more often than not, they just get the inspection sheet and use that basic information to fill the client in. Sometimes, this is because they just aren’t curious about what the details are. Other times, it’s because they think the tech will feel as though they’re questioning their work. Whatever the reason, it leaves the service advisor without information that could be helpful in presenting to the client. On the flipside, techs often treat the whole process like all they’re selling is a commodity and don’t feel the need to communicate with service advisors. 

This poor communication is a huge problem in the auto service industry. In addition, different positions within the dealership often get so caught up in sticking to their roles that they lose sight of the common goal: to fix the car and keep the customer coming back. In combination, these two problems can have a really negative impact on customer retention. 

On the other hand, when techs and service advisors communicate and work together toward a common goal, the whole game changes. Instead of just handing over the inspection sheet and moving on, the tech goes to the service advisor and briefly explains the issue and the service advisor has the chance to ask a few questions to make sure they know what they’re talking about. Then, the service advisor can finesse the explanation and take it to the client. The client will inevitably trust what the service advisor is telling them more if the advisor says that they went back to the shop and talked to the tech about the tie rod that needs to be fixed and why that is rather than just saying it needs to be fixed. If the client has questions, the service advisor can actually answer them rather than bumbling around and BSing them. Plus, the service advisor will likely deliver the information in a way that appeals to the client (and without the expletives tossed around in the garage).  

Charles saw the typical issues play out at his VW dealership. He also noticed some major shortcomings in his dealership’s social media strategy. He saw other dealerships offering crazy promos and deals–$5000 off your new Chevy if you purchase in a certain time period and things of that nature. But what he didn’t see was shops who were really promoting their service. He’d always known that his shop was particularly awesome. To start, it was a VW dealership and the people he worked with and around were really killing it at retaining customer relationships. He tells some stories about seeing different generations come in and swapping out bumper stickers as kids grew up and started new schools. So when he thought about social media, he wondered how his shop’s unique vibe and customer service could translate to their online persona. He wanted to change the dialogue around the auto service industry and the stigma and fears clients have about bringing their cars into the shop. When he brought this to the dealership, they got on board but then immediately outsourced to a company to manage their online persona for us. 

Charles wasn’t into that, so he decided to do it himself and created a resource for customers as well as techs that lets you in behind the garage door. As the Humble Mechanic, Charles pulls back the curtain to give consumers some insight as to what is going on with their cars, what’s not working and why, and how they can talk to their service advisor or tech about it. His business is thriving, and that’s because it does a few critical things: It provides customer service in a space where its lacking and needed, many people really are interested in what’s going on with their cars, and it takes away the mystery of the whole process. In the auto service industry, there’s so much mystery behind the diagnosis fee or why a certain job takes as long or costs as much as it does. This is a big part of the reason why there’s so much distrust when it comes to auto repair. As the Humble Mechanic, Charles explains it to them. For example, it might take seven hours to do a job by the book, but the tech has purchased specialized tools that allow him to do the job in three. If the tech only charges for the three hours of labor, it doesn’t account for the expense of the specialized tools. Explaining these kinds of things clearly to consumers helps build trust in the auto industry as a whole. Because Charles is no longer a tech himself, he’s providing this information and these resources without a pitch to get people into his shop, so he has nothing to gain in the process which further increases consumer trust. 

Dealerships that are looking to level up–and which ones aren’t?–should take note of the Humble Mechanic’s success and make a few powerful adjustments to how you run your shop that will not only bring in more customers but will keep them coming back:

  • It’s amazing how far a little hospitality can go! Southern hospitality in Charles’s case, but any kind of hospitality will do. Train your staff, from techs to service advisors to salespeople, to work together to provide the best customer service.
  • Let consumers behind the garage door…figuratively speaking. Clients don’t trust the mystery. They want transparency and information that is digestible to them. Having your techs and service advisors communicate will be part of that, but there are other ways you can do it too. Which brings me to the next point….
  • Be generous with information. Make videos about how to change a tire on a specific make and model, for example, and post them on your social media accounts. Your existing clients will see them and, more importantly, so will tons of other people who aren’t your customers now but might be soon. Plus, it’ll allow clients to make decisions about what they do and do not want to get fixed and weigh out the consequences of those decisions. 

If you make this minor yet impactful changes at your dealership, I guarantee you’ll see results in terms of both client acquisition and retention. 

Don’t miss out on the Humble Mechanic Charles Sanville’s words of wisdom. He knows what he’s talking about. Start by listening to this episode of Service Drive Revolution, then head over to his YouTube channel and the Humble Mechanic blog. You won’t regret it.

Service Drive Secrets: Behind the Curtain with Elite Service Advisors

Service Drive Secrets: Behind the Curtain with Elite Service Advisors

In any industry, if you want to be the best, you have to spend time with the best, read the best, watch the best, live and breathe the best. It might sound extreme, but it’s just true. In my Signature Coaching Group, you can achieve elite status by having the highest net-to-gross, the best CSI, being a leader…basically consistently performing at a high level. When you have elite status, it’s a different kind of experience. It’s about hanging out with talented managers and having the opportunity to participate in life-changing experiences. 

When I brought two elite members of the group, Joe and Damon, to talk shop with me on Service Drive Revolution, they were told to come in wearing steel-toed boots. If you want to know more about that, you have to give the episode a listen here

To give you some context, Damon’s story of how he got to the top is pretty interesting and he definitely didn’t follow your average career path. He started in the auto industry after a long stint in finance. It was good until it wasn’t, which was when the financial institution he was working for closed its doors. He found a finance manager position at a dealership and did that for about a year, but he burnt out pretty quick and decided to re-evaluate. He was going through a lot of personal stuff and needed a change, so he decided to into service writing. Better hours, predictable schedule, more financial stability because it isn’t a commission-based position. After about another year, he decided he didn’t want to work for other people anymore and he bought the shop. It was a small franchise shop, but a big step nonetheless. He thought buying the shop would give him the freedom he was looking for, but it didn’t so he sold it. He was unemployed for all of four hours before he took a position as a service manager at bigger car dealership, where he killed it and continued to get recruited to bigger and better positions.

Joe’s story is very different. Being a tech is in his blood. His dad was a mechanic and he started fixing cars in high school. It’s something he always knew he wanted to do. When he was about 25, he got tired of the grunt work and started as a service writer. The owner of the shop, an old Italian guy, took Joe under his wing and taught him the dealership business and how to make it go. At the time, he knew that he was going to continue his career in the auto industry, but he had no idea how far it would take him and how high he could go within it. He stuck with it at that dealership for awhile, eventually becoming a service manager, but decided to move on at age 40 when the team dynamics went south. It was a family-run business, and family dynamics can get tricky if you aren’t careful. He moved on to a dealership in Florida where he’s been absolutely crushing it since.

In this episode, we went behind the curtain, so to speak, to give you some insight into our experience–all over cigars and tequila, of course. 

To start, I asked the guys what advice they’d give to their younger selves–what they were confused about, what issues they could have avoided if they knew what they know now. The first was this:

“I would never listen to the line ‘We’ve always done it that way.’”

That kind of mentality is rampant in the auto industry and it’s a huge issue. It breeds complacency and stops people from trying new things or sharing ideas because they know this will likely be the answer they get from the people above them. In this industry, as many of us know all too well, you often see people getting trained by the person above them, who was trained by the person above them, who was actually untrained and may not be doing the work well or efficiently. No matter how often you get that line, you can’t stop trying to level up the system and your work. Joe’s career really took off when he started at the Florida dealership and his boss told him the exact opposite–that he knew what they were doing wasn’t working and he wanted Joe to find ways to improve their work. It was a huge catalyst for his success and it also leads directly into the next piece of advice…

“Don’t be afraid to fail.”

This isn’t anything new, but it’s worth repeating, over and over again. Fear of making mistakes, especially early on in your career, can and will hold you back if you aren’t careful. Why? When you’re at the beginning of your career, you feel like you have something to prove to someone else. You want to succeed because you want to prove your worth. So you follow “the book” and try to get the numbers. It makes sense, but that means that you aren’t trying anything innovative. Anything that might be really effective…or not. Over time, you’ll see that the “failures” are worth it. More often than not, they’re outweighed by successes that you wouldn’t have achieved if you hadn’t tried something new. Every time you “fail”, you learn something–what not to do next time in that particular scenario or what you could do differently to make it work. Which leads us to…

“Don’t take things personally–bounce back and keep moving.”

When you decide to take risks in order to succeed, you’re bound to get feedback that isn’t always positive. If you can take the emotion out of it and just learn from the experience, you’re gonna get a lot further than if you focus on your pride and ego and get stuck feeling angry or ashamed. Damon put it perfectly: “We let our ego get in the way of seeing clearly through a failure and [we can’t] decipher the information that we can get out of it to get better.” If you decide to try something new and it doesn’t go well, you can wallow in the mistake or you can learn from it. It’s as simple as that. 

This is just the beginning of the advice that Joe, Damon and I share in this episode. We also talked about a famous bet that Joe and I had when we first met in New Orleans that proved a lot of these points. We can’t get into all of that here but definitely listen to the podcast if you want to hear about it. 

We also talked books–what we’re reading right now, why we’re reading it, and what we’ve learned. Here are the key takeaways, though I highly recommend listening to the episode for the full rundown:

  • The Presidents’ Club by Nancy Gibbs: This is Damon’s pick, which I actually recommended to him. It’s about how presidents pass down wisdom down the line and help each other learn and make decisions. They even have a literal clubhouse across the street from the White House so they have a place to go together. It’s pretty remarkable that the highest office in the country operates like this and there’s a lot every leader can learn from their experience. We also talk about where Trump fits into the dynamic…
  • Unfu*k Yourself by Gary Bishop: Joe’s pick is about the ways in which we all screw ourselves over in our own minds and how to stop doing that. For example, many of us are always trying to predict the future, worrying about what may or could happen, but what’s the point? What we need to do is figure out what we want to do and make it happen–don’t leave it up to chance. If something out of control gets in the way, you’ll deal with it. That’s just one of the many takeaways from Bishop’s book.
  • The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman: As you may know, many successful people create something of an alter ego that embodies the success that they want to achieve. I have one (I’ll tell you about him in the episode) and you should have one too. Herman talks about how to develop an alter ego that is effective in getting where you want to be.
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins: Goggins is former military and this book is about his leadership within that context. It reminds me of Jocko Willink’s epic book on leadership Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Don’t miss it.
  • Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain by Danny Goldberg: This one is by Nirvana’s manager. It’s not as clearly business-related as the others on this list, but I couldn’t put it down. It gives you a behind the scenes look at Cobain’s life and if you’re really entrepreneurially and success-minded, I bet you’ll find that a lot of the lessons and themes can relate to your life and business. Plus, it’s just incredibly interesting.

There are tons of good books out there that all business leaders should read. If you have a suggestion, send it my way here. We might just talk about it on the podcast if it makes the cut.

This episode was so good that we broke it up into two. If you’re ready for more, head on over to Part 2 and give it a listen.  

HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

 

Want to know your advantage in the marketplace and how you fight the big boys to end up on top?

CUSTOMER SERVICE.

What nobody thinks about when it comes to customer service is if you’re selling a commodity, somebody else can sell it for less. If you have terrible customer service and your employees aren’t building good relationships with customers, then it all comes down to price. If you’re not the lowest price AND you have bad customer service, your business is going to fail.

Your most valuable advantage in the marketplace is the experience your customers receive and the customer service that you offer. Truth is, customer service and experience never really come down to the commodity, they come down to your connection with the customer.
For example, I go out and buy a book at the local Barnes & Noble that’s been downsizing for years. In a Barnes & Noble you have to wait in line and then they make you feel like a jerk because you don’t have the Barnes & Noble “Club Card”. It’s a total shit-show. The employees have good intentions, but they don’t care. They aren’t asking you about your day, or if you found what you’re looking for.

On the opposite side of the coin, you have Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. You go into Powell’s Books and everybody who works there is super into books. You go up to the cashier up they say, “Aw, wow. This is a great book.” They ask where you’re from and it creates a conversation. It’s never really about the book, it’s about genuinely showing interest in what you’re doing. The book is a commodity. I could go on Amazon and buy the book.

That’s the difference. When it comes down to price you’re going to lose every time because somebody’s going be bigger, they’re going to have more money, they can wait you out, they can play poker longer than you can, right? So, customer service becomes your best weapon.

The key to good customer service is understanding the three different types of employees.

First, there’s the engineer type. In a restaurant, this would be the cook. In a car dealership, it’s the mechanic. These are usually very knowledgeable people, but they’re more introverted. For most purposes, you don’t want them talking to customers.

Then, there’s the second type—the sales people. A salesperson could be a cashier at a Starbucks, but it could also be the waiter. These are your closers—often a bit too much for customer service.

The third person is support and customer service. This person answers the phone, works as the hostess, maybe they’re a cashier in a coffee shop. It’s a blend. But, this is the person who is interfacing with customers.

Herein lies the problem. Most businesses don’t have a system for hiring people that sets out looking to hire the right TYPE of person for an open positions.

The best tool I know of to make sure that you’re hiring happy people who actually like other people, is group interviews. The way a group interview works is exactly how it sounds—you have a group of people interviewing together in one room. The people who like people, who can easily converse with others and are happy and smiling, they stick out. The people who are introverts stick out, too.

You can always tell who the people are who want to make everyone else in the room comfortable. You can see them. Personally, I could sit in a group interview wearing earplugs and just by watching, I can identify the ‘people’ people  because they radiate from the group.

The best way to improve your customer service is during the hiring process. Hire people who really care and who want to engage with people. The group interview is great because if they can’t shine in a group interview, they’re not going to be good under pressure when the phone’s ringing, or when somebody’s standing in front of them, and definitely not when they’ve got somebody who wants to return something. They’ll ultimately fold.

Another tip is to carry business cards with you. Any time you get good customer service from somebody, give them your card and get them in for an interview. The best indicator of future performance is past performance. If somebody connected and engaged with you, you know that’s their thing.

Customer service starts at the top. It starts with the leader of the company making a big deal about customers always being right, and always being happy. Next, hire people with the personality for customer service. These are folks you can constantly train and work with to exude customer service and connect with people on something different than a commodity.

Being able to connect on a different level is your SUPERPOWER. We have a customer service video where I tell this story about going to a vet for my bulldog.. It’s called, Pet the Dog. Watch it and have everybody watch it that is interacting with your customers. Connect deeper and become a customer collector. No one can compete with that.

 

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

 

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

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