Shining up your store

When I was a kid I spent most of my weekends and summer days working out- side on the farm with my dad. He was always busy, and once I was old enough to help — in the agricultural world, that’s about 8 — I’d follow him around from task to task.

He usually had enough going on that there was always something for me to do, but in those rare occasions when I couldn’t directly help him with his task, he still wouldn’t let me sit idle. He always found me another job.

Usually it was cleaning.

But the thing he did so well — the thing I’m absolutely going to steal from him when my wife and I have kids — is how he presented the command.

I was almost never explicitly told to clean. Instead, it was always, “If you’re looking for something to do, you can clean up the barn” (or workbench, or garage, or basement).

I love that. “If you’re looking for something to do.” The dad version of the guilt trip.

I can’t begin to guess how many times I cleaned the workbench in our machine shed thanks to that line.

I bring that up today because I think it relates to this month’s cover story on aftermarket business appearance and transparency.

Could your service department benefit from a quick cleaning? And perhaps more importantly, are your employees ever “looking for something to do”?

Convincing your team to dedicate their free time to cleaning up and organizing can quickly improve the cosmetic appeal of your business.

And I’m going to tell you right now, that matters. Customers appreciate cleanliness.

“Your customers already live in an environment of omnipresent distraction” writes small business consulting group Organization Direct. “There’s a lot to be said for making your business a respite from that kind of onslaught, especially since it tends to worsen perceptions of cleanliness and friendliness.”

I think that’s true.

You do dirty work, but so do your customers. Taking time to put things away, clean up grease spots and remove rusty, grimy old parts from public view keeps customers from projecting the negative perceptions and stress they have from their own dirty businesses on to your operation.

Whenever I would ask my dad why he wanted me to clean the machine shed again, he’d say “we want the place to look presentable.”

I’d hem and haw at that — “Are we expecting guests while we’re changing the oil in this 1978 John Deere?” — but now that I’m older, I get what he meant.

He knew if for whatever reason someone stopped by and saw a messy disaster, that they might think the entire farm was a mess, and that his work was messy.

You don’t want to risk your customers making the same unfair assumption about your business.

Turning your team members into your cleanup crew can be internally valuable as well.

It’s tough enough performing top-quality vehicle service in a spotless facility. But when you add in clutter, misplaced tools and general untidiness, you are adding a degree of difficulty that simply doesn’t need to be there.

“A workforce facing unnecessary impediments to their ability to deliver top-quality service is a workforce that is not going to retain customers or win new business,” Organization Direct says.

So think about it. Is it possible for your team to spend a little time each day cleaning up, and picking up after one another?

You don’t have to do anything. But if moving that box of dirty cores by the parts counter to the warehouse is the difference between last week’s new customer becoming a regular or a one-time sale, isn’t it worth the time?

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