Pat’s Garage: Kick Ass Excellence in Action

July 1, 2009

“My business is not really about cars, it is about people.  When I focus on my customers and their needs and concerns, my business thrives.” (p.192).

This is another gem from Pam Slim’s book Escape from Cubicle Nation: from Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.  Pat operates a car garage in San Francisco that focuses mainly on Hondas.  Not only does he provide great service, but he serves his customers great coffee while they wait and he really takes care of his employees. 

Pam’s description of Pat and his garage is an excellent example both of the service profit chain at work and of my leadership bias.  While Pam says of Pat “his personality clearly shows up in every aspect of his business” (p.192), I would tell you that Pat’s genius is he has embedded his leadership philosophy in a system designed to impress every single customer in every single transaction.  At Pat’s Garage, impressive customer service is not random or left to chance – it is planned, methodical, and a core strategic operating principle.

“You walk away after working with Pat and not only feel great having given him money, but want to tell twelve of your friends about his auto shop” (p.190).

Pat’s customers are delighted with the service they get at Pat’s garage.  If they were merely satisfied, they would not leave wanting to tell twelve friends, and there would in fact be no guarantee that they would even return to Pat for future service.  When you simply meet your customers’ expectations, you leave them indifferent.  Your customers may not return and you will never understand why your top line is evaporating because you think you are doing a good job.  But “good enough” is a recipe for strategic peril. 

Does Pat personally service every car comes into his shop?  No way.  In fact, I doubt he personally services very few of his customers’ cars.  Pat’s employees make Pat shine.  But to make that happen, Pat enables his employees to shine.

He attracts a great team.  He values and supports his employees better than most leaders I’ve met in entrepreneurial and corporate settings.  He once told me, after explaining how he was paying for his mechanic to take a day off to take an art class, “When you learn what is important to people who work for you and support that, no matter if it is related to the work they do for you, they will be happier.  That translates to better work and natural loyalty.” (pp. 192-193).

Pat kicks ass because he helps his employees kick ass.

Kicking ass all begins between your ears.  How you think determines what you do; what you do determines how your employees will react; how your employees behave determines how your customers will react; how your customers behave drives your top line to either flourish or languish.

It really is just that simple

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