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How Do You Spell Freedom ?
by Art Little
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Transmission Digest.
How does a transmission shop owner spell freedom ? T-E-C-H-N-O-L-O-G-Y. I dont know about you but I have spent more time in a transmission shop than i would like to admit. In my career, it was not uncommon for me to get to the shop at 7 am and leave anywhere from 6:30 pm to midnight. I worked every Saturday until 5:30pm and slept all day Sunday. I worked through my vacations and sometimes did not get a vacation for 5 years. When I was a professional manager I had to quit in order to get any down time. Sound familiar? It does not have to be that way nowadays. Today's shop owner has a variety of technology at his disposal that enables him to leave the shop and still be in control of his business. You just have to slow down and take the time to find out what is possible.
One example is the latest security cameras. They allow you to remotely view your shop from your computer at home or on your smartphone. The old saying that " You can not be in two places at the same time"....is no longer true. Nowadays, you can be in more than one place at the same time if you have the right technology. That's right. You can be home or at your favorite fishing hole and still see what is going on at the shop with the new I P wireless cameras. You just need to get yourself set up to do it.
Years ago , I started using security camera's in my consulting business. The problem with consultants in our industry has always been that , the shop does good when the consultant is there but, when the consultant leaves , the shop becomes less and less productive as time goes on. The cameras allowed me to view the shop from remote locations after I left and, with a few other technical tools I have in my toolbox, enabled me to provide a consistent "live" support line that had been missing in the consulting business for 60 years. Did I mention it and cut my costs in half ? Once the cameras and the workflow app are set up nowadays I do not have to travel back to the shop for continuing support. It saves the shop owner money and saves me time.
I remember the first shop I tested the technology in 6 years ago. The camera system cost $4500.00 dollars and took three days to set up. The cameras could only be viewed on computers then. Nowadays, wireless technology has changed that game. A complete 8 camera system can be installed in less than a day for less than a thousand dollars . The shop owner's I am working with nowadays can remotely view their shop with me online. They can participate in live production and sales meetings without going to the shop. That is just an example of how today's camera technology makes my job as a consultant easier and my customers happier. Let me encourage you to at least start thinking about how technology can work for you in your shop. New security camera technology is affordable and available now . It is not some futuristic idea.
The camera technology can be useful in ways that you would never even think of. Let me tell you what I mean. There was an ice storm a few years back and everything was closed, even the parts houses. I was unable to get there and so was the manager and owner. We were iced in. That day we were able to get the builder and 2 installers ,that lived close , to open the shop up for us. We were able to remotely view the shop and with their help, we sold over 9,000 dollars that day from home , when everyone else in town was closed. With the technology in place, it was just like a " window to the shop". Management was there. We diverted the phones and it was on. We never missed a beat that day.
If you are a manager you can get on your computer in your office and look at all the cameras in the shop on one screen and see what is going on everywhere in the shop without going out in the shop. Most I P cameras have an intercom option. You can talk to the builder without walking back to the building room. It makes it easy to monitor production and the lobby from your desk and saves you the walking time that you can be using for something more productive. It makes your job easier. That is what technology is supposed to do. You don't have to get up if you dont want to.
The absentee shop owner can not afford to be without a security camera system. He can easily communicate with his manager and view his shop from remote locations. It gives him control of his business while he is somewhere else. It is easily affordable because the theft prevention feature pays for the system. Security camera technology is a no brainer here.
The multiple shop owner can view and manage all of his shops from one location with the right technology. The time saved traveling from shop to shop alone is worth the effort. I remember when I was a general manager for a multiple shop organization back years ago. I would drive 800 miles a week as an average and spend several hours of unproductive time in my car going from shop to shop because , back then, I could not be in more than one place at a time. I had to travel to get there. Today, I can be there in virtual reality with a click of a mouse .This technology is a huge breakthrough for multiple shop owners.
Of course the security factor of the new cameras is invaluable . With features like night vision, motion detectors, email and text alerts , todays shop owner can rest easy. You can view the shop live on your smartphone at midnight. Look around anytime , just like you are there, and make sure that all your valuables are safe. Once they get their shop set up , many shop owners set their house up too so that they can keep an eye on home and work wherever they are on their smartphone. Once you have it, you will not be without it again.
Security cameras in the lobby and shop can cut down on crime and lawsuits too. If the criminal or irate customer knows he is on candid camera , he might decide to behave himself. That's the idea. Being the "lucky" one to represent the shop in court most of my career, I can see how I would have benefited many times from having the customer's candid camera video of he or she in my lobby stinking up the place. We have the technology to take to court with us now to defend ourselves and win the time consuming frivolous lawsuits . I just want to point out , this is another way the investment in T-E-C-H-N-O-L-O-G-Y pays you back. Technology is our friend.
I have had my technicians tools stolen at night and had to face them when they arrived in the morning and tell them all their tools were gone twice in my career. It is devastating to a shop. We did not have security cameras and their tools were lost forever. When you think about it, the security cameras are the only chance we have at getting our techs tools back for them. Their tools are different. Everyones toolbox is different. It takes them years to assemble their tool box. Insurance money does not replace their tools. Police have to find the scum that stole the tools and hope they are still together. That is the only chance the technician has to get "his" tools back and it is up to the shop to supply the evidence. Without the cameras , there is no evidence.
When employees complain about the cameras in the shop, that is what I tell them and most understand why the shop needs cameras. Besides that, we get recorded everywhere we go nowadays anyway. Do you think your last trip to the gas station or grocery store wasn't on tape? What is more important ? Not being on tape at work or having a chance at getting your tools back when they are stolen? Most techs go for the tools option.
If you are a working shop owner you can use today's technology to help you get your life back. Go to a ball game with your son. Take your wife out. Go see some old high school buddies . You can get your freedom back with technology. There is no reason to spend 65 hours a week of your life in the shop anymore. If the shop is starting to feel like a prison, everyday is like groundhog day and you have no life outside the shop, it might be time to consider installing some security cameras and free yourself up.
Take some well meaning advice from a guy that spent way too much of his life inside the four walls of a transmission shop . Stop running from technology and start running to it. A security camera system can cut down the time you have to spend in the shop in a big way. Cameras pay for themselves many times over. There is no excuse for not having them. I am not saying that you don't go to the shop. I am just saying there are times when the security camera can take that burden off you and keep you from burning out.
Like, you could sleep in some mornings. Thats right. Sleep an extra hour and drink your coffee at home and watch the employees come into work on your computer or smartphone. Maybe drive in after the traffic clears. Most security cameras have an audio feature also. You can listen to conversations and also have conversations with employees though the camera device. So, it is just like you are there, except you are not. You are now in two places at once. You are at home drinking coffee with your wife. You simply answer questions and issue your instructions to start the day and go get another cup of coffee. It just makes sense to invest in technology that creates a way for you to spend more time with your loved ones and provide customers with the same or better service. Work smart. Not hard. Be nice to yourself. Give yourself a break every once in a while. You deserve it.