Wow, I get to write for the National Oil Lube and News! This magazine has been hitting my mailbox for as long as I can remember. The industry rankings, operator survey and best-looking lube shop spreads have been vital to the growth of our industry. I recall quickly flipping through the magazine pages to find the two most important parts: the great pictures of cars rolling through the shop and what creative stance the Full Throttle/True Brand Ladies would take to show off their new product. But of course, it’s not always good; they did let David Haney write for a bit. I remember David talking about how excited he was to take his first selfie profile pic. He had to only stack three phone books on the ground, so he could place his phone on them to get the perfect head shot. So proud.
Over the past 17 or so years, I have had the privilege and honor of working with so many talented people. My biggest professional success has been helping develop Rapid Oil Change into 5 Minute Oil Change and then moving it to Take 5 Oil Change. The wonderful team at Take 5 Oil Change has grown from just a few stores, when I started as a technician in 2001, to now celebrating 300 stores as I depart in 2018. I have traveled to spread my thoughts about training and leadership to many states in the US, as well as Pro Oil Change in Canada and the ever-growing powerhouse of Petromin Oil Change in Saudi Arabia. Although it has been a while, working with AOCA and AMRA/MAP were fantastic experiences that I am very excited about returning to. These milestones have allowed me to share my insights on my favorite thing — people.
I, like many people reading this article, had started out my automotive career waltzing into a quick lube and thinking that one epic thought, “Yeah, that looks easy.” At that time, I was looking for a “JOB,” and anyone ever looking for a “JOB” should know that those three letters stand for Just Over Broke. There was no interest in sticking with a quick lube position; my interest was in making money. As a 22-year-old, that means leaving one job for 25 cents more an hour. Walking into Rapid Oil Change in 2001 was an absolute blessing. The leadership team, led by my mentor Pete Frey, was gearing up for a big expansion effort. I did not deserve to be there; I just wanted a job. I tell everyone I was lucky. What I stepped into was a rare system that developed people, allowed them to shine and, most importantly, didn’t favor tenure. Let’s face it; starting at the bottom sucks.
So, over the next few articles, allow me to share with you many of my practices I have used to develop the talent of so many great leaders, who I hope are reading this article right now. I am very proud of each and every one of them. I will also share with you the failures and outside stories that I have come to draw inspiration from. Our industry is like many other industries you may interact with daily. The financial bones and corporate structure are all there. I would encourage you to always check out how others do it — not just the quick lubes in your community, but the large companies around the world to the startups across the country.
Let us start out with this one simple thought. You have a great piece of property and a very expensive LED sign flashing to the commuters down the street saying, “Look at me; give me your money” (or a version of that). You may have placed ads electronically, in mail droppers or have countertop flyers with bright pictures of your hard-working crew or a happy customer driving off with a price point or discount boldly floating across the page. You probably have a great looking garden that could use some weeding about now. (Made you look at the garden, right?) You may think by investing in all these things you have the best oil change business in town — and you may be right, but who cares?
You Are Not in the Quick Lube Business
You are in the people business, and your wallet will grow proportionally to the amount of time and effort you put into your people. The brand of oil, the size of your signs and the colorful petunias in the corner flower bed mean nothing if you don’t have good people. A bad person on your center’s floor can scream to your customers, “We are not good enough for you,” and your good employees will absorb the bad employee’s habits quicker than you can fix them. After all, if she doesn’t care, why should I? And another kicker; most of your people want to be better people than when they came in. Your employees want to come in and make a difference, feel connected to your success and build their life and work skills. Your customers want to brush off that rude DMV clerk they waited two hours to see, only to find out they didn’t tell you about that one piece of paper you really needed. They want their vehicle to perform as good or better than how it performed when they brought it to you.
It is the management of your crew, customers and vendors on a daily basis that will allow you to stand proudly in a crowd with that logo on your chest saying, “I work with XYZ Lube” and not have to scan the room for people rolling their eyes and walking away. I want to place emphasis on the phrase “work with.” As a servant leader (which I modeled my leadership after), you don’t have employees working for you. Before leaving Take 5, I had the privilege of working with 27 of the absolute best leaders in the training industry. If you looked at an org chart, you would see my name above them, but my job was to support their growth and get out of their way.
People Are the Process
You can see this in the case of General Motors and Toyota joint venture in Fairmont, California. This plant was run by GM and was considered one of the worst automotive manufacturing plants in the industry. Their war cry was said to be, “We never stop the line.” Even if there was something wrong, they kept going. Feedback, evaluations and adjustments to the process were not implemented well, and this led to fights, strikes and chaos constantly inside the plant. The plant would eventually fail. Then, enter Toyota in a venture called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI). Toyota hired nearly 85 percent of the workforce back and ran a successful operation — that’s 85 percent of the people who were failing and eventually shut the plant down. The solution? They invested in their people. They sent employees to Japan to learn their system and listened to feedback from the floor. They proved that people were not a part of the process, but people were the actual process.
My challenge to you, before we even start this journey, is to look at your crew, your process and your customers. If you can do better, then read my next few articles. Or, if you think your people skills are top-notch, watch your people go to your competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet after all. Until then, be great!