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Business Operations

Efficient employees

October 11, 2010
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As this issue was going to print, Automatic Data Processing Inc., the world’s largest payroll processing company, was reporting that small businesses employing 49 or fewer people shed 25,000 jobs in October — the first time they had cut employment since 2002. For carwash owners and managers, the news likely came as no surprise. Ditto for the detail industry, where the largest chunk of expenses is usually labor costs.

Cutting staff positions and supplementing with more automated services is one alluring possibility, but a better solution is to more effectively manage the staff members you do have. Encouraging more production from your staff can raise ticket averages and boost volumes; it can also help you identify which positions are truly unnecessary and therefore properly eliminate those jobs which are hindering your success.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing asked two veteran carwash managers, Jeff Mayo and Robert Andre, to share their best ideas for boosting staff efficiency and productivity. What follows is a guide to building your most industrious staff ever and increasing your profits in 2009.

Good training techniques
By: Robert Andre

If I were to ask you right now what your carwash needs to be successful, what would you say? More cars? New equipment? Better chemicals? I am sure not many of you said training.

For most carwash operators and detail shop owners, training ranks towards the bottom of their “To Do” list. But training is the one aspect of your business that can immediately set you apart from your competition and allow you to grow, especially during challenging times.

Remember this: Training needs to be done on an ongoing basis and not just when things go bad. Results often come in small increments, but over time the hard work and resources you put into employee training will pay–off.

Six steps to training

There are six easy steps to teaching any employee a new task. They are:

    Step 1: Customer focus
  • Connect whatever activity that needs to be performed back to customer.
  • Achieve understanding of the level of proficiency needed to satisfy the customer expectations.
    Step 2: Conduct walk–through
  • Go over all the steps to perform the activity correctly, utilizing whatever equipment is involved.
  • Clarify the most critical parts of this activity.
    Step 3: Show real–time
  • Perform the task correctly meeting all the standards required.
  • Ask questions of the person being trained to determine their understanding.
    Step 4: Trainee performs
  • Trainee performs the activity while being observed by the trainer.
    Step 5: Give feedback
  • Provide both positive and corrective feedback on what was observed.
    Step 6: Repeat
  • Continue Steps 4 and 5 until the person being trained is performing that activity perfectly.
  • Ideally, the person should be able to complete the task correctly three times in a row before being considered trained on that task.
Taking baby steps

I am the father of a 17–month–old boy. Everyday, I work with him to develop his verbal skills and vocabulary. I spend countless hours trying to get him to say a new word, sometimes with no results, yet the next day when he comes home from daycare, he is able to say two new words. Am I a terrible father? I’d like to think not. I’d rather think that people who are experts in working with infants, did what they are trained to do.

The same goes for training your employees. You might feel you work hard and don’t get the desired result. There is a proper way to train your employees. If you are trying hard, and not getting the best results, does that make you a bad boss? No; it just means you might need help to train your employees, just like I do with my son. Hard work for hard work’s sake does not always pay off. And that’s why you might benefit from bringing in outside help. (See sidebar: Bringing in the big dogs.)

Promoting successful talent
By: Jeff Mayo

Individuals who achieve success in their professional life are often intrinsically motivated to do so. They have the drive to get the job done and will take the initiative to go above and beyond the expectations which are set out for them.

As carwash operators and managers, we often notice these individuals and take special interest in them; developing their skills and knowledge over time with intentions of helping them move to a higher role within our organization. It becomes a necessity to have a plan for training and a set of goals for these persons to meet in order to move onto the next phase.

Setting the framework

In order to set reasonable goals it is necessary to find out what the staff member’s vision is. The greatest plan in the world is only as good as the vision it helps satisfy.

Take the time to speak with the person whom you wish to promote; find out what their plans are for the next six months to one year and then tailor your plan to blend your goals and theirs. You may wish to inform them what strengths you see in them and what they might be able to achieve within a certain period of time.

Now that you have established what they expect of you and your organization, it is time to let them know what you see in the future for their career.

A successful mentoring program is laid out in a way that provides three main characteristics:

  • Goals which are attainable;
  • A timeline which is realistic and can be flexible; and
  • Proper follow–up and support on a regular basis.
Attainable goals

Let us look at setting attainable goals. We have all at one point or another been tasked with something which we see as absurd and unattainable. These are often the goals we do not set ourselves and have little or no desire to try and attain. As a mentor it is our responsibility to the individual whom we choose to mentor, to set them up for success.

Having a reasonable timeline for goals to be met challenges an individual to act. Not all goals are of equal importance, some do however build on other goals and, as such, need to have their timelines set accordingly. If goals are not met within the set timeframe it is necessary to reevaluate and set a new timeline accordingly.

Determine the reason the goal was not met within the timeframe that was originally set. It may be that the original timeline was unrealistic or that the goal set may need to be changed slightly to make it more attainable. By being flexible we are still able to help an individual succeed and avoid becoming stuck in a rut.

Every goal needs a timeline. If you don’t set a timeline, the individual cannot be held accountable for not reaching a goal. Accountability will allow you to evaluate how goals are met and provide an opportunity to coach for success.

Following up on success

Following up on the vision you have set out together creates a chance for changes to be made when necessary. Set a time, whether it is weekly, bi–weekly or monthly where you can evaluate how goals are being met.

During these meetings ask the individual how they think they are doing things differently. Let them tell you how they are doing prior to giving your view. We often do not see things from the other person’s point of view and as a result we may hold a false sense of awareness.

When presenting your view avoid criticizing; take the opportunity to provide alternate ways of doing things which meet the expectations you have set out. Encourage the individual to ask you questions as soon as they arise so that opportunities to learn are never wasted.

Increasing productivity through motivation
By: Jeff Mayo

Quite often as managers we get up in front of our staff and lecture on the negatives that create day–to–day issues. Whether it is low productivity, disappointing sales or decreasing quality, it all can fall upon deaf ears if our audience is not engaged.

What is needed to get our points across clearly and achieve much needed buy–in from your employees? It all starts with your relationships with your employees and how you, as a manager, present your attitude.

Building positive relationships

Positive relationships are the foundation on which we can build our team. Negativity closes doors and will create feelings of hostility that will no doubt put up barriers in acceptance of things you suggest.

We need to begin with building a good working rapport with your team. Learn the names of all the members of your team and use them on a regular basis, when appropriate.

Dale Carnegie, a well known champion of human relations, once said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Using this principle will allow you to let individuals know that you are interested in them and what they have to say. As a result, they will usually take the same initiative.

Idea sharing

Once you have established open communication with your team, we can move towards using praise to create a strong rapport that will serve as a foundation for idea sharing. It is then a matter of how we bring about issues to the table.

It is often said that our actions speak louder than words. As such, it is necessary to ensure that how we present ourselves is consistent with the way we want our issues to be dealt with. (See sidebar: A motivation success story.)

Once you have achieved buy–in from your team it is necessary to take action in order to keep the wheel turning. Keeping a good thing going is often the hardest part once the novelty of it wears off.

This is where leadership skills kick in as a needed reinforcement to positive behavior. Take the time to praise individuals when they perform exceptionally and make faults appear easy to correct.

A note about enthusiasm

We often think of too much enthusiasm as a bad thing. I do not mean to argue that in all cases it is appropriate, but there are various instances in the course of managing a team that enthusiasm becomes a valuable tool to motivate others.

Take a second to think of a successful person. Think of three qualities which make that person a great leader and contribute to their success. One of them more than likely relates to the enthusiasm that individual shows.

Thomas A. Edison once said, “When a man dies, if he can pass enthusiasm along to his children, he has left them an estate of incalculable value.”

Great leaders get things done through their enthusiasm and commitment to positive relationships. Be enthusiastic, you will have a positive influence on others.

Coaching "problem" individuals
By: Jeff Mayo

We all have individuals who we see as lacking the want to get things done, unmotivated, or even as drastic as “useless.” It may seem like anything we do to try and help them is without benefit to either party and as such, a waste of time.

Is it fair to give up on these individuals? Are there other methods we should be trying? To determine what we should do in a scenario like this we need to determine how to motivate properly.

Ideas for coaching

Different methods work for different individuals. Some may require more effort than others and in those cases we should not get discouraged and give up.

The basic idea behind mentoring a problem individual is to connect with that person and show them a path for success. Work with individuals one–on–one and find what works best for them. People who succeed often succeed because someone, somewhere along their path has taken the chance and believed in their abilities. (See sidebar: A coaching success story.)

I believe there is intrinsic good in all individuals. Until they prove me wrong I will continue to coach and find ways to help them achieve success. Coach others effectively, they will not disappoint you.

Jeff Mayo is the Assistant Manager of The Chamois Carwash in Winnipeg, Canada. He can be reached at
Robert Andre is the president of CarWash College. He can be reached at

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