Strengths and Weaknesses

by | Dec 15, 2022 | 0 comments

We have often heard the expression, “Focus on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses.” You may have also heard the expression that our strengths, pushed too far, can become weaknesses. In addition, things like skills, training, personal preferences, personality, and other factors can have a strong influence on our behaviour, especially in business. 

Over many years, I have observed my clients in the different capacities of their business, and seen how they react to challenges. Over the years, I’ve noticed that most owners can be grouped into four general categories, depending on how they tend to react to those challenges.

Murray Voth, RPM Training Automotive Service garage shop management training

Murray Voth, RPM Training

The first is the “relational owner.” They are good with people in general, but somehow still have high employee turnover. Their strength may be people, but their weakness is the need to be liked; they tend to hire people they like, rather than by qualification. That need to be liked makes them poor at holding people accountable. And when you don’t hold everyone accountable, good people leave.

I call the second type of owner the “paralysis by analysis” person. This person loves shop management software; they spend their days poring over QuickBooks and Excel spreadsheets. They are so busy looking at and analyzing the numbers, they may overlook the challenges and opportunities appearing just over the horizon.

The third type is the former tech who struck out on his own. These owners are really good at fixing and diagnosing vehicles, and often feel that the solution to their profitability issues is the fact that their employees are not doing enough (or good enough) work.  So, they step in and begin to bang through the work and get it done. They’re going to show their employees how much money you can make by doing it the right way. 

The fourth type is the ideas person, the visionary or entrepreneur. These are people who come up with lots of ideas – and many of them are good ideas – but in many cases can’t follow through. We accuse them of having “shiny ball syndrome” and not focusing on the business at hand. 

So here we are in the cycle of strengths and weaknesses. Each of us has strengths and abilities that serve us well. But when we feel pressure, when we feel unsafe, it’s human nature to want to default to the things we are good at – sometimes to the detriment of the rest of our responsibilities. Procrastination, perfectionism, boredom, and needless activity are all symptoms of this tension. 

Do you sometimes find it’s easier to chat with a customer or a supplier than to reconcile a bank statement? That it’s easier to spend hours making the income statement balance, than it is to create job descriptions? That it’s easier to sit and dream up other income streams, than it is to make a marketing plan? That it’s easier to spend hours troubleshooting a difficult vehicle symptom, than it is to make sure the inventory is counted and up to date?

So how do we break through these cycles? Two things have helped me a lot. There are some good books I have read that have helped. But my biggest strides were made when I hired an executive coach. 

We each have blind spots. We are not aware of knowledge that we lack, or we think we don’t have the ability do something, or we don’t have the required training, or we don’t understand how to make the required changes. Maybe we don’t understand the tools we have, or we haven’t found tools or we’re not aware of what tools are available. A coach can open your eyes to the solutions you need to solve these issues. 

One area my coach and I worked on several years ago was planning. Through that work, I discovered that Google Calendar is my best friend. With the ability to set up repeating meetings, repeating tasks, colour-coded by priority, my life is very planned now. (I actually have my calendar filled into December 2023.)

Of all of these different challenges, I think the most important thing you should address is lack of knowledge. Increasing our knowledge in the area that we want to improve will probably eliminate a lot of the fear (or the procrastination, or the perfectionism) you’ve tended to fall into. Another useful exercise is to reach out to other people and ask them to observe you at work. Getting someone else’s feedback will shine light on those blind spots, enabling you to focus on what to work on.

The shop owner who gets bogged down in the numbers thinks the numbers will somehow show them what to do. But unless you know what you are looking for, you will keep doing things the same way. Let’s take service gross profit. The benchmark is 70%. What if a shop is only at 50%? There are dozens of things that affect that: they are not charging enough for their time, their service rate is too low, or they are doing too many menu-priced items, or they are using the labour guide incorrectly. These are all things that can be identified and corrected.

How about the owner who gravitates to fixing the vehicles themselves, instead of letting their technicians do it? They could develop an in-house training program. Start with a basic evaluation of what the technicians know and what they don’t know, and then go from there.

The relational owner who has trouble holding people accountable needs to start with creating a job description or a positional agreement for each position in the company. Please note, I did not say for each person – I said for each position. Then you hold the people accountable – or hire to – the position.

And lastly, there is the ideas shop owner. Before they come up with a new business idea, they could learn what the main key performance indicators of an automotive shop should be. Then they could measure how they stand against those. Then, look at each KPI as a separate business unit that needs improving. This should keep that active imagination going for a long time. 

Remember, we all have strengths, but sometimes we use these strengths as a crutch when we feel unsafe or under stress. Knowledge and coaching go a long way in alleviating this challenge.


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