wonder were the time went and how a day is wasted? My boss and I have
sat and wondered this very thing on many occasions. We are both
veterans of the business, started at very young ages and learned under
the hard-nose owners of the later independent golden days.
forced to learn things. We often discuss the opportunities to learn
from those guys and how these guys who work for us now would never have
made it under those guys. We were using our minds to look through the
old paper catalogs when we had a free moment. We would take the
Motormite book out and turn it page by page to learn what was
available. I am certain that we thought at times, “what another wasted
Those wasted days turned to years and then to decades. The
“wasted time,” though, was what set us apart from the new generation,
as their wasted time is spent texting their various multitude of
friends on their phones. If you have Internet access in your store,
they spend that wasted time searching YouTube videos or whatever else
you may or may not wish to think about.
But it is still wasted
time. The fact is, these folks could be spending time looking to learn
something about our business. As we have duly noted in another article,
there is at least one true parts person in almost every store out
there. So why do our employees waste those days on the Internet and
texting? Well, that’s our fault as managers.
However, it is not
about our ability to manage. It’s about our ability to have meaningful
duties for our technology-crazed new team members. We have to keep
fresh, new information in front of our teams. This information has to
come from somewhere, right?
My boss and I looked over the training
opportunities we have made available to our fellow team members and it
turned out to be a small book of ideas and things we have conjured up
over the past four-plus years we have worked together. This process is
something that almost every Tuesday we have sat down and looked over.
The time we have wasted doing the simple little tasks at times has
seemed almost ridiculous. We often sat at the end of a Tuesday and
discussed the fact that we accomplished very little today and had yet
another wasted day. But, at the end of four years as we set up a new
store and train a new crew of team members, we see the fruits of those
During a new store acquisition, my boss and I trained
a new manager. During this process, we discussed many different issues
and those included all the usual things that go along with an
acquisition. As always when a new store comes along, we have to
consider the obvious who will be our employees? Luckily, we have many
in our organization we can promote from within. However, this is not
how we decided to go for this particular store. We did transfer some
people around so we would have a good team of people to run the store.
But those decisions were fairly easy and the particulars around that
are not the important parts for this subject.
Our concern here was
how we get everyone ready for opening day. Hiring a manager with little
to no experience is a bit scary, but we transferred a strong person
over to offset that lack of experience of our new store manager. With
that issue solved, the new manager had to be trained. In this instance,
we sent him to spend a little time with a strong manager that has
training experience. He learned the daily routine of how to get the
paper shuffle done, but this doesn’t help him to sell parts. So now
We train more. But, this training has to come with the door
open and the keys in hand as his customers come in and ask for those
difficult and hard-to-find parts and that is the tricky part. We wanted
to offer this store a leg up on opening day and we have been successful
in doing so, but, we did not realize it was not by the efforts of the
past few weeks of getting the store ready. It was an accumulative
effort of years. It was by those “wasted” Tuesdays we spent on getting
information out to our other stores that help them to be successful by
sharing the years of experience and those new things that come along
each and every day.
A while back, many of you will remember that
we covered the subject of the “Lost Art of Associated Selling.” In
this, we discussed putting notes on the shelves to remind the
counterpersons to offer those items to earn more sales from the
customer. This led us to another training process that we were able to
use. We walked the store of a veteran store manager and stole notes
from his shelves. How does this get a store manager with no experience
ready? It doesn’t. What is the point then? It is this: We took those
notes and transferred them to the new store’s shelves. Those notes
include many different things, but they were relevant to the
hard-to-find parts not everyone can find.
This is the same logic of
attaching notes to the shelves for hard-to-find part numbers such as a
small tapered seat spark plug for the small Japanese four-wheelers, or
the number for the carburetor kit for an 8N Ford Tractor that is no
longer in the paper catalogs we veterans are accustomed to using. This
is only one small way to share our knowledge with store personnel after
we are gone. And it all came from leaving little notes on the shelves.
this new store setup, we also discovered why they say Rome was not
built in a day. Those “wasted days” pay off when we can print different
pages that explain why an aftermarket radiator hose adapter is a less
expensive way of fixing that late model Dodge than going to the dealer.
We were able to consider the counter flyers we built to better suit our
smaller markets and customize them to relate better to our customers.
day is a learning adventure and no time that is spent investing in
people who care and want to learn is a “wasted day.” Days are only
truly “wasted” when people spend them wasting company time with their
phones and computers and not spending them learning the finer arts or
the business many of us have chosen as our profession.
Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.