Ride Well — Be Profitable, four words that guide my actions; as an instructor, a writer, a consultant, a friend, a husband … even as a motorcycle mechanic back in the 70s and 80s. I didn’t use those words in that order back then, but I was operating in that manner. I remember simply wanting to accomplish three objectives as a mechanic: 1) Don’t repeat mistakes 2) Do “it” better tomorrow and 3) Don’t waste time.
I hate wasting time, which is why I used to lean on my friend Trey for specifications such as valve lash, points & plug gaps and oil capacity. Trey worked next to me and was one of the best techs I ever knew; professional, thorough and quick. Whenever I needed a specification I asked Trey — because he had them memorized. Then, one seemingly normal day I was stopped short — and learned a valuable lesson. That day, when I asked for valve specs, Trey tersely replied, “Look them up yourself!”
“C’mon man”, I pleaded, “You know what they are, just tell me!”
Trey explained, “You ask me all the time for specs. The same specs over and over. Well, no more. Every time you ask me for help you interrupt me. I’m commissioned like you and that costs me money”.
“Just this last time”, I begged.
“No, I had to look them up and that’s how I memorized them”, Trey went on. “If you look them up, if you work for it, you’ll memorize them too and we’ll both be better off.”
I have to admit, initially this turn of events pissed me off, but later I realized Trey was right. We all remember things better if we work for it. We don’t remember the “gimmees” very well.
Ride Well — From that point on I looked up the specifications I needed, instead of asking for them. I still had trouble remembering some, so I made a cheat sheet I could refer to, which I put it in my tool cabinet.
Be Profitable — Having the specs close at hand shortened the time I used to complete routine tasks, which made me more efficient, and resulted in bigger paychecks! A winning combination. And, it didn’t hurt that Trey recognized my efforts and continued to help me with the really important stuff, like troubleshooting engine noises or electrical problems.
That’s a true story that any technician can learn from, but what if you’re a service writer? First off, don’t be a service writer, be a service advisor. The difference? Writers do what the customer tells them to do and little more. They don’t build the order. Advisors make recommendations based on the customer’s needs and the service needs of the vehicle. They advise customers to purchase additional products and services that make their vehicle 100 percent roadworthy.
If you’re a parts counter pro riding well means greeting customers with a smile. Using the first names of those you know and introducing yourself by name to those you don’t. And by using the following three questions.
- What are you riding?
- How long have you owned it?
- What have you done to it?
From this simple interview you’ll learn the brand, model and year, which you need to know to pick the right parts the first time. You’ll have an idea about the experience the customer has with his or her vehicle, which can tell you whether to use technical terms and rider slang, or keep it simple for someone new to the sport. And lastly, by learning how the vehicle is customized you’ll know what’s most important to that customer, their hot buttons. This will give you ideas on how to build the order.
Don’t forget parts and service managers. They have a lot on their plates. Of primary importance is how they manage their team, their most valuable asset. The best advice to ride well — be profitable is to manage by walking around, a smart idea gathered from the book, The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. Every day, at least twice a day, leave the office and visit the troops; to observe, assist and motivate. When doing this keep two principles in mind; one, never make a snap judgment based on 60-seconds of observation. That’s a surefire way to ruin team morale. Two, compliment in public and criticize in private. By doing this you’ll gain respect and improve the performance of the individual and the team.
I hope you enjoyed this first blog of Dako’s Fuel for Thought. My goal is to provide you with real life best practices to help you work smarter, not harder and reap the rewards of a job well done.
Dave “Dako” Koshollek has worked in the motorcycle industry since 1971 as a motorcycle mechanic and service manager, as a technical trainer and national director for MMI’s Harley-Davidson training programs and as vice president for Dynojet Research’s motorcycle division. In 1998 Koshollek formed the DAKO Management company that provides sales, management and product training both in print and in person. He has written over 200-articles for Harley-Davidson’s dealer publication, ShopTalk, has developed and taught numerous Harley-Davidson University courses in dealerships and at dealer conventions around the world and has authored a column titled “Dako’s Fuel for Thought” for over 10-years that delivers proven parts and service operations best practices. Dako lives by the principle, “Ride Well – Be Profitable”, which applies to all things in life.