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Monday, June 30, 2008



by Kelly Bennett, WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI) Business Development Instructor

In this series of fictional letters from a new shop owner to his former boss, management trainer Kelly Bennett discusses basic business principles that apply to the automotive repair industry.

Socializers VS RELATERS focuses on understanding personality types to maintain harmony in the workplace.

Dear Kelly:

Well, I have blocked off the entire spring break this year and we’re heading south! I’ve never been able to do anything like that before. I’m not sure though how things are going to go at the shop. There was a huge explosion again this week between our top technician and the service advisor. They were literally yelling at each other. It’s not the first time, either. These two are always at each other about something or other. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a little peace and tranquility at work?

- Erol

Dear Erol:

I’m thrilled to hear about your trip. You’re going to score a lot of points with your family! Too often in the battle for our time, our family loses out because our business needs us so much.

In the book Choosing To Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? author Andy Stanley tells us that if we stay at work as long as our business needs us, we’d never go home. And if we stay at home as long as our family needs us we’d never go to work.

Someone always gets cheated out of our time. He makes a strong case for choosing to cheat our work. It’s a book I wish I’d read before starting my business 20 years ago! It would have saved me a lot of grief. I’ve put my business before my family more times than I can count. We’re learning Erol, slowly, but we are learning.

About the ongoing war of words in your shop, you should know that it’s very common to see a rift between the front-end staff and the technicians. It’s not desirable, obviously, but it’s common. I could tell you stories from my own shop! In large part it stems from the fact that people who choose to work the counter tend to be fundamentally different from people who choose to work in the bay. They have radically different personalities, which makes it difficult to relate to each other. Unfortunately, that often leads to a lack of respect for each other.

Listen to this:

“A sense of community – and respect for one another – is increasingly rare in the modern workplace. Coworkers frequently treat one another far worse than they do customers. Considerate actions taken by leadership can serve to encourage thoughtful and respectful behavior among staff members.”

That’s from The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A Michelli. I just started reading it today.

The fact is, we can’t always get our employees to like each other, but we can insist that they respect each other. And that starts with understanding personality types. Here’s what I did . . . and it might sound a bit radical, but it sure worked. I had everyone fill out personality assessments.

We did it together as a group one day and then we went over the results, trying to figure out how our personalities influenced our behavior at work. It was fascinating.

The assessment we used (and I’d be happy to send you a copy – just e-mail me at divided people into four basic personality types:


Technicians tend to be Analyzers. It’s an essential trait for “top gun” diagnosticians. In order to do their job, they have to acquire a lot of information – gleaned from wiring diagrams, manuals, and technical resources like iATN. Precision and accuracy is extremely important to them, because it impacts how well they do their job.

They tend to be highly focused and inflexible at work. And because facts are the backbone of everything they do, they don’t usually care about feelings. They don’t need to have fun at work, and they’ll be confused by a need to turn work into a social gathering or a party.

We have a great diagnostic tech that has a lot of patience with vehicles. When he’s dealing with people, however, he can be abrupt, abrasive, and even rude. He has offended service advisors, vendors, and even customers with his attitude. He tends to think that people who don’t know much about cars are stupid – which is a really unfair conclusion.

These people aren’t stupid, they just know different stuff. Service advisors, on the other hand, tend to be Relators. They love dealing with people and have lots of patience with them. Their ability to understand their concerns; empathize with their situations, and communicate effectively with them, makes them great at their job. They represent us well to the public. The problem is that facts tend to be less important to them and this is a constant source of irritation for the technicians.

We had a great service advisor who related extremely well with our clients but who just couldn’t get the kind of detailed information the techs needed. We finally had to sit her down and explain what the technicians did with the repair orders. In essence, we had to explain the “why” behind our request for better information. And she really got it. But at the same time, she explained the why behind her inability to get some information. She showed us what happens when she gets too technical with customers. It was really amazing to see how both sides became more accommodating of the other once they understood the why behind their actions.

If you think about it, it has been ingrained in us since we were kids to try to understand the “why” behind things. How often do you hear a child ask, “But why?” We need to spend lots of our team meeting time explaining the why behind our company policies and procedures.

And once we started learning about each other’s personality traits, we found we were more patient with each other, and willing to work together to solve common problems. We no longer wasted time trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong.

Ultimately, we bridged the gap between our front-end and back-end by having the techs work with the service advisor to write a “customer complaint” form. It simultaneously solved everybody’s problems and recognized everybody’s needs. Now that’s a good day’s work!

As a leader you really need to understand your team members and their personality types. It will help you run your business much better.

- Kelly

To learn more about Kelly Bennett's Business Development Classes, visit the WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI).

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