A wise old Greek dude called Heraclitus once said, “Nothing is permanent except change.”
I mean, he said it in Ancient Greek, but that’s what it translates to in English. But I digress.
Like Thanos, change is inevitable. That’s true across all industries, even—perhaps especially—in the diesel repair world, which is finally starting to catch up after seemingly falling up to a decade behind its nearest counterpart, the auto industry. As we discussed in a previous article, change can be tough to implement in a diesel repair shop, especially when it differs radically from what your employees are used to.
But that doesn’t make it unnecessary. Or escapable.
The aforementioned article heavily discussed the problem of changing technology, and also included some suggestions on how shop owners can help shepherd change in. We’re blowing that out for this post.
How can you, as an owner (or manager), usher in change? Is it really on you?
(Spoiler alert: It is.)
We sat down with Fullbay CEO Patrick McKittrick, something of an expert in the fine art of change management. We also pulled some information and quotes from a prior interview with Jimmy Wall, General Manager at Donahue Truck Centers.
Change is hard. Here’s how you can streamline it and make it manageable for yourself and your employees.
GET EXECUTIVE SPONSORSHIP
The absolute first thing you have to do is get leadership on board.
“Whenever you’re changing something in an organization, somebody’s gotta own it,” Jimmy says. In some companies that’s the C-suite. In the shop, maybe that’s you and your top managers.
From there, you delegate someone in your leadership ranks to act as a spearhead for the change—ideally a highly respected person. Again, in a smaller operation, this might be you.
As the rationale goes, if that respected person cares, and wants to go forward with a change, then the rest will want to follow. (Or at least be more open to it instead of shutting it down right away.)
EXPLAIN THE WHY & THE PLAN
“People want to know why,” Patrick tells us. And of course they do! A sudden change in how the company operates, whether it’s huge or minute, is going to impact them.
The why is also your ticket to getting the all-important buy-in. You can frame it as an equation: “We’re doing X so Y will happen, and you will benefit when Y leads to Z.”
Or, if your people really hate equations, frame it like this: “When this happens, you will benefit in this way.”
Basically, you’ve got to share with your people why you’re making the change. Generally, most diesel shops bring in new software or equipment for one of two reasons:
- To make things easier (a better lift)
- To increase revenue (to lift more trucks!)
Once you’ve shared those things, you need to share how it will improve your employees’ lives. If you’re trying to sell your techs on new stuff, get them thinking about:
- How shop software will make it easier and quicker for you to do inspections.
- How you will drive more revenue through doing more inspections.
- How more of that revenue will come to you through raises and bonuses.
When people have clarity on how they’re going to get from Point A to Point B, the journey is much easier.
DEDICATE YOURSELF TO THE CHANGE
Here is where many shop owners (and biz owners in general) slip up. “They start out with, ‘Hey, let’s give this a try and see what happens,’” Patrick tells us. “That opens the door for someone to say, ‘Maybe I can get out of this.’”
What can we say? People who don’t like change look for ways to wiggle out of it. If you aren’t entirely on board—if some small part of you thinks, “Well, if this fails we can go back to the old way,” then consider whether you really want to make the change at all.
Instead of, “We’re gonna try this,” aim for “Here’s what we’re gonna do.” Set the expectation that the change will happen, and you’re all working toward it.
SET GOALS—AND MEASURE THEM
If you’re implementing, say, repair shop management software that you hope will increase your profit by 10%, then you need to measure that and regularly communicate where you stand against that goal. Let’s say, after initial training, you believe the shop will increase profit by 10% within eight weeks (or two months). Every week, make an announcement about that incremental increase.
“It keeps people very clear on how they’re doing on the change,” Patrick tells us.
Heck, maybe you can gamify things, handing out bonuses or other perks to the people who meet or pass set goals.
TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN
Training is a critical part of implementing any change. Every shop’s training approach is going to be different, so we’re only going to provide high-level guidance here—but that high-level guidance should work for just about anything.
“You have to frame it right, and train it right, and hold their hand long enough for them to understand,” Jimmy says. He suggests micro-level training, followed by demonstrations.
In general, follow this process:
- Explain the first few steps.
- Explain how long it should take.
- Explain what to expect—what kind of learning curve it might bring.
- Explain what your staff will get out of the training.
And what if someone doesn’t get it?
You help them.
You manage and train individuals and groups. People learn differently. We’ve been harping on software because, well, we’re a software company, but jumping from being paper-based to a digital solution like Fullbay, for example, is a big change, and some staff may take longer to catch on than others.
That’s okay. If you have hard-working employees who need a little longer to sort something out, give them the help they need. You know we mean that because we italicized an entire portion of that sentence.
Then, when people are moving along in training, you make sure they continue improving and succeeding.
CHECK IN FREQUENTLY
Frequent check-ins and feedback give your employees a chance to talk about what’s going on. Maybe they’re just having a hard time—or maybe there’s a snag in your training plan. You never know.
But you also have to make sure that people are abiding by the change. Ideally, everyone climbs aboard (however grudgingly) and by the end of your training period things are moving right along. Unfortunately, some operations will face holdouts: someone won’t switch to a new CRM, or follow a new process.
If you’re not out there keeping an eye on things, you may not be able to spot trouble and nip it in the bud.
“Discontent can spread,” Patrick observes. Things will fester; if one person isn’t making the switch, whatever it might be, others are likely to latch on and join the rebellion, so to speak.
Honestly, you should be checking in with your staff about how they’re doing anyway. Adding feedback around change should just be part of an ongoing conversation that allows you to see how everything is going within your operation—the good, the bad, and the troubles or excitement that might be on the horizon.
Yes, change is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be impossible or unbearable. By controlling how you roll out a change and helping your people adapt to it, you’ll turn what could be a difficult exercise into something that’s hopefully beneficial for your entire shop.