Did you ever wonder why some service managers make it and others don’t? Or why some are able to grow their store – make all of the money while others struggle just to get by? And why is it that some always seem to hit their goals and win – making their job look really easy? Well, I did – I wondered what the winners did that the others didn’t do – and I think I found out what the difference is.  I can’t say it was a surprise – but it sure made me think and I bet you will make you think to after you read this.

The winners, I found do the same things that every other service manager does – they just do it a little bit more. They are engaged in their business a little bit more. They take care of their people a little bit more. They are positive, excited and driven a little bit more. They fix cars right the first time a little bit more. They are open for business, answer the phone and are out on the service drive, a little bit more. They compete in the marketplace a little bit more. The winners just take control of their store and do everything a little bit more.

So, what is it about these “take control a little bit more” managers that gets and keeps them going? In other words, why do they care a little bit more – what makes them have so much energy and passion? Well, the answer to that could be a thousand things depending on the individual, but the one thing I saw when I started looking for common denominators was this: They all just love what they do – and I mean they really love it! They get up early, can’t wait to get to work, hate to leave, think about growing their business constantly and never stop trying to figure out ways to step things up a notch. They get up every morning and go to “fun” instead of work and it shows. They take control of their future, their store, their income and their life.

These ‘winners’ that take control, almost always make more money, but if you ask them – their work ethic has nothing to do with money – it’s about the game, about winning, about being the best. Now, being the best, naturally results in more money – but again, that isn’t the factor that drives them.

So, what if you have all of that energy, love what you do, can’t wait to get to work, think about it all the time – and you still aren’t moving the needle? What then – because it does happen. What do you do if you want to grow your store but you aren’t quite doing it…even if you are doing everything “a little bit more”? What have you go to do if you want to take control?

Here are 7 things I think might help. They are simple, not necessarily easy, but simple to understand. If you do them you will greatly increase your chances of going to the next level – and that naturally is winning – and results in more income (even though I know you aren’t into that money thing!” Use these 7 things to help you take control, grow your store, make more money and reach the next level.

  1. Be A Leader. Maybe you think this is obvious, but I go to stores all the time that are not run by a leader. They may be run by a service advisor or a tech – and once in a great while, I run into one that is run by the cashier, as god-awful, as that sounds! You have to be a motivator, a navigator and a coach. You have to set clear expectations, track performance and hold your people accountable. Leaders – lead and are positive, never give up powerhouses that believe they can reach any goal and even conquer the world. And if you are negative, stop it – the only thing worse than a crybaby employee is a crybaby boss!


  1. Get Out of your Office. You cannot be engaged in your business if you are sitting in your office. Nothing good ever happens in there – and everything good and bad happens on the service drive. You need to be out there running the show, watching, listening and training your people. Think of your service drive as a sales department – because that’s what it is. Negotiate, close deals, overcome objections – do whatever it takes to coach your team to success. Watch a football game on Sunday – you see the coach right there on the sidelines – in the thick of it – not up in some office away from the action, right? Lock your office door, throw away your key and get out on the drive today!


  1. Answer your Phone. This one shouldn’t even need to be discussed – but no matter how much everyone talks about his or her phone problem – nothing ever seems to get done. Come on guys – 85% of your customers call first and 47% of the callers hang up! You can increase your service traffic instantly without spending a dime if you just answer your phone! My suggestion – take the phone away from the service lane. Most advisors are too busy or distracted to really put the effort they need to when they are on the phone – and most of them also control the flow of work into the shop – they stop taking work in way too early. Set up a Service BDC and do it right. Train, train, train, train and train some more. And don’t worry about return on investment – do the math on what your average gross profit per repair order is and you will quickly see that it doesn’t take that much to make it profitable. Do the math – the gross from about 11 repair orders is usually equal to the gross you make on a new car (not counting F&I.) Get your phones answered – customers hate to call your store – and they will eventually stop trying so hard to do business with you.


  1. Be Open More. We live in a 24/7/365 world and if you want to win you have to get in the game with both feet. You have to be open evenings, Saturdays all day and Sundays if you are in the right market. If your competition is open, you should be open. If you dealership sales department is open, you should be open. Nothing happens when you are closed – right? So, get open- but do it right- don’t burn yourself or your people out. Set up a schedule that makes being open a good thing, not a bad thing. Empower an assistant, so you don’t have to be there from bell to bell. You have to be open – if a customer needs you and you aren’t open – he will go somewhere else and you just may never see him again – he may find a new friend that he likes better than you – don’t run that risk – you can’t afford to lose even one customer today!


  1. Stop Doing Silly Stuff. Yep, it means exactly what it says! Stop charging $30 to install a taillight bulb. Stop charging $50 to install a battery. Stop charging $89 to diagnose a check engine light. These little things really piss customers off and when they get pissed off – they stop coming to your store, it’s that simple. Stop making customers stand in line to pay their bill – they hate to stand in line to pay…everybody hates to stand in line to pay – you hate to stand in line to pay, right? Do yourself and every customer you will ever come in contact with a favor and get credit card terminals for every service advisor and let them cashier their own repair orders. 95% of all transactions are either credit or debit cards – so there is no reason not to do this. Oh, and one more thing – you knew this was coming – Fire your Cashier. He/She has no vested interest in your future and they have upsetting customers down to a science. She is a dead expense and a customer serial killer living right on your drive – gets rid of her fast and watch your CSI go up!


  1. Advertise Smarter. It may sound like common sense, but I talk to service managers all the time that just don’t get it when it comes to targeting customers to build service traffic – so here are a few simple rules that I found work great. First, go after your lost customers– the ones that have been in but haven’t returned – they are the low hanging fruit. Prospect consistently for new customers – not just whenever you think about it or when you are slow. Make sure your advertising matches – has a consistent look and coupons with prices that match so you don’t confuse customers and make your store look stupid. Never advertise anything over $99. Get serious about tire rotations – they still need to be done at about 5-6000 miles – so instead of waiting forever for the oil to need changed every zillion miles, get the customers in for tire rotations.


  1. Beat the Competition. Really, I mean, beat them to death. Beat them on quality, customer service, open hours, convenience and of course price on the well-known maintenance items. Customers think you are better, but they also think you are more expensive – even if you aren’t – so you have to change that – you have to get aggressive and remember the question that will change everything when it comes to competing – “How much do you make when they go somewhere else?”