Perhaps the most famous quote about any single step in history occurred at 10:56 p.m. ET on July 20th, 1969, when American astronaut Neil Armstrong placed his left foot on the surface of the moon and declared, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” This year marks the 55th anniversary of that historical event, providing a perfect backdrop for what I want to talk about in today’s article – Just One Step.
Have you ever considered the importance of Just One Step? There are many popular sayings about it, but, for the most part, they all boil down to the idea that every journey or great accomplishment begins with a single step. In other words, it’s a matter of getting started. However, even a journey to nowhere begins with a single step.
I can’t resist inserting a Yogi-ism, “I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re making great time.” If you’re too young to know what a Yogi-ism is or who Yogi Berra was, ask someone over sixty. There’s one sure thing about Yogi; he was always in motion, whether it was a first step, next step, or last step. I highly recommend the Yogi Berra documentary on Netflix, “It Ain’t Over.”
You’re probably thinking this article is going to be about setting goals and taking that all-important first step. That would be a great topic, but not today. Today I’m going to talk about what happens when we lose a step or miss a step, and what we can do about it.
As I write this article, I’m recovering from falling off a ladder while stringing our outdoor Christmas lights. As I was descending the ladder for the last time, I missed a step and fell backward from about the fifth rung. This fulfilled the old saying, “Watch out for that last step; it’s a doozy.” I landed squarely on my back in the driveway, fracturing my sacrum and suffering a concussion. Yes, this is a cry for sympathy, but more importantly, it helps make my point about missing a step.
Also, as the Super Bowl is approaching, I can’t help but think about the Chiefs versus the Eagles last year. The Eagles surprised the Chiefs with a near upset. Throughout the game, the announcers couldn’t resist making excuses for Patrick Mahomes’ lackluster performance. Granted, he had a valid excuse as he suffered from a leg injury that prevented him from performing at his best and using his biggest asset – his ability to move around the field, turn losses into gains, and avoid being sacked.
The announcers repeatedly said, “Mahomes’ injury has caused him to lose a step.” No s**t, Sherlock! He played with an injury that would have had most players sitting out. But he figured out a way to work around the injury and pull off a victory. It ranks as one of the greatest games he ever played – even though statistically it wasn’t. Mahomes even ended up being selected as the game’s MVP.
My point isn’t whether he played well; it’s that even while losing a step and not playing his best, he figured out a way to work around the injury and squeeze out a come-from-behind win.
Many famous athletes made adjustments throughout their careers to make allowances for “losing a step.” Most of them involved changing to different playing positions that didn’t require the same quickness, range, or speed as their original positions. Examples include baseball greats like Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, and many more. In fact, Yogi Berra also makes the list.
What Does This Have To Do With Running An Auto Repair Business?
In the October/November issue of GEARS, I discussed the steps in the Sales Cycle. If you recall, I made the point that the Sales Cycle is a series of steps, and that skipping or missing steps in the Sales Cycle contributes to missing or losing sales. Yet many service advisers continue to skip steps.
You wouldn’t dream of intentionally skipping steps in assembling a transmission because the consequences are known almost instantly. However, when you skip sales, marketing, or management steps, the consequences often don’t show up for months or even years.
Some examples of skipping or missing business operational steps include things like failing to plan, not tracking results, not adjusting to get back on track, failing to engage the team and motivate them to achieve the company’s objectives, and more.
I’ve written so many articles about the whys and how’s of doing these things; I’d bore you if I repeated them here. If you want to revisit these ideas, go to GEARS.Magazine.com and search for Up Your Business articles on any management topic – you’ll be magically transported to the appropriate article(s).
Instead, I’m going to talk about why businesses fail to deal with these important business management functions and what they can do about it. Ironically, it’s not because they don’t know. It’s usually because they don’t care, or stopped caring on some level.
What Causes Businesses to Lose a Step?
Most business owners are motivated, careful, and diligent when they first open their businesses. They do research, read books, attend seminars, and seek help from a multitude of sources, including friends and relatives. However, over time, they become complacent. That’s right, complacency is the biggest cause of business owners losing a step.
Let’s look at how complacency sneaks into businesses and into the psyche of business owners.
- Business is so good. It’s too easy. I don’t have to try, and I make money. Yes, even when business is going well, the lack of challenge can lead to complacency.
- Business is too difficult. The modern technology has passed me by. I wish it could be the way it used to be. Feeling challenged beyond your abilities can lead to complacency.
- Business is bad and I’m burned out. I’m tired of not making enough money. I know I should, but I don’t even care anymore. Despair can lead to complacency.
- I’m tired. I wish I could find someone to buy my business. Maybe I’ll just close it and sell the assets. Complacency and short-timers disease are similar – especially if you’re approaching retirement age.
If any of these examples describe you, here are some things you can or should do to avoid the inevitable results of complacency?
Just as in sports, we can lose a step in our business management performance. In the world of auto repair, complacency can lead to missed opportunities (missteps), a decline in service quality (losing a step), and ultimately, a negative impact on your bottom line (falling off the ladder). As the business owner, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of complacency and take proactive steps to reignite the passion and drive that led to your initial success.
Firstly, assess the current state of your business. Are you coasting on past achievements, or are you actively seeking ways to innovate and improve? Embrace change and stay updated on the latest industry trends and technologies. Attend workshops, conferences, and training sessions to ensure that your skills and knowledge are always at the forefront. Taking proactive steps can help you fall back in love with your business.
Secondly, reevaluate your business goals and objectives. Complacency often sets in when owners lose sight of their vision. Take the time to revisit your vision and mission statement and long-term goals. Identify areas that may need adjustment and develop a strategic plan to realign your business with its original purpose.
Thirdly, enlist the help of your team. You might be surprised by how much they’re willing to help you through your complacency. Just because you’re feeling it, doesn’t mean they’re feeling it – yet anyhow. Foster a culture of continuous improvement within your team. Encourage open communication and feedback, empowering your employees to contribute their ideas and insights. By creating an environment that values growth and learning, you can ensure that everyone in your organization remains committed to taking those crucial steps forward.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of accountability. Get back to establishing performance metrics, tracking key performance indicators, and regularly reviewing your business’s progress. Holding yourself and your team accountable for results will help prevent complacency and motivate everyone to consistently strive for excellence.
In conclusion, just as missing a step can lead to a fall or an injury, allowing complacency to creep into your auto repair business can have severe consequences. Take heed of the lessons learned from iconic figures like Neil Armstrong, Yogi Berra, and Patrick Mahomes – even in the face of challenges, losing a step doesn’t have to mean losing the game. With an initiative-taking mindset, continuous improvement, and a commitment to your business’s core values, you can navigate the journey of business ownership successfully, one step at a time.
About the author — Thom Tschetter has served our industry for over four decades. His article topics come from our readers and Thom’s years as a speaker, writer, certified arbitrator, business consultant, and his own in-the-trenches experiences. Thom owned a chain of award-winning transmission shops in Washington State, and ATRA presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of training for the transmission industry.
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