The Power Of Riding Along
I was lucky enough years ago when I moved to Phoenix to tour George Brazil’s amazing shop here in the Phoenix area. The shop visit was great, but spending any time talking with George about business is always time well-spent.
Our conversation over lunch focused on the need for powerful, repeatable systems for running a company. We both agreed the cornerstone for a successful business is having written policies and procedures.
George leaned in and said, “Policies and procedures are great. But don’t expect what you’re unwilling to inspect.”
The message was clear. If you want to believe your team is always performing the right way, don’t check on them. You may not like what you see and hear.
If a company wants to get ahead and stay ahead of its competition, it must get out in the real world and do ride-alongs because it is essential to assuring the three main things any technician must do:
- Operations; and
One of my field supervisors once told me, “I don’t have the time to do ride-alongs with the techs on my team.”
To which I responded, “How will you find the time you need to fix all of their mistakes?”
I continued, “Furthermore, every time you do a ride-along with the techs, here’s what I know. They get better at sales, operations and technical performance. What else could you be doing that’s more important than ride-alongs?”
He was speechless. The sad fact is he always remained resistant to doing regular ride-alongs. That’s why he wasn’t allowed to remain a field supervisor for very long.
I can assure you he’s not alone when it comes to being resistant to doing ride-alongs on a consistent basis. In my consulting work over the last nine years, I encounter this resistance on a regular basis.
Here are the top four reasons you don’t ride along:
1. Best behavior. You make the false assumption your techs will be on their best behavior when you do ride along. The truth is, they may start out that way, but they will slip back to their true habits if you’re riding along long enough and often enough.
2. Nerves. Yes, riding along will make employees nervous, but only if you ride along once in a blue moon. If your ride-alongs are done at least once a month, they’ll relax and be more at ease.
3. Stealing the thunder. You know that you’ll take over the job and sell and/or do the work so they’ll end up a glorified helper. You’d be right unless you train yourself to step back and make it clear that they’re in charge of running the call. Save your coaching until you get back to the truck after the call is done. Better yet, do it after you get back to the shop. Take notes so you won’t forget.
4. No time for ride-alongs. You also think you don’t have the time to do ride-alongs. I’ll ask the same question. When will you have time to fix all the mistakes or make up the lost revenue going down the drain? You have nothing more important to do.
You now know once again why ride-alongs are a must. That’s why I want you to commit to two days a week of ride-alongs. It will allow you to bond with your team members.
If it’s too much of a commitment, start slowly with just one day a week. You can even split it into two half-days. However, you need to ride with the tech and not just meet him or her on the job. That’s because this is the perfect time to coach. You’re in the truck before and after a job or even riding to and from the shop.
The Next StepWant to take it to the next level? Make sure you have good sales statistical tracking, sales process, operational protocol and a sound procedure for troubleshooting and fixing stuff. Practice the whole process in the safety of your own shop so it’s not stressful when you both get into the field. Make time after hours to train them on things you observed that you know will make them better technicians and help them make more money. Everyone should win when ride-alongs and follow-up training are done consistently.
And don’t be tempted to ride with just the poor performers or it’ll become like a visit to the dentist. They’ll dread it and so will you. Be sure to ride with the good performers because there’s much to be learned and shared with others. Let them reveal in your weekly tech meetings what they are doing that is making them successful. The good performers are dying for you to ride along and see them winning. They can actually start messing up if they find you only pay attention to those not performing. Yes, weird but true.
Ride-alongs done the right way can be the quickest way to get your team culture headed in the right direction. Invest your time and energy with those who affect the success of the whole company.
The other neat thing about regular ride-alongs is they’re going to reduce your callback ratio and build more sales. What could be better!