Every business has problems, and even the best-planned days can experience the unexpected. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this particular business owner. Those types of days were the norm. In fact, the frustration was causing him to wonder if he had made a good decision opening the business.
He started it because of his frustration working in another shop with similar problems, and when he first opened his shop things were great. He handled the customers and serviced the cars. He did it all and did it his way, and customers appreciated what he did.
Over time, though, he’s noticed that his shop is becoming the shop he left, a natural evolution of a small business growing. He had to hire employees to handle the increased demand from customers. He could no longer do everything himself, and the people he hired didn’t do everything the same way he did it.
Did the business outgrow his process? Probably not. More likely, everyone, including the owner, was paying attention to other things, and it was just a matter of time before he was overwhelmed. He had missed the important step of sharing what he did so well with his employees so that they could do the same.
When I’m evaluating business problems with owners and discussing the issues that result from a lack of process, they often ask, “Where do I start?” The answer is simple. Determine the issue that causes you the most pain and begin there.
In this owner’s case, it was easy to see the significant pain that incorrectly scheduling work was causing the owner, the employees and the customers. So, I advised him to start there. Subsequently, we worked out a process for scheduling work that managed time better and created realistic expectations for the technicians and the customers.
Every process starts by defining the purpose of the process. Our goal was to know the hours available each day, have the technicians work all of the available hours and sell all of the available hours to customers, use time to manage the workflow and meet the customers’ expectations of quickly getting an appointment and promptly getting their cars back from their appointments.
That scheduling process began with knowing the available hours for the day. For example, in a shop with three technicians working an eight-hour day there are 24 hours available. But we didn’t schedule 24 hours; we scheduled 16 hours. The remaining eight hours then were available to perform the work sold from the inspections and testing, as well as to handle client emergencies.
There has to be a visual for the number of hours available during the day. As work is scheduled, an appropriate amount of time is assigned to the job, and the time is deducted from the available time to schedule. The sixteen hours is reduced as work is scheduled for the day, and at any time, everyone will know if time is available to schedule another customer. Once the 16 hours is reduced to zero, the schedule is full for the day.
The eight hours that were not scheduled now provide the shop with the ability to perform work discovered on the cars scheduled for that day: the brake noise that turns into a brake job, the oil change that needs a serpentine belt replaced or the coolant leak that needs a radiator replacement.
Shops benefit from that process because it prevents work from stacking up and creating the frustration that comes with too much to do. And clients benefit from the convenience of getting the work done without being without their vehicles for extended periods of time.
Such a scheduling process will work in a shop-management system or on a paper calendar. Try it and let me know how it works for you.
Next month, we will continue on the journey to better processes.
Like this Blog? Be sure to also check out AutoInc. magazine for useful articles on managing your business smartly.
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