The Importance of Training - Engine Builder Magazine

The Importance of Training

You’re gonna get it…training, that
is.  You’re going to get trained one way
or the other.  When it comes to business,
you can do it the hard way or you can do it the easy way.

Personally, I am far too lazy to work very hard, so I’ve always sought
the easiest way to do things.   Good
training is simply learning from someone who has figured an easier way to do
things and taking advantage of it

When I first started in business, I worked next door to a person who was trying to convert a hobby into a business.  He became involved in a certain class of BMWs that all suffered premature engine failure. He was adept at taking the engines apart and putting them together again, so he would quote the basic price of putting rings and bearings in the engine, call it an overhaul, and take in the job.

However, every single one of these engines ended up needing far more work. The finished price to do it right was roughly four times his estimates and his customers felt betrayed, since he had the engine in buckets by the time he finally gave them a real total. They were literally over a barrel and couldn’t use their vehicle or cancel the transaction.

He continued to complain about “how unreasonable” all these customers were. He said they should understand that it just wasn’t possible to know if extra work was needed ahead of time. But after a few very unpleasant confrontations with very unhappy owners, he should have figured out that he wasn’t doing these estimates correctly. Since nearly every one of these did need the work, he should have advised them of that possiblity in advance. That way he could avoid “the big surprise.”

Despite complaining to me constantly and ignoring my suggestions, his approach grew grim and he came to regard his customers as adversaries, who were just out to get him (He actually turned out to be right).  He never learned a thing and he was forced out of business. It wasn’t that he couldn’t learn, it was that he wouldn’t learn.

People like this may say that they have 10 years experience, but the reality is, they just got one year’s experience 10 times. They never got past the basics.

What is so difficult to comprehend about evaluating the possible things that might go wrong with a job, totaling up what that might cost and advising the customer of those things ahead of time?  

My shop neighbor seemed to think that this was too difficult to learn and that it was easier to lose his house, his credit rating and develop health problems over it.

Arguing is a lot of work and requires far too much mental effort. In addition, it usually follows you home and keeps creeping into your brain. Arguing with mad customers is something you don’t have to do. You can stop as soon as you decide you want to. In fact, you do it by your own free choice.

I was told that there are three types of men – those who learn by watching, those who learn by listening and those who just have to test that it’s an electric fence themselves.

Whatever happens to be your business problem, you must first decide what it is you wish to fix and then find the training that will solve that problem.

Understand that your brain will naturally be resistant to any new ideas, even if they’re good. You’re generally most receptive when you reach the “threshold of pain” that pushes you over the edge. Once you realize that you will be skeptical and you will resist new thoughts, it will be easier to begin to look for ways the idea will work, rather than ways it won’t. We all know that getting a shot hurts but we accept it because it will make us better.

Often false beliefs are our worst enemy. I once believed that doing major engine work was not profitable, because I couldn’t charge enough. Others in the industry suggested that I price the work so that it paid the same per hour as replacing brake pads.  So, I did that and the estimate for simply installing a rebuilt engine was very high, but it paid the same per hour as doing brake work. I made it even higher by including extras that would come up, like a new water pump, oil seals, thermostat and so on. It was substantially more than I’d ever thought it would be, and the customer still said yes.

I was stunned that I got the job. I learned that sometimes you price a job that you don’t want to do so it will go away – if it doesn’t, it pays enough to make you want to do it. Through the years, I’ve sold a lot of these jobs the same way. The beauty is, if it does go away, it’s no big deal to me.

There aren’t really that many big changes that we can make to our businesses that will accomplish a world of good, but there are literally hundreds of little things that we can do that will add up to big changes in how our business operates.

I tell people who take my classes to look at the material as a buffet line. They will find some things very appealing and some things downright appalling. I ask them to take the things they like and leave the things they don’t. The worst thing you can do is to obsess about things you don’t like. It causes you to lose your focus.

The reality is, your own “threshold of pain” will determine what ideas you are receptive to right now. You’ll like those. Other ideas you will just not be ready for today. At some future point, you may develop and find a need for these.  A very successful shop owner will find most good ideas have been implemented and the pickings are slim. If you can take a 2-week vacation and find the place humming right along, with no problems and record sales for the period when you return, you are where you want to be.

Until then, think about where your thresholds of pain might be and seek out some possible solutions to evaluate. Training is available at live conventions or events, live sessions led by an Instructor, DVDs, magazines or online. A good shop will constantly be evaluating what goes on and how it can be done easier. No one can afford to exist without change and no one has it all figured out. Once you figure that out, you can stop learning about electric fences.

Becky Witt, AAM, is nationally recognized as a leading industry expert. She is a real repair shop owner, who talks to customers every day. She is an approved instructor for the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) and has earned ratings as one of their most popular instructors. Her innovative solutions to complex problems make real-world sense and are easily learned and implemented. She is best known for being very entertaining and throwing donuts.

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