How to achieve ‘GREAT’ culture at your shop!

It was the winter of 1989. I had just graduated from tire-store manager school. My first assignment was the company’s worst store. This particular store had been bought and sold many times by different outfits over the years. The building was set back between two other businesses, making it almost impossible to see from the street. When I first walked in the door, an air of gloom grabbed my attention. There I was, full of enthusiasm for my first management assignment, drowning in negativity. I did not know anything about culture at the time but my new store had a culture of defeat.

Culture may seem to be a difficult thing to get your arms around. It really is fairly simple. It includes behaviors, values, and beliefs that are accepted by a particular group of people. Think about any group you are familiar with. They all have a culture. It could be a veteran’s post, a fraternal organization or a church. Each and every organization has its own culture.

What is the culture in your shop? Most shops have a de facto culture. This type of culture is the result of years of random events and concepts becoming the norm, establishing the current culture. Culture is very important to your shop. Your shop culture radiates out from you to your team and directly to your customers. It impacts every facet of your customer’s experience. It is easy to see that culture is far too important to be left unattended.

In order to get the culture you want, you must first discover the culture you currently have. Many times, the true shop culture is hidden from the owner or manager. Take a look at your team members and ask yourself, are they doing the best job possible, or just doing enough to get by? Do they embrace solutions or excuses? Is there a true enthusiasm for their career or is this just a job for now? Write down your observations for future reference. Take a look at your online reviews and social media. Your customers are experiencing your culture and commenting on it. Make a list of all the positive behaviors you see that you want as a part of your culture. Also make a list of all the negative behaviors and attitudes you want to root out of your shop. Take your time and get the best possible handle on your current culture. See how your individual team members interact with each other. What is the group attitude at the counter and in the shop? If your shop is a gossip mill or the language that is used is foul, this is your chance to change it for the better. Culture is the result of what owners pay attention to, what they value. If the owner is the type of person who needs to blame someone when something goes wrong, then that becomes engrained in the culture. If the owner is always a few minutes early to work, in a positive mood, then that becomes part of the culture. The point is culture affects morale, motivation, and growth. A great culture is an amazing business asset.

Many people quit jobs because of a bad culture. Employees and customers are both loyal to a great culture. Culture will always out-perform any business strategy. A positive culture will have a very good impact on your bottom line. Talk with your team about your vision for shop culture. Ask them what behaviors they like and which ones need to be eliminated. Develop a list of core values to identify your culture. I have an example of some core values I think are important and I crafted them into an acronym, GREAT!

 G Go Beyond Expectations for clients and teammates
 R Relationships are most important
 E Embrace solution, do not blame or make excuses
 A Attitude is everything, have fun
 T Team focus, we are part of a bigger mission

Talk about your shop culture at your weekly meetings and mention it at your 5-minute morning team huddle before work. Keep the culture top of mind.
Take notice of the good cultural behaviors as things unfold. Lavish your team with your praise. Make these victories all about the team. You will see your individual team members continue to become more aligned with the new shop culture. Your team will look to you as the leader to be the example. No matter what, you should be the individual working the hardest to make the shop culture a success. Look for things to celebrate as a team. Buy lunch for the shop. Let them know about a great review by a customer or other culture related victories. A team that celebrates together will begin to gel and will get the bigger picture, which is, the fact that it is a team effort.

Make yourself accessible to your team members. Greet them every day. Ask them how they are doing with a project at home or about their kid’s soccer game last night. Be a better communicator with everyone. Show a genuine interest in each individual.

Take notice of things your team is doing that align with your culture and compliment them. Tell your senior technician you noticed he was helping the new guy through that wiring problem yesterday. Catch them doing the right things and bring attention to it privately and also mention it at the next meeting. Always be on the look-out for good behavior.

Part of creating a good culture will be correcting some behaviors. As the leader, you have an obligation to address these situations quickly. Always do this in private. Do not make it personal. Make it about behavior, not the individual. Begin with some praise and appreciation, then the behavior that needs some work, and finish with another genuine praise. Keep it quick and be positive about it.

As your team begins to gel in this new culture they will need less specific direction. Everyone on the team will have the common values of the culture. The team will assume ownership of their work as a team. They will support each other in their common culture. This will radiate out to your customers in a very positive way. Your customers will have a much better buying experience, better quality repair, and they will notice the positive feeling they receive from everyone at your shop.