Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Correctly

This month we are going to be discussing a situation that many lube shop managers and owners may find themselves mired in. Basically, it’s the old “efforts vs. rewards” battle that employees and managers seem to engage in endlessly.

It seems that at one time or another, every lube shop owner or manager has had the same thought travel through their crowded mind. You may well sometimes say to yourself, “Self, I am willing to pay my employees a fair (prevailing) wage, and they well know what is generally expected of them. Why, then, are they so unmotivated to perform just the bare minimum of their job duties and requirements? Things like coming to work on time, every day. Coming to work clean-shaven every day. How about being friendly to every customer and treating them with respect?”

These things are pretty much universally accepted job requirements for working in a lube shop, as well as just about any other business you might think of. Why then is it so often we find ourselves with employees who need to be continually “reminded” of these things?

Have you ever had this conversation with an employee who tries to promote his idea of a “fair” wage: “You know, if you gave me a raise and paid me a little more, I would always do those things. But you don’t pay me enough as it is. What do you expect?”

Now, your employee may not have put it into those exact words, but there are plenty who try to convince their managers with logic like that every day in lube shops around the country. When you try to explain to this type of employee the reality of the situation, they can often become even more disgruntled, claiming that they make a pretty consistent effort every day and isn’t that worth something? Isn’t the fact that they have been coming to work every day fairly consistently, don’t really get into or make any real trouble and try to do almost everything you expect of them worth a raise every now and then? Coming to work not clean-shaven once every couple weeks or so may be against the “rules,” but it’s not nearly as bad as ol’ what’s-his-name who comes late nearly every day — and sometimes just doesn’t show up at all!

If you find yourself having discussions similar to these with any or all of your employees, don’t feel like “The Lone Ranger.” There are many, many operators and managers who deal with this kind of complacency every day in their lube shops. The root of the challenge is for you to first understand where the problem lies in this attitude, and then to know how to effectively get the idea across to your team members. There are two pairs of symbiotic, yet definitely separate cause-and-effect scenarios at play here. They are: No. 1, Effort Creates Appreciation and No. 2, Results Creates Rewards.

Let’s consider the first one, Efforts Creates Appreciation. When one of your employees attempts to complete a duty assigned by you, there is an effort being made. Simple enough, right? Sometimes — we hope most of the time — these efforts are successful in achieving their intended goal, whatever that may be. Other times, unfortunately, they are not successful. In most circumstances, however, the amount of work required (effort) is nearly the same. The big variable is the outcome, or the intended goal of the procedure.

The normal response from a superior to his employee putting forth the good effort to accomplish his assigned task should be appreciation, which is really just another way of acknowledging the employee’s efforts in completing the task at-hand.

Since we are only discussing the first part of any task (the effort required to complete it) it is not logical to assume that any type of reward can be applied yet (negative or positive), for we have not considered what the result of all this effort is yet. We are still just concerned with the initial effort applied to the task. To offer any type of reward or discipline at this stage is most often disastrous to the motivation of the employee in question.

For instance, if you were to have an employee who has a 15 minute drive to work every day, he would probably need to leave his home a good 20-25 minutes before scheduled to ensure a timely arrival. Fair enough so far.

So let’s propose that he is on time every day he is scheduled for several months.

Let’s also propose that you have another employee who lives in a different part of town, also about the same distance away. Yet for some reason, maybe traffic patterns, if he were to leave his home 20-25 minutes before the scheduled start of his shift, he would be 5 or 10 minutes late for his shift every day.

Since each of the employees are putting forth the same effort in the scenario described above, should they both be “rewarded” for their efforts to get to work on time?

Clearly, the answer is no.

This takes us to the second of the two cause-and-effect scenarios we are discussing here: Results Creates Rewards.

Most employees, as well as just most everybody in life, likes to receive the rewards due them in return for their results in completing a task. Notice that the reward cannot even be considered until the result of the task at-hand has been determined. Why is that? Well, if you don’t yet know if the results of the assignment will be positive or negative, how can you logically decide if the reward for completing that task should be positive or negative? Obviously, the answer is that you cannot, for without knowing the final results, you have no way to judge what an appropriate reward or discipline should be.

I’m sure most all of you are on the same page with me here: Positive results create rewards, and negative results create discipline — or at the very least, no reward. This is precisely where a lot of managers and employees get their feelings, emotions and ideas crossed. They will often make the mental jump from the first part (effort) of the first ideal (Effort Creates Appreciation) all the way to the last part of the equation (rewards) of the second ideal (Results Creates Rewards).

This is what often times leads to statements and questions like: “You know, I’ve been working my tail off every day, trying to do everything you ask me to. Isn’t that worth a raise?” And this is precisely where a novice manager or lube shop operator can get into all kinds of employee-morale problems.

Once one of your team members is successful in arguing his point that his efforts are the basis for his pay and raises, then you may well find yourself handing out raises to employees with thinking that, “If I give him the raise first, maybe he’ll start to be the employee I want him to be.” And, if you find yourself believing that scenario, you will undoubtedly soon find yourself with an entire roster full of highly-paid, poor attitude employees who feel that you never “do enough for them.” And since the results of their efforts have been eradicated from their consideration by your unwillingness to hold them to it, you may also well find yourself with a poor performing location.

How can this manifest itself? Exceedingly slow car times, dwindling car counts, less-than-acceptable ticket averages, poor customer service — the list can go on and on.

On the other hand, if you are a strong leader who clearly understands the ideals being presented here, you will find the rewards to you will be many-fold. You will find that your employees will be, for the most part, self-motivated to want to create positive results.

Remember, good enough is never good enough.

Your car times will be a lot closer to what you require, your car counts will remain high and probably even increase, your ticket averages will be higher and more consistent than ever before and your customers will let you know how much they appreciate all this by telling you so on a regular basis. In fact, you might be surprised how many customers will come up to the manager of a well-run store just to thank them for a well-run store!

You, as the leader in your location, whether you are the owner or the manager, have the responsibility to your boss, the customers, your employees and yourself to make sure that each employee understands the well-defined difference between Efforts Creates Appreciation and Results Creates Rewards.

Good luck to each of you. I’d love to hear about any of your personal success stories, so feel free to send ‘em to me at: quicklubekit@aol.com

See ya’ next month.

Kit Sullivan

KIT SULLIVAN began as a lube tech over 25 years ago and is one of the most knowledgeable and respected experts in the fast-oil-change arena. From location manager to general manager of a 50-plus unit chain, to owner of his own six-unit chain of lube shops, Sullivan has mastered every area of successful lube shop operation. Known for his excellent training seminars, as well as assistance in developing new products tailored to the industry, Sullivan is a popular consultant and can be reached at: quicklubekit@aol.com