Did you catch the February exposé of the fast lubes on ABCʼs Primetime. It was entitled “Lube Shop Pitfalls: Tips on How to Avoid Being Taken for a Ride.” And it was embarrassing.

Essentially the fast lubes and their employees in the program were caught doing dishonest things to the investigators cars. I could drone on and on about the details of what they did and why it was wrong but the long and short of it is the story of wrong doing in a lube they visited was accurate and that hurts us all.

Offering additional services is not what was wrong with this service.

The problem in the report is systemic attitude and it starts at the top. This often referred to as a companyʼs culture. I had long believed that the companyʼs culture had much to do with profitability. And we have proven this to be true.

Lack of a good, positive company ethos is detrimental. And I believe the Primetime segment shows just this.

A good company attitude can have very positive effects. Take lube volume for instance, has your volume reached a plateau? The fast lube industry as a whole has matured around the country and operators are facing different challenges now than they did 10 – 15 years ago. But then why are there operators out there who have experienced the same competition pressures and had little or no effect on their car count. Some continue to expanded and add locations.

These operators who continue to thrive and grow seem to have several things in common that I would like to discuss. The interesting thing is that some of these commonalities have nothing to do with the fast lube industry. They have to do with life and how people live it. The companyʼs culture is key. Because the way people approach life has so much to do with the way they operate their businesses. While speaking to successful operators I have found several shared traits among them and it is really quite simple. For one, they enjoy what they do. And they create a corporate culture that shows it. They get up in the morning enjoying and looking forward to going to their respective operations. These same people hire people who will embrace the culture they have worked so hard to create. They also search out and hire people who will enjoy what they do; they enjoy life and have great attitudes. They have created a culture of learning and exceptional customer service. The people who do this are sometimes seen as difficult by some, but are simply insisting on there vision being promoted on a daily basis, customer by customer.

How can you do this?

Root out bad seed employees — Be direct and very clear about what you want and expect from employees. Write it down. And start with the manager – he will set the tone. The manager must get the correct and consistent signals from you. He must see you “doing the right thing.” Just like raising a child, you as the owner set the tone. You need to back him up on decisions to clean out bad employees and encourage this behavior.

Dress code – dress for success; insist employees wear the uniform correctly. If they look the part they can play the part. How can they play the part of a competent lube tech if they look like a thug? They canʼt be both. Your employees self image is, as it is in life, very important. Get the little things right. Show the employees they are going to be held to a higher standard than their last job. Invest your time in these employees and it will pay off.

Daily meetings every morning and at shift changes – this only takes 3 minutes and it allows you enough time to cover the benefits of a certain service or specials you may have. It keeps the things that are important to your culture top of mind with employees. Think of it as a huddle before the game.

Twice monthly training meetings 1 hour x 5 employees = 5 hours x $8 = $40 X 2 (two meetings per month) = $80 for the continued education of your front line employees. If you do 1000 car per month you gain $500 by increasing the ticket by 50 cents. It is well worth the time and energy.

I believe that a positive company culture that embraces training is the answer.