Do You Have the Right Goals for Success?

Many lube shop owners, managers and technicians are very good at what they do, and are definitely goal-oriented.

Being a goal-oriented individual is ultimately what brings success to any individual. It is surely required if you want to be the most successful in any endeavor.

To blindly go about your workday without any clear cut idea of where you want to end up at the end of the day will not bring the highest level of achievement, no matter how hard you work at it.

If you don’t know exactly where you are going, how will you know if you get off the path along the way? How will you know when you might have arrived at the destination?

Many lube shops operate just this way: open the doors, perform the quickest service they can and hope for the best. That may bring about a decent level of success. However, if this is how you are doing it in your shop, you are missing a lot of potential business, all from a simple adjustment to your mental attitude.

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Goal setting is a little more involved than most realize. It is not simply stating, “We are going to do ‘X’ amount of cars today. Let’s do it!”

When I was a brand-new, wet-behind-the-ears lube technician back in the early ‘90s, the first shop I worked in was a four-bay. That shop averaged 250 cars a week. On Saturdays, we easily did 70-80 cars, but 100-car Saturdays were not uncommon. On a 100-plus-car Saturday, the crew’s feeling at the end of the day was always the same. We were all stoked to have had such a “busy” day, happy to be a part of it and generally excited about how busy and exhausting it all was. Everyone always displayed the “I’m beat — just worn out!” attitude, in a good way.

A few months later, I was given the opportunity to become manager of that location, and I accepted. My very first task I set for myself was to set some new store performance goals, something that had never really been done before. The first thing I did was to determine exactly what my four-bay store was capable of doing each business day.

Our crew could easily do a complete and proper oil change in about 10 minutes, including a full service presentation. Any extra services would take a little longer, but not too much. Usually 20-25 minutes a car was all it took if they also got a transmission or radiator flush in addition to their oil change, and less time for other services, like serpentine belts and such. I figured we could average a car every 15 minutes, including any and all services that might be sold to any particular customer. Easy peasy. Four cars an hour should be no sweat, right? Today, there are literally thousands of lube shops across the country that would love to average four cars an hour. But I’m not talking about four cars an hour for the whole shop. I am talking about four cars an hour per bay.  That’s right — you should be able to achieve that on each bay in your shop.

A few calculations about my new shop gave me some figures. Four cars an hour per bay, multiplied by the four bays in my shop was an average of 16 cars an hour for my shop. My shop was open for 10 hours each day, and 16 cars per hour multiplied by 10 hours each day clearly points to 160 cars in a business day. My shop, if all things were operating as they should, was capable of easily processing 160 cars every day.

I had a meeting with my crew as soon as I became the official store manager, explained to them even though we had never done anything close to a 160-car day before, there was no reason to think we weren’t capable of doing it. All we needed were the customers!

The most important aspect of this meeting with the crew was to get them to understand and accept that, with the proper staffing and enough customers, we were not even allowed to consider it a busy day unless we approached the 160-car goal.

Our goals each day were set substantially higher than the store had been averaging, and we staffed accordingly. We soon were reaching those goals and setting new records for that location. Well-oiled machine has been an a cliché used to describe a well-run lube shop, but that is exactly what we had become. Every tech in that shop was well-trained, confident and the pride in their job shone through all day every day.

Without me or anyone else in the shop consciously attempting to do so, we soon developed our own team-spirit slogan: We got this. If a customer happened to say, “Wow you guys are really fast at this,” the tech would respond, “Yeah, we got this.” If the car count numbers started to climb early on a busy Saturday, someone would say loudly to the crew “Hey guys, keep steady — we got this!”

Eventually, we broke the 160-car Saturday goal, and the owners came around the following week to marvel at how business had increased. They took us all out for pizza and wings, and one of them made a comment about how we were lucky to have done such good business. One of the crewmembers said back, “Luck’s got nothin’ to do with it — we got this!” The whole crew erupted into laughter, shouting and clapping. The owners were a little shocked and even more dumbfounded by it all.

But none of that would ever have happened if there were not some specific goal setting involved.

In your day-to-day life, as well as your lube-shop life, you should always use goal-setting techniques to assist you in achieving the most productive day you can.

How many cars are you going to service today? Do you ever ask yourself that question? When I was a tech, I worked 10-hour days (8 to 6), and my goal was and has always has been four cars an hour — so 40 cars a day was my goal. If by 11 a.m. I had completed 12 cars myself, I knew I was on track for a good day. If not, I would make adjustments. I checked my stats all during the day and was regarded as a pretty effective hood technician overall. When I became store manager, I used the same techniques and they worked brilliantly.

What kind of goals should you set for you and your location?

Do the math first, and figure out what you and your shop are capable of doing if you had the customers. If you’re lucky enough to be running one of today’s high-volume locations, don’t just assume it is running at capacity, do the math. Make it live up to its potential!

A record-setting 28 bay quick lube just opened in Texas recently. Can you imagine the potential of that location? During a 10-hour day, that location should be able to process an astounding 1,120 cars without even breaking a sweat! It’s mind-boggling, to be sure. I am certainly going to keep my eye on that location and see what it does.

The other part of the equation is getting the customers in through the door — we all know that.

Try to think of all the potential customers in your area that are prime candidates for a visit to your shop. To be fair, some oil change customers probably aren’t going to come to you. Which ones are those?

• New car owners who get free oil changes from their selling dealership

• Customers who live too far from your shop

• Customers who don’t know about your shop

• Customers who only consider lowest price

Forget about them. You are spinning your wheels going after them. You want to pursue what I call the low-hanging fruit. Those are the customers in your area who don’t fit into any of the above categories. They want a fast, accurate and convenient oil change done by friendly and competent technicians. If you can meet those needs every time a customer comes into your shop better than your competition can or does, you will grow your car counts.

If you allow mediocrity and complacency to sneak into your service or your technicians’ attitudes, you will not grow your car counts.

It is all up to you:

  1. Determine your capabilities
  2. Set your goals
  3. Make a plan to achieve those goals
  4. Hit those goals!

You got this, so make it happen!

See ya’ next month.

KIT SULLIVAN is a partner in a multi-unit, Florida-based quick lube company. A 20-year veteran of the industry, Sullivan has more than 28 years experience in sales and management training. He is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers. He can be reached via email:

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