Champcar Focus

New Video: Race Car Removal

I placed this Race Car Removal post in both The Journey and My Racing categories as it fits both parts of my blog.

As I wrote in my 2019 Racing Plans post I will not be entering 2019 with any specific plans to race.  My goal in 2019 is to focus on family and the business.  This past racing season was filled with too many distractions which lead to frustrations and a focus on the wrong things.

Not As Planned

On a recent Saturday my wife and I loaded up the race car, its spares and headed east to deliver the car to its owner so that we’d have that space cleaned up to store another vehicle or a place for a project vehicle.  Keep reading to see what is currently there.

The day didn’t go as planned.  I estimated one and a half hours to pack and load everything up.  Spot on with that estimate.  However, the car wound’t move.  Turns out that one of the recently installed axles was wrong!  I swapped out the axle.  While it didn’t take too long to do the job I had to wait for the axle to be delivered.

Champcar Focus Axle Change
Not happy about having to change the axle

“This car fought you ’til the end.  This is a reminder of why you aren’t racing next year.” – My wife

We made it to Erie and dropped off the car without much of a hassle.  However, we missed a good portion of our evening with friends due to being behind time wise, but all in all the race car removal project can be viewed as a success.  The space is cleaned up!

Removal = Focus

The reason I placed this post into the The Journey category is that my involvement in racing is two fold. 

First, I really enjoy the sport as a participant – there’s nothing better than being on track and tuning out the world.  Being at the track with friends is a blast and being able to wrench between sessions is weirdly fun for me. 

Second, I love the business side of motorsports.  Sponsorship engagement, fan activation, promotion – and everything else.  I believe that if I am involved in motorsports it will be good for business.  While I have gained some new business by being involved in racing it’s not a large referral source.

Part of The Journey is adapting and learning and then making adjustments based on lessons learned.  While it can be fun and rewarding to be involved with a race team and to have a reason to be to at the track right now just isn’t the right time.

With as busy as the shop is, my focus needs to be there.  We have so much work to do on including getting the new offices ready.  I very excited that I can now have a clear focus on my business and personal goals

Video of the Race Car Removal Project

What’s in the space now?

Painesville Speedway racecar
The Painesville Car

While I have no specific plans for the Painesville Race Car in 2019 I will prep it just in case.  It doesn’t need much.

So how can I prep this car and still not race in 2019?  While I have no specific race plans for 2019, that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t race.  Heading out to the Painesville Speedway for a Winter Series Race or a regular season race night will be a last minute decision.   If everything in my life is where it needs to be at that moment, you might find me at the track. 

Subscribe To My YouTube Channel

So while the ChampCar Race Car is out of my life, that doesn’t mean that cars, racing and projects are 100% out of my life.  In addition to posting updates on my website, I’ll be creating short videos on YouTube as well.

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Great Customer Experiences This Week – Where Did They Come From?

It’s been a while since my last post regarding The Journey This week I was reminded four times that there are still companies and individuals delivering great customer experiences.

Let me take a moment to set this up.  On Friday I had the opportunity to drive a client to his office as he was leaving his vehicle with us for the day.  He mentioned to me that he and his wife are pleased that we are now servicing their vehicles.  Specifically, he was impressed that I would take the time to drive him to his office and pick him up when his car repairs were completed.  I explained My Why to him and my vision for great car care.  This conversation reminded me of how my suppliers have really delivered this week and I wanted to share these experiences with you.

  1. Jason at W.B. Mason.  Two years ago a young man came into the shop and wanted to talk about office supplies.  I explained I use very little in terms in paper, ink and pens.  He said any order is a good order and since then I’ve probably spent $300 a year with him.  I’m guessing I am his smallest client (and maybe shortest), but anytime I call I feel like I’m his only client.  This past week I had a decision to make; purchase more toner and a drum for my laser printer or buy a new ink jet printer that would use the same ink as my other printers.  He researched how often I ordered the toner and he found that my drum was over two years old.  Turns out, it would cost me less to keep the laser printing running and the components were delivered next day.
  2. Lee Ann and the Heartland Payroll team.  My time clock broke this week (oh it’s fun to be a business owner) and it took multiple calls to their tech support to get support only to find out that there’s a $100 cable that needs to be replaced.  I was never a fan of the time clock or its software so I started to research other options.  I made a call to my Heartland Payroll contact and she walked me through their options which integrate with the Heartland Payroll service I already have which will make my life easier as I will no longer have to enter payroll, just audit it.  She was out the next day to get me signed up and two days later the service was live.  What’s really impressive is her implementation team.  I received one, simple email with EVERYTHING I needed to know to get rolling with the service.  Well done!
  3. Carol at Ohio Health Insurance.  It’s annual enrollment time for health insurance and this process can be time consuming, frustrating and confusing.  Carol has worked with me over the past few weeks to research other options.  I explained one area of the plan that is causing concern and she researched it, provided me options and information regarding it which may make it a non-issue or at least it will be better understood and less frustrating.  Further she crunched a bunch of numbers and scenarios to determine what my best option will be.  She found a way to save me some money next year while offering the same plan with same coverage for my employees.
  4. Joan at Waste Management.  I was recently socked with a overfull dumpster surcharge from Waste Management and I thought it was hardly overfull so I reached out to my contact at WM regarding it.  I received a near instant email with a picture of my dumpster on the collection day (WM has a very cool application for their driver’s and supervisors that allows them to document what they see) and a second email stating that she reversed the charges.  Then I received a phone call from her to confirm what she did.  On top of this she updated the route notes to make sure they keep the dumpster away from the building so the lids will close and she asked that I call her if we are approaching an overfull situation so she can get it handled for me.

One way to look at this is to think, of course they gave a great experience…it’s their job!  Agreed.  However, it seems more and more all people want to do is complain about the bad experiences and gloss over the great or even good ones!

I am constantly thinking about how we can deliver a great customer experience.  Do our clients view our service and business the same way I do?  What can we do better or more of? How do I best engage the team to deliver on these?  All of us must think about this topic and then deliver upon it if we want to be a competitor in the marketplace.

What are some ways that you can deliver a great customer experience?

I Wish I Had More Time…

This is me most nights

Each day I start with a plan and somedays I get through that plan, – not all of it, but some of it.  Other days I don’t even get an opportunity to start the plan.  So, I usually end up sitting in front of the computer, late at night, trying to pick through the un-completed items and preparing for the next day.

I am happy that we have lots to do at the shop and that we are busy and meeting our goals.  However, I don’t have time to get done what I need to get done.  Some of these items are shop related and some are outside the shop.

My apologies for not posting more.

This past week a client  was standing at the counter and commented that I was a good multi-tasker.  I was on the phone when she arrived.  I was entering an appointment into the computer and I was starting her check-in process on the tablet.  One of my techs was waiting to talk with me as well.  I laughed when she said that.  I said thanks for thinking so, but I won’t get done half of what I need to today.  I had my wife make a sign for my front computer that reads, “SLOW DOWN”.  Being this hectic does not allow me deliver the client experience that I want, nor do I have the time to work ON the business.

I am writing this on a rainy Saturday morning in February.  I’m catching up on some training, replying to emails and I skipped my morning workout.  The family is sleeping.  Later this morning I’ll head to shop to catch up on work from the week and start to prep the new space.

There’s a blessing here – I have a supportive family, a great team and loyal clients that allow me to do what I do.  Every time I think about my goal I get re-energized and re-focused.

One tool I started to use is Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner.  There are many new, paper planners available with different philosophies.  It’s been helpful for goal setting & tracking, planning the day and being able to revisit past days.  I was once a big Franklin – Covey user, but then tried digital tools.   Paper is where it’s at for me.

So I guess I did make a little time this morning to write and ponder.  I also started another post about a look back on the past four years.  Stay tuned for that post very soon.

The Journey: My Why

Every month I get the team together for lunch and we review the previous month, discuss operations and opportunities and we plan for the next month.  It’s a good way to build a team environment and communicate as one team.

As I was preparing for one of these meetings I realized that my team did not know My Why.  They didn’t know my background and they didn’t know why I opened a shop.  Which meant that they didn’t know my motivation nor my objectives – really, these are our objectives.

Wanting To Be A Business Owner

I can recall back to 7th and 8th grade and starting to read business magazines and the newspaper.  Junior Achievement was involved in a few of our classes which provided insights into what business men and women do and the opportunities that exist in the working world.  In 9th grade we had an intro to business class and part of the class included developing a business idea.   My idea was a marina on Lake Erie.  A full service marina with sales, service and food.  I loved being near the water then and still do today.

I guess you can say that my desire to be a business owner started young, but I never really acted on it.  After college I started working in the corporate world and life moved on.

One Night In Class

It was during one of my MBA classes that I started to ponder opening an automotive related business.  I zoned out of the lecture and started to write down ideas, concepts, equipment lists, pricing models and next steps.  This idea got me super excited!

The next step was to research this business idea, look for competitors and continue to refine the business plan.  One activity I started to do was to network with those in the automotive industry and I met with bankers.  I received great feedback and suggestions.  These folks advised me and coached me on what would work and what wouldn’t work.  I connected with SCORE and the Ohio SBDC.  I worked with real estate advisors, business brokers and insurance experts to get the plan where I wanted it.

Then I shelved it.   Yup.  I let it gather dust and continued on with my career.  I’d review it every month or so and think about it and hope that someday it would become something I could explore, but that was it.

The Catalyst That Led To My Why

It was the summer of 2012 and the family and I set out on family vacation to North Top Sail Beach in North Carolina.  We loaded up our Dodge Durango and headed out.  Our Durango had been a great vehicle which never gave us problem.  Over its 12 year life it hasn’t cost us very money in repairs.

Our Durango was serviced mostly by three places; the dealership, one independent shop and one local chain.  Each time the we took the vehicle in for service our concerns were addressed.  If the vehicle needed brakes – it got brakes.  I always took the advice of the shop if it needed something.  In fact, I would always ask for a full look over and was routinely told “all is good”.

We were about two hours from the beach when the Durango started to run hot.  I monitored it and as the temperature climbed I’d crank the heat and it would cool down.  That worked for about 20-30 miles.  Coolant level was good.  I bought some tools at a truck stop and removed the thermostat thinking that perhaps it was bad.  That only got us 10 miles down the road.

We called AAA and had to ride in a tow truck for the last 60 miles of our trip.  They dropped us at the condo and the condo owner recommended a local shop to us.  I took the Durango to them the next day and what they found was that radiator was clogged.  It was clogged because someone had added the wrong type of coolant to our vehicle.  If you didn’t know anti-freeze, also known as coolant, comes in many colors now and there are new types of coolant.  Without getting technical it’s bad to mix different types of coolant as mixing them together forms a thicker, gel like substance which can clog radiators and heater cores.

I authorized them to replace the radiator and thermostat and flush out the cooling system.

As we relaxed on the beach I couldn’t help wonder if I had this happen to me how many others might have the same problem.  I’m not just talking about overheating vehicles.  I was thinking about shops not taking care of their client’s vehicles.  If they were careless enough to use the wrong fluid, what else were they careless about?

I kept thinking, there has to be a better way to service and maintain vehicles.  This began to consume me.

What Did I Find When I Got Home?

A couple of days after we got home I decided to spend some time with the Durango and investigate what else these shops have been missing.

I can work on cars, but due to work requirements and travel we always had the Durango serviced at shops.

The air filter was over two years old.  How do I know?  I had the date and mileage written on it when I last replaced it.  ((So I guess I did do one maintenance item on the Durango))  If a technician had checked that filter he would have seen how dirty it was and also it had date proof that it needed changed.  Maybe eight or nine oil changes in those two years and nothing!  Also, I would always ask about spark plugs.  I was told they were fine and not due yet.  I pulled one out and it was long overdue to be changed.

This was just further support for my motivation that there’s a better way to perform car maintenance and repair.

I told my wife that it’s time to dust off that business plan and get working on making auto repair better.

My Why

So this is My Why.  This is why I come to  the shop everyday.

I want to work to make car repair and vehicle maintenance the best it can be.  It’s my goal that client vehicles are safe and reliable. I want to have a strong and experienced team that executes to this goal each and every day.

Owning a business is tough enough.  Owning an auto repair is even tougher.  Each day presents new challenges, but also new opportunities.  When those challenges seem overwhelming I remind myself of My Why and why we do what we do.

The Journey: Planning (it’s important)

This is the first installment in The Journey.  I have a few other draft posts that highlight some of the topics I want to cover and thought those might be the best first post, but the more I think about it, the more the idea of planning comes to mind as the best place to start.

I suspect that the ideas and concepts that I reference below are not new to you.   I’m sure you’ve read about them before or even use them in your daily routines.  However, if you are like me it’s always good to have a reminder of what works and to explore how others use planning concepts.

Exposed To Planning At A Young Age

I suppose you could say that I have planning in my DNA.  Growing up both my parents used lists and monthly planners to handle their tasks and work towards their goals.

Let’s talk about my mom’s use of planners and to do lists.  Everyday she would start with her glass of iced tea and a blank sheet of paper.  She wrote down all the tasks she needed to complete that day and then would place that list on the counter above where the dishwasher was.  As she knocked out a task,  she’d cross it off her list.  That’s how she got through the day and made sure that everything got done, everyone was where they needed to be and that the house was running as it should be.

While in high school friends had given me a planner as a Christmas gift.  Turns out that while it was a thoughtful gift, it was also given as a reminder to schedule all aspects of my life.  A few friends thought I was over-committed (work, clubs, groups, sports) as well as was spending too much time with the girl friend and not enough time with my other friends.   Point Taken!

Lastly, while in college I had adopted the Franklin Covey method of planning and used their planners.   I Listened to the tapes, read the book and started to use the concepts that Covey had used to help people achieve their goals and accomplish their tasks.  Until the proliferation of smartphones I had used a paper based planner as much as I could.

This isn’t a post about which planner to use, just that having a planning method is important to organize your days, your weeks and your months.

Your Business Plan

Do you have a business plan?  You should.  It doesn’t matter what job you have, the type of business you own or the role you play in an organization – you need to have a business plan.

Many years ago a friend asked how I was spending my time off.  In typical fashion I was taking the last two weeks of the year off to burn up some PTO, spend time with family and prepare for the next year.  I advised him that some of my time would be spent refining my Business Plan.  “Your what?”, he replied.  He never thought of having a business plan for his current, corporate role.

I explained to him that every year I develop a Business Plan for my role.  It includes my individual goals, the tasks needed to meet the goals, the resources I needed to be successful and what the path looked like to get there.  I generally used PowerPoint to develop this plan and I would make sure that it aligned with my department goals.  I used to love sharing these plans with my leadership.  Having a plan made it easier to engage resources when needed.  The plans helped sell ideas on how to win larger RFPs.  These plans also helped me stay on track each quarter  so that I would be certain to hit my goals.  One other benefit is that if I ever needed to hand off a project or responsibility – it was documented and could be easily communicated to the next person that would be taking on the project.

Why Is A Plan Important To You?

The idea of The Journey is to share what I’ve learned along the way and to help the reader ponder their own journey.

When I decided that I wanted to go off an do something on my own I developed a rough Business Plan.  It started off as a couple of paragraphs, a few spreadsheets and was basically a collection of ideas with no process to make it a reality.  However, I didn’t yet need that process.  What I needed was to vet out my idea.  With a rough framework of a business plan I was able to talk about it with bankers, potential clients and industry experts.   Each month I would revise the plan and expand the plan as I learned more about the industry and solicited feedback.  There would be months when it would just gather dust and there were months were I couldn’t stop thinking about it.   However, I had a plan that I could work on, revise and share.

My biggest fear with having that plan was that it would never become something.  What I mean here is that what if someone else started my idea?  What if I never opened the business?  What if I never put my plan into action?

If you have an idea – whether it’s for something full time or even a side hustle, start planning it.  Use whatever works for you; Evernote, Word, Docs or a paper journal.  For me, it was Word.  Being able to insert graphs, tables, charts and a table of contents made it easy to work with.  If I had to start it today I’d probably start with Evernote to collect and organize thoughts and information and then transfer it in Word or Docs.

While execution is important, without a plan you have nothing to execute.  Start planning!

The Ideal Planning Example

To me there is no greater planning example than a marathon training plan.  I’ve run six marathons in my life.  Doubtful I’ll run anymore, but the training to get there requires a focused plan.  In fact, that’s what I really enjoyed about the marathon – the training and planning.  Without a plan I would have not been able to finish one marathon, let alone six.

Without going into a ton of detail here’s what I would do…

I would develop a 20 week training plan. Each day was preplanned so I knew exactly what I needed to do for the next 140 days to be successful.  Somedays had long runs, some short runs.  Some days were off days and others were cross training.  I had scheduled races along the way.  There was no way I could fail if I followed that plan.  How many of us schedule the important parts of our lives this way?   Not many I suspect.

This kind of detail is important if we want to be successful.  Imagine if you pre-planned each day with your “ultimate” goal in mind?  How could you fail?  You probably wouldn’t!

How Will You Win In 2018?

When I started to draft this is was late 2017 and now 2018 is here.  Perfect example of planning versus execution – hey there’s another blog post idea!

2018 is here and it’s not too late to put your plan into motion.   The new year means new goals, new opportunities and new challenges.  They all await us in the this new year.

So how will you prepare and plan?


The Journey

So here’s a teaser, of sorts.

While I was attending the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University my classmates and I would talk and meet often.  We’d discuss projects, meet after class to review assignments and get together for lunches during the work week.  Heck, we even found times on the weekends to get together.  If we weren’t discussing group projects, professors, family, or work we were discussing our careers and next steps.

Many of my classmates were like me, trying to get involved in everything – networking events, having coffee with undergrad students (aka Coffee Connections), on campus seminars and talks, where ever we could be we went.  We’d share notes, ideas, books and articles.  We couldn’t get enough of each other’s insights, ideas, and help.

When entering the MBA program I envisioned coming out of the program poised for growth within my current employer.  I didn’t much think about leaving corporate life for the uncertainty of opening my own business, but that’s what eventually happened.  For most of my life, well since 7th grade, I did ponder owning a business and working for myself, but never thought it would happen.  In 9th grade I was in an intro to business class and created a “business plan” of sorts for a marina on Lake Erie.  Having my own business, while a dream, was never something I seriously pondered until the end of my MBA coursework.

When my classmates heard of my ideas to explore non-corporate life it was suggested that I start a blog to capture the journey.   It would highlight the progress, share the challenges and perhaps help others that may consider a similar path.  I thought it was a great idea, but never did it.  Now looking back I wish I would have shared what I learned along the way.  I suppose it’s never too late to start, right.

I am calling this The Journey.  It really has been a journey.  I’ve created maps (also known as business plans, outlines, whiteboard notes, and filled binders with ideas) and I’ve had guides along the way (think of these as friends, mentors, coaches, trusted advisers, and family).   There’s been road blocks and set backs.  There’s been successes and accomplishments.

I plan to post with some regularity – at least once per month.  I am not an expert on any of the topics I’ll cover nor am I suggesting that the way I did it was the best way, but perhaps sharing The Journey I took will help you on yours.