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What to do with your time?

October 11, 2010
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Time is a subject that repeats itself in conversations with detailers all over the world. The detail business owner is his own worst enemy because many do not use technology to their advantage nor do they plan for anything.

I recently was speaking with a detail shop owner who told me he has not taken a vacation in ten years. Another told me it had been 20 years. The detail industry seems to be filled with lots of workaholics who like to brag about how busy they are. Yet, many of these same people also complain about not making enough money.

Get organized
How well do you plan your day? If you are a good owner/manager, you have your to-do list written out for the day. But are you utilizing your list? Sure, you may keep busy all day, but at the end of the day you look at your to-do list and nothing is ticked off except you.

Take at least 15 minutes to plan each day. If you are not using a day planner (manual or electronic) you need to. There is simply too much going on in your life to try and remember all of it in your head.

Secondly, you must prioritize. What needs to be done first? What is the most important and most urgent?

Next, determine who is going to do what. Don’t forget the important, but not urgent items either. Without putting a few of these into your daily plan, they will not get done until they are “important and urgent.”

The ideal situation is to book 6-10 appointments per day, and to make those reservations four weeks in advance. You should also build in two to three hours a day of reserve time for stop-ins or emergency work. You will find an astonishing 90 to 100 percent of your customers will keep their appointments. The biggest benefit? It can replace your need to advertise and greatly reduce those big peaks and valleys in volume.

Employee time management
Keeping your employees on task is also important. What happens with the eight or so hours that each detail employee is at your shop is what makes you money.

How much time do they spend working on things turn a profit and how efficient are they at those tasks? Think of it this way, there are only two kinds of times for your detailers:
  1. Making money time; and
  2. Losing money time.
Sounds simple — and it is — but it is not easy keeping your employees at task. You need your detailers to spend as much time as they can working on paying jobs and make sure they are efficient in what they do. How much time they spend working on income-producing work is called productivity. If you do a lot of things right, you can get that to result in 95 percent of their day.

Ideas for improving time management
    1. Book the majority of your appointments in advance. Get in the habit of calling the customer at least one day before his appointment to confirm he is still coming.

    2. Use effective written and completed work orders. Far too much time is wasted when the detailer has to come back and ask a question that could have been written down in the first place. This will eliminate their leaving their work area, which is a major distraction.

    3. Ask employees to arrive 10 minutes before their shift starts. In many operations, work doesn’t begin for 10, 15 or even 30 minutes after employees arrive. This late start costs you money.

    4. Hold regularly scheduled meetings with employees. Discuss how the team is doing and what can be done to make things more effective. We all spend too much time doing work and not enough time thinking about how we can make it better. The old adage that you can’t see the picture from inside the frame is accurate. You need to take time once a week to regroup and refocus.

    5. Go over the vehicle with the customer. Have the customer tell you specifically what the problem is with the vehicle or what they want done so the detailer is clear on what they need to look for when doing the work. Write this down. In most shops, detailers waste too much time just attempting to find out what needs to be done.

    6. Use a time clock. Finally, if you are not using some type a time-tracking device (such as a time clock, automated system, tracking software) you are losing out on a lot of money, plain and simple. Check into what is out there and use something.