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On-line Trade Show - Seminars

The Bus to Profitville

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Transmission Digest.

Remember the feelings you had when you were a kid standing outside waiting for the bus to come on the first day of school? New bus driver, new school, new teachers, new kids. Everything was new, even your shoes. Remember ? When the bus pulled up, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other. That bus was about to take you out of your comfort zone.

These same feelings and emotions start up when people change jobs. The transition period is killer for everyone involved. For the employee it is all about fitting in to the new team. For the shop owner it is about replacing the last employee with the right person.

When a shop owner loses a team member, his shop loses money . It is on him to fill the position . Everyday is money lost. Today's shop owner has to have a damage control plan in place because employees are going to come and go. It requires a long term recruiting strategy so that when someone gets off the bus, the owner already has a good replacement standing at the bus stop waiting to get on his bus.

The shop owner that doesn't have a long term recruiting strategy is forced into a panic hiring situation when he loses an employee. This shop owner waits until the seat on the bus is empty to start recruiting. The problem with that strategy is that recruiting effectively has a procedure. It takes time to find skilled labor. This is not the time to start looking. This approach leads to a cycle of consistently hiring the wrong people for the job.

When an employee loses his job, it is on him to fit into his new environment . There is a lot of pressure on him to perform as a team member and be productive. First off, he has to work with a completely new team. Then he has to learn a new workflow system and figure out how the new shop owner wants things done. He has new policies and procedures to learn while he is trying to be productive. On top of that, he has a whole new shop to work in that is organized differently than the last one and it has different people with different skills and different attitudes . He is definitely out of his comfort zone but, bottom line, he has to find a way to fit in.

Turnover problems also put pressure on the other employees too. During the time when their team mate leaves and another one is found, the rest of the team has to do the work for the employee missing in action until a replacement is found. Then, they have to adjust to the new skills and attitude the new team member brings on the bus. Like I said, the transition period when people change jobs is killer.

What can we do to make the transition easier on everybody ? The bus metaphor a common management tool managers use to evaluate team building in corporate America. Let's see how that imaginary bus might travel through the shops of the transmission industry and try to answer that question.

Your bus is going on a journey to Profitville . As a shop owner you bought the bus. You are the driver. You pay for the gas and everything else it takes to keep the bus going. It is a long journey. Everyone on the bus needs to understand that. The trip is full of roadblocks and potholes. Your bus has not been to profitville in a long time. So, before you hit the road, the bus driver needs to get the existing passengers that do not want to go to Profitville off the bus and replace them with passengers that want to go to Profitville. It is his responsibility to put the right people in the seats and keep them there.

There is no short cuts in recruiting. It takes a long term recruiting strategy and demands that you put some time and effort into it. The alternative is to settle for whoever is on the bus at any given time. The bus driver that settles for whoever is on the bus is in for a long miserable ride that will probably end up somewhere besides Profitville.

The people on your bus with you have to contribute their part in the journey to Profitville. The manager has to sell. The builder has to build. The installers have to install. The seats must be filled with people that have the education, experience and skills to perform their job. Even then , that does not guarantee that the bus will get to Profitville..

Team building is about putting people together that want to work together. Working in a good team that is productive is fun and it motivating . Personally , the best motivation I ever had in my career was when I belonged to a good team. I enjoyed getting up and going to work with my team every day. I looked forward to contributing to the team and the pleasure that gave me. There is no better motivation than wanting to excel for your team.

So it becomes obvious to the seasoned recruiter, that he needs to put together a good team that travel well together on his bus. They have to be qualified to perform their jobs. They have to get along. They have to like each other and respect the bus driver. But, most importantly, they have to have a good attitude and work closely together as a team. When they bond as a team , and start clearing roadblocks together as a team, the road to Profitville is a much smoother ride.

Shop owners have to build the team and maintain their team. We know that teams change as time goes on. People get on and off the bus. Look at the professional sports teams. They are constantly changing personal. You have to constantly evaluate your team. Is it a good team? Do they produce a quality product ? Do they all have a good attitude? Do they meet your production demands ? Are they making you any money to buy gas for the bus? If not ,you have to put a new team on your bus.

I have ridden on a lot of busses with a lot of different people in my career. Busses are filled with three types of passengers. Quitters, campers and climbers. I like to ride on a bus where all seats are filled with climbers. The campers like to keep everything the same. They will not want to travel the new roads you need to travel to get to Profitville. The quitters will quit when the going gets tough. But, the climbers, they want to use their skills and attitudes, as an individual and as part of the team, to get the bus and their teammates to Profitville as safely and quickly as possible. They are the true road warriors I want on my bus.

Every bus needs rules. Look at your bus. Is it a bus you would want to ride on? Is it a clean bus? Is it Safe? Are the rules for riding the bus clear? Do the passengers know what you want them to do? Is there a procedure for entering the bus? Is there a procedure for exiting the bus? Are the passengers on the bus carrying their weight? Does someone need to get off at the next bus stop?

We need some bus rules before we take our road trip. So, to get the wheels rolling , here are some suggested bus rules for drivers and passengers that you might want to use on your bus. These rules are designed to help slow down your turnover rate and help make those transition periods that are killing us all , a lot easier to survive.

FOR DRIVERS

  • If you are a shop owner, you have to become the bus driver if you are not already. If you are delegating that responsibility, you are riding on the bus.
  • The bus driver has to be in total control of the bus. No one else drives the bus.
  • Make sure the bus is safe and roadworthy
  • Make sure the passengers know what the rules are.Train the passengers on the bus rules before they get on the bus.
  • Issue clear, concise work assignments to each passenger
  • Make sure the bus runs properly and everybody on the bus eats on time
  • Enforce all rules for riding bus. Passengers must follow the rules or exit the bus.
  • Make everyone on the bus accountable. Passengers must be productive. If they are not productive , the driver must kick them off the bus ‘cause gas ain't cheap.

FOR PASSENGERS

For the passengers on the bus , I worked in a shop that had a plaque on the wall that the owner of the shop put out in the lobby for all to see. I do not know who wrote it or where it came from but, it is titled “The 10 Demandments to my employees". This could easily convert to the bus rules for the passengers riding on this imaginary bus to Profitville. It is old but still very good advice to employees who want to be good passengers on the bus . 10 Demandments

  1. Don't Lie. It wastes my time and yours. I am sure to catch you in the end, and that is the wrong end.
  2. Watch your work, not the clock. A long days work makes a long day short ; and a short days work makes my face long.
  3. Give me more than I expect, and I will give you more than you expect. I can afford to increase your pay if you increase my profits.
  4. You owe so much to yourself that you can not afford to owe anybody else. Keep out of debt; or keep out of my shops.
  5. Dishonesty is never an accident. Good men , like good women , never see temptation when they see it.
  6. Mind your own business, and in time you'll have a business of your own to mind.
  7. Don't do anything here that will hurt your self-respect. An employee who is willing to steal for me is willing to steal from me.
  8. It is none of my business what you do at night. But, if dissipation affects what you do the next day, and you do half as much as I demand, you will last half as long as you hoped.
  9. Don't tell me what I would like to hear, but what I ought to hear. I don't want a valet to my vanity, but one to my money.
  10. Don't kick if I kick. If you are worth correcting, you're worth keeping. I don't waste my time cutting specks out of rotten apples.

Looking back as a bus passenger, the atmosphere was much different in the busses I rode on that were going to profitville than the busses that were not. If the shop was not profitable, invariably, the bus driver and the passengers on it were miserable. The driver and the passengers did not work together as a team. Each were pointing fingers trying to blame failure on someone else . The passengers complained a lot and the bus driver ran the bus off the road all the time. It was either the bus driver or the passengers fault. Sometimes it was both. Either way, the atmosphere was hard for me to take on a daily basis.

However, the profitable shops bus ride was much different. The atmosphere on that bus was fun. Every seat on the bus was filled. Each person in each one of those seats on the bus was productive and worked with the team. Everyone knew what to do. Everyone respected the bus driver and followed the bus rules. Everyone was happy. We were glad to be on the bus. We wanted to be there. We all desired to be successful as an individual and enjoyed contributing to the success of the team. We all knew the way to Profitville.

As a bus driver, I had a lot of teams. With the great teams, it did not matter what my bus looked like or where the bus was going. The teamwork and the people in the bus is was what was most important to us. That is what motivated those buses. If we got lost or ran into roadblocks, it was no big deal. We weren't afraid of anything on the road. As a team, we always worked together to get back to Profitville no matter what. We were road warriors. We knew how to survive on the road. Getting a team like that on your bus is the key to what it takes to make it down the highway then and now. So get the bus road ready. Make some bus rules and find you some road warriors you like to travel with and hit the road to Profitville. I will meet you at the bus stop.

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