Five Things

Five Things

For this week’s Lifelong Learning blog, Founder Ron Slee talks to us about performance reviews and leading teams – both in a classroom and in a business setting. He describes for us five things that prompt thoughtful conversations.

Five Things

Many of you know that I am almost fanatical about providing great performance reviews with each and every employee I touch. Regularly. Not annually rather as the opportunity arises. But frequently to say the least. Then this came up as I was running through my time allocated to social media and my email and texts. That allotted time is my recognition of distractions that Nir Eyal pointed out to me that changed how I work. That recognition came from his excellent book “Indistractable.

A post by Harvard Business School on LinkedIn brought to mind a few things I used to do, as a matter of common practice, when I was leading teams at dealerships or software companies.

I called them my “Five Things.” They went like this:

  • Please list the “Five Things” that are the most significant items in each of the categories. 
    • Five Things to Improve Operations
    • That are a pain for you to do
    • To Make Your Job Better for you personally

It was an interesting exercise. Everyone on the team had a week to make their lists and we tried to ensure they didn’t work together on their lists. Then we got together as a team, at a break or after work and put them on a flip chart. We compared the lists. It was remarkable how there werem any items that were on all of the lists. As you can imagine my question was rather simple. If they make operations better AND they are a pain for you to do AND they will make your own job better THEN why haven’t we done them. Think about that for a moment.

I also regularly asked each member of the team three simple questions.

  • My “Check Up from the Neck Up.”
    • What do I do that you like, and you want me to continue doing?
    • What do I do that you don’t like, and want me to stop doing?
    • What do I do that doesn’t really matter to you or impact your job?

That gave me a very upfront and personal performance review by my team members.

Then this morning I find the following on LinkedIn from Harvard Business School.

“If you’re worried that your employees are eyeing the door, it’s time to start having some important, career-defining conversations.  Here are five key questions to ask your direct reports at your next one-on-one to ensure that they feel seen and valued — before it’s too late.

  1. How would you like to grow within this organization?   Identify the career development opportunities they need — whether that’s coaching, mentoring, increased visibility, or more challenging projects.  They’re more likely to stay if they feel like they’re growing.
  2. Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job?   Tap into what’s meaningful to them — and connect it with the values of the organization.
  3. What do you need from me to do your best work?   Be prepared to devote more time and resources to help your employee feel fulfilled. 
  4. What are we currently not doing as a company that you feel we should do?   Asking what they feel the company could be doing better — what market opportunities it might be overlooking, how to leverage resources more effectively, etc. — conveys that their thoughts and opinions matter.
  5. Are you able to do your best work every day?   This allows you to determine whether they’re optimizing their strengths. You might follow up with, “What part of your job would you eliminate if you could?” Don’t make promises but knowing which aspects of their job are least and most enjoyable will help you make any necessary changes to ensure they stick around.”

As many of you know I am quite critical about our skills in performing a performance review with your team members. Typically, no one has trained any of you on how to do a review. In many cases the review is what I call a “hygiene” review. Is the employee on time or late, are they absent a lot, are they dressed properly. Oh, and then some metrics. In many cases the individual employee does not have any control over the metrics so why are they in their performance review. It is almost that I have to check off another of the boxes on the things I should do.

Many of you know that we have Job Function Skills Assessments for most parts and service and product support selling jobs. Ninety-Six Multiple Choice questions. Your knowledge and skill level will be seriously evaluated with these assessments. This is about getting an objective measure of the “gaps” in the skills and knowledge that are present with an employee. The employee and their team leader sit down and talk about the assessment. With the score that the employee has achieved on the assessment we can provide a “Learning Skill Level.” The Skill Levels follow the education system categories: Developing, Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced. With each Skill Level we have eight class recommendations for the employee to continue to grow and develop their skills. We recommend that the team leader and the employee come to a joint decision on the classes that the employee should take to continue on their “career path.” This is a very different performance review. This is about treating each employee as an asset not an expense. They are people that we want to operate “aspirationally” (our word) not transactionally. We want employees that are engaged in their work.

For more in this direction please read David Jensen’s recent post on PTO

The Time is Now.

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Becoming Successful

Becoming Successful

In this week’s installment on Lifelong Learning, our Founder shares a blog post on all of the professional steps involved in becoming successful.

Everywhere you look and a large amount of what you read people are talking about attracting, finding, hiring, developing and retaining talented people. It would appear, at least from everything that is out there, that it would be easy to find a rewarding and challenging place to work. It appears that you would be able to show your talents and potential to these desperate employers.   

Good luck with that. 

Like most other things in life if you want to become successful you have to put in the work. That is easy to say, but what do you mean? 

Let’s be systematic and outline some steps. But first, please remember success is not a reflection of your job alone. It is a reflection of who and what you are as a person. 

Phase One 

Here, you have to do some serious self-reflection on what you think you need to do to represent the best person you can be. This is very personal, isn’t it? There is only one of you on the planet. Let’s be systematic; what are your values, your strengths and weaknesses. Are there things that you already know you need to improve on. Write them down. Is there anything that you have wanted to do forever, but never had the time to do? What about your physical being. Do you need to improve your health, your weight, your condition? Be brutally honest here. Never forget that the easiest person to lie to is your reflection in the mirror. 

Next let’s establish some action items and goals. There are many sources that tell us that setting goals is an important aspect of becoming successful. So, make it real, write it down. Make a list of what you want to get done, what you want to achieve. This is where you have to remember that your goals need to be achievable. Don’t be unrealistic. In this area it is extremely important that you are very specific. 

Finally, for this first phase, you have to make a commitment to yourself that these lists are things you are going to work on every day. No slacking off. In leading a team we have to be able to communicate to a group of people what you are trying to do. Then you have to have the discussion, the debate, as to whether or not that is the right thing to do. You MUST have that debate. Once everyone has had their say and you have reached a common understanding then and only then will you and your team be committed to make it happen. This time you are the team. You have to be all in, totally committed to making this happen.         

Phase Two

Find someone or something to be your lighthouse, you beacon, your spiritual guide. Don’t laugh at this. It is important. Find someone with whom you can talk. You will get discouraged and they can perk you up. Make no mistake, you are the one that has to get this done, but there will be times that you will need help and encouragement. I used to find a piece of music that motivated me. Those of you that have listened to any of our Podcasts know that the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is one of those inspirations for me. Another thing that has helped me often is to have a pad handy or talk to your phone. When something strikes you record it. It is much too easy to forget those brilliant ideas you had in the middle of the night. A long time ago, I was a Data Processing Manager at a dealership. We were open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I used to go to bed with a pad and a pen on the nightstand so that when I woke up with that brilliant idea, in the middle of the night, I could write it down I wouldn’t lose it. Isn’t that strange? Of course, I am sure you guessed it, I couldn’t read my writing in the morning, so I stopped doing it. Oh well.

Remember your goals from Phase One. Now might be a good time to go back and review those goals and break them down into more manageable chunks. Allow yourself the opportunity to succeed at those goals. Make them shorter and more easily achieved. As you begin to have more success at achieving those goals you can make them bigger. Remember Collins and Porras in their book Good to Great. They wanted us to create BHAGS. Big Hairy Audacious Goals. 

 Similarly remember those aspects from Phase One that had to do with your appearance. Dress for success. Exercise regularly. Eat the right food. And don’t be surprised if you have to make some changes. Sometimes you will have external influences over which you have little if any control. Focus on those things in your plan, in your activities, over which you have control. The things that you can influence.

Phase Three

Things are building you can feel a difference. You feel more in control of your life. This is a good time and it is a good place where you have your mind. However, you will have setbacks, you will fail at some things. Don’t get discouraged. Failures and failing are part of life. Edison famously said “I have not failed I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

One of the things that has worked well for me is even though I knew I had failed I never took it personally. Remember that the mission you have is important. It is not necessarily going to be easy. Not everyone can be all they want to be. This where you might need that support figure. You don’t need to do this alone. Finally, trust your instincts, trust you gut. Intuition and contemplation are best when they work together. 


Achieving your potential is a lifelong process. Your skills and abilities are dynamic, they’re constantly changing. That is true because you are constantly learning. Samuel Beckett wrote “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” If you follow his advice and continue on the path to lifelong learning you will achieve your potential and you will have become successful.

The time is now. 

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Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Capital

In this week’s Lifelong Learning post, Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee continues to look at employees as assets. Read on to learn about Intellectual Capital.

In an earlier post on Lifelong Learning, I posed a question to you – “Are your employee’s assets or expenses?” I hope every one of you said they are assets. Today I am wanting to look at your employees from a different perspective. I want to look at your employees as an “Asset on your Balance Sheet.” Imagine if you took all of the knowledge, skills and experiences of your employees and were able to put it into a container?

Look at the skills required to operate your business.

Selling. Leading. Buying. Repairing. Maintaining. Data Storage. Warehousing. Shipping. Receiving. Transportation. Ordering. Purchasing. Stocking. Paying Bills. Payroll. And there are many more.

On top of that you have the specific skills within each discipline. Take selling as an example. The function requires Research, Goal Setting, Asking Questions, Overcoming Objections, Explaining Benefits, and Closing the Sale. Each job function can be dissected into the differing skills required to perform it. That is one of the byproducts of our Job Function Skills Assessments. Most of us view a job simply as that. I would ask that you look at it in a different manner. Each job is a composite of a lot of different items. Let me go in a different direction for a moment. Let’s look at the job of a surgeon. What is it? Is it simply using a scalpel and cutting. Or are the years of training given to the surgeon expecting that they will see with trained eyes and identify problems inside our body and then knowing what to do about it? Of course, it is the latter, isn’t it?

So, when people take our assessments, they are taken aback at some of the questions. A typical comment coming back to us after the employee completes their assessment is that I wasn’t aware that was part of my job. If we look at the telephone and counter selling job function, most of the employees have done it for a long time. They typically are on autopilot. However, they are often extremely busy. They don’t have time for many niceties. That is a shame. That is a result of not having enough people to do the job properly. That is the negative result of sales per employee. (Too many “bosses” think that a high sales per employee is a good thing. That is totally wrong. Completely wrong) Customer retention. Customer loyalty. They are critical measures of your success as a business. Market share is another.

Well in the parts business over the past forty years market share in parts and service has dropped by more than 50%. Many of you will argue with me as a result of your sales revenue continuing to go up. Perhaps many of you will point to the proliferation of competitors as the cause of this reduction. I will respectfully disagree. This drop in market share is a direct result of too few people serving customers doing too much work. 

Look at your service department as a good example. Surveys done by industry associations point out that 15% of the customers who purchase labor from an equipment dealer “defect” each year. Let me express that another way for you to better make my point. 15% of your service customers STOP buying labor from you on an annual basis. That means that you lose 50% of your customers over a five-year period. Don’t believe me? Check it out. Get a report in name sequence. Alphabetically. Compare the list from five years ago in a calendar year to the current year. In our case today compare 2021 to 2016. That is a gap of five years. Get the total number of customers in 2016 and compare that to 2021. In many cases the number will be very close to the same. Now go through and compare the two lists side by side. Name by name. How many names purchased labor in 2016 that did not purchase in 2021. I suspect you will find the number to be a very sobering illustration of the point I am trying to make with you.

In parts it is not as stark a defection rate but it is equally as disturbing.

Your employees are assets for your business. They are the people that create the glue, that bond your customers to your business. Too many of you view, these employees, your heroes, simply as tools in a toolbox. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sales per employee metric is given lip service. It is not the trigger that it should be used to hire people. In the 1980’s the sales per employee number, widely accepted in the industry was $600,000/parts employee/year. That number did not include the Parts Management nor the Product Support Sales team. For many of the dealers with which I have worked over the past five years that sales per employee number exceeds $1,000,000/employee. That means that the people working on your counters and telephones serving your customers are overworked. From the 1980 metric 5 people were required to do $3,000,000 per year. That job today it is being done by 3 people. How can this be allowed to happen? 

There is a very old expression. “You reap what you sow” The market share reduction is a direct result of this excessive sales per employee. It is a result of the employee NOT being viewed as an asset but as simply a tool to be used. This is wrong. It needs to change.

The time is now.     

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Transitions In Our Education System

Transitions In Our Education System

In this week’s post for Lifelong Learning, founder Ron Slee takes a hard look at some of the transitions in our education system, and why we need those transitions now more than ever.

I come from a family of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher and my mother taught. We have been teachers for over one hundred years. My grandmother taught in a one room schoolhouse. Educators seemed to be all around me. My mother chose all of my teachers in grade school. She was the Vice Principal at the school, and I couldn’t get away with anything. But for some reason I always used to watch my teachers and how they worked. One thing a lot of us forget is that the “teacher” is typically the only person that we see at work when we are children. 

I remember one particular teacher of mine in High School. He taught high school boys health. A subject that really gets the attention of teenage boys, right? He did some amazing things to keep us engaged. He used facial expressions, he used his voice dramatically, he used body language. He used everything he could think about to keep our attention. It made quite an impression on me. Over my career and involvement in training and teaching one thing always has stood out to me. You have a responsibility to keep the attention and interest of your students, your audience. 

I also remember another teacher who had a Master’s Degree in English and he was teaching Mathematics. His first class with us is indelibly etched on my mind. He said, “if I can learn to teach you mathematics with an English education all of you will pass this class.” He meant it and he delivered. Everyone passed. Several of my classmates had trouble with Calculus and they had to spend countless hours work after the school day ended. This teacher never left them. He was committed to the success of this students. It was his life. 

Teachers are special people. They are more influential in the development of a child’s intelligence and knowledge than nearly everyone else. We start with parenting before a child goes to school. Then we transition from preschool to grade school, to middle school, to high school and then to more serious learning either in the technical world or the academic world. Both of those paths of development are beneficial to society. The goal of the education system, in my mind, is to create work ready people for the business world, not JUST expand knowledge and learning. This is true whether that person becomes a doctor or plumber. 

Ed Gordon, President of the Imperial Consulting Group, a man who has devoted his life to teaching and education and employee development, has written around twenty books. The one that got my attention was titled Future Jobs, Solving the Employment Skills Crisis. He has written a series of papers on Job Shock, which we have published as blogs. He has pointed out something very significant to me. The First Industrial Revolution required reforms to the education system to create math and literacy. Prior to that we were hunters and gatherers and farmers. We are now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have the same need to reform education. We need stronger analytical skills; we need better communications skills and better critical thinking skills. 

That means teaching will have to change once again. 

Teaching will have to transition to something different. We have to continue fulfilling the traditional role of preparing children to be able to enter the workforce. However, we are also now facing the need to create an adult reeducation program. No longer will the skills we obtain before the age of twenty-five be sufficient for our typical career. Science and Technology and Computerization and Artificial Intelligence and other advances will make our skills obsolete. The education system will have to be able to provide updated skills so that people will continue to be employable. 

This creates a wonderful challenge for us all involved in helping people learn. 

Traditional education has had a teacher in the front of the room. What I have called the “sage on the stage.” This model requires physical plant, a school, with classrooms and teachers and in some models with a teacher’s aide. This is an expensive model. Further this model clearly doesn’t work with the world that we live in today. We should not leave any person behind in the world. That means that we cannot stay with the current model. We need to move to the internet to bring learning to a much broader audience. In different geographies, Africa and Asia, where we don’t have the infrastructure, we have no choice but to seek out alternatives. 

We have examples and models available to us today. For instance, we have a very accomplished scientist who teaches at MIT. His name is Eric Lauder. Dr. Lauder also happens to be an amazing teacher. And there are others around the world. Dr. Lauder teaches a class at MIT called “The Secret of Life.” He has cameras in his classroom that record the class. This class then is put up on the internet and is available to anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. The same curriculum, the same homework, the same everything. This is an example where you have a subject matter expert who is an exceptional teacher, available to the world. Imagine that. 

Our classes at Learning Without Scars are complicated. Most of us who started into training on the internet started with a slide show that is the foundation of any class that you are putting on with a group of people in the room with you as students. The transition is then to try and have audio tracks tied into the slides to portray the messages you would have just as if you were in a classroom. That is a typical internet-based class. We do it differently. 

We would like to believe that our structure is a complete class. Required reading that is followed with a quiz to prove that you understood the reading material. Each class is built as a series of videos consisting of slides, and audio tracks and film clips, complete with close captioning, wrapped up with a quiz at the end. We have five to ten segments in each class. The transition is easy to go from one segment to the next. Each student receives an email upon the completion of each segment. One class I completed recently had twenty emails. Then we have a final assessment for the class. You must achieve an 80% score on the final assessment to pass the class. Then we ask each student to complete a survey, to help us continue to improve our products, and finally the certificate of achievement. The certificate includes the number of CEU’s that are earned in the class and apply as academic classes in other schools. (Our CEUs apply to other schools; technical schools, Junior Colleges, State Universities and private Universities.) Our subject specific classes now “feel” like a school program, no longer an internet-based slideshow. 

This is part of what we foresee as the transition on education. The arrival of the internet as a learning platform. Of course, there will be many iterative changes, but we have to make higher quality learning available across the world to anyone who is interested not just those that can afford it.      

The Time is Now.

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Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox?

Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox?

In this, the second installment in our series on learning and education, our founder and managing member Ron Slee asks a fundamental question: Are Your Employees Assets OR simply Tools from a Toolbox? Your answer determines how you approach the education of your team members.

One of the common issues that I have had to deal with since I first arrived in this industry is the cost of payroll. Payroll has traditionally been measured as a percentage of sales. We have a payroll of $1,000,000 and Sales of $10,000,000 so we have an expense sales ratio of 10%. I have always believed that is the improper way to be looking at your employees. I believe that your employees are in almost all cases revenue generators The employees are also the ones who develop the relationship with your customers that improves customer retention and satisfaction. 

One thing that I have found quite interesting over the years, when talking with very smart, experienced people, executives in charge of parts and service is how they have viewed employees. Several of them have expressed surprise when we discuss head counts. One Executive Vice president of a large major brand equipment manufacturer told me that every time he hired a new employee for his parts business the sales revenue for parts increased. He expressed how surprised he was. My answer? Keep on hiring at the rate at which your business can absorb new employees until the sales do not go up.

Many of you are aware that I use a sales per employee metric that is based on three variables; the gross profit of parts, the compensation package for the parts department, and the average unit price for the parts sold. From this you can arrive at a specific standards dollar value for a parts department employee. Let’s use $750,000/parts person, excluding the management. We use that measure over a rolling twelve-month time period. I use a bracket around that standard, 80% as a floor and 120% as a ceiling. When we have three consecutive months below the 80% of standard level, we have to reduce the number of employees. When we have three consecutive months above 120% of the standard level, we have to increase the number of employees.      

Is there anything wrong with that approach?

The same thing is true with technicians as well as the teams that sell equipment, parts and service or rentals. There are dollar standards for all of these job functions. That is also true about the administrative job functions.

I still find it interesting how many of the leaders of businesses in most capital goods industries look at a high sales per employee as a positive thing, and I understand that very well. However, we can easily be misled with that approach. Nothing is ever that simple, is it? 

Yes, a high sales per employee number provides higher levels of profitability for the business. That is clearly one of the metrics that owners are concerned with for their business. However, there are other factors that cannot be overlooked. 

Over the past 50 years market share has decreased. For parts and service, it has gone down by over 50%. Is there a correlation that we should be concerned about here? I think so.

Looking back at the past forty years we have had a relatively stable situation with interest rates and inflation. We all became accustomed to the way we needed to operate the business. Of course, there some variations but they, for the most part they have been of a short duration. Then the pandemic hit and we were forced to adapt how the business operated.

From January 2020 as a starting point until the end of June 2022 both employees and employers were forced to rethink a lot of things. Office spacing, masks, vaccines, working from home and many other adjustments were made. Education had a very serious change forced upon it. Virtual learning became commonplace. The teachers and schools, the School Boards and Teachers Unions all were forced into serious changes. Caroline taught from home for over a year. The results determined from surveys of scores and grades are not very good. The learners in K-12 have lost in some states as much as a year in their learning results. As a society we will be paying a price for that loss of learning for decades.

Today as the employees and employers reevaluate their work and operating methods, we are noticing big, significant changes. In many cases positive ones. These changes would have taken place naturally anyway at some point. However, the changes this time were compressed over a very short period of time.

Now we are confronted with the question in the headline at the top of this blog. Do you view your employees as tools from a toolbox that you can deploy to satisfy a job function need OR are they assets that drive your business?

I think you know where I stand on that question. What about you?       

The Time is Now.

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Staffing Guidelines

Staffing Guidelines

Guest writer Bill Pyles brings us up to the current situation in his blog piece, “Staffing Guidelines.” After being discharged from the United States Marine Corps, Bill started a lifelong career in heavy equipment dealer product support. Starting as an apprentice technician, Bill worked his way up to the General Service Manager for a multi-state Cat dealer. Bill continued to serve in similar roles as General Manager of Product Support to VP of Service for multistate OEM dealers. Coming up thru the product support ranks gave Bill an invaluable education of customer relations, dealer product support and an understanding of the dealers most valuable resource, the product support team. After 47 years of service, Bill has taken on a new career with Mechanics and Techs LLC, a recruiting company for all Product Support employees as well as Product Support Managers. Bill is living in Florida with his wife Diana and golden retriever, Shelby. Bill & Diana spend their time with their two sons and five grandchildrenBill can be contacted at LinkedIn; or

As we come out of the pandemic and possibly slide into a recession, I’m sure there are dealers who need to ramp up staffing or consider a reduction in staff.  Today I’d like to share some ideas that worked for me during the good and bad times. During the good times, I’d get daily emails from stressed out service managers needing more techs, today, now. But something seemed out of place after looking at the facts. Facts do a good job of removing the emotional side of decision making. I’m being told we need techs, now, today, but the revenue recovery was very low, no overtime to speak of and some other locations are looking for work. 

I’ll focus mainly on technicians for this discussion of adding or reducing the workforce. It seems we’ve had tech shortage issues since the early 1990’s. During the dot-com boom, more and more talent ignored the trades, opting for the glamorous work of internet related jobs. You may remember even the U.S. Army started running recruiting ads showing soldiers launching computer-controlled missiles, running high tech equipment, staring knowingly into radar screens. No more dog faces covered in mud crawling in and out of fox holes!  Equipment dealers also had to dispel the myth that the mechanic’s (before they were technicians, notice the upgrade in the title) knuckles dragged the ground when they walked, and anything could be repaired with a sledgehammer and a torch! But dealers got it together, had great tech recruiting plans and business took off!  

Until the last horrible recession hit in 2008-2009 and many dealers were forced to reduce technician headcount. A very strange phenomena happened; after the recession eased up, all the techs that were laid off were nowhere to be found when business did pick back up. They likely went into other trades as tech recruitment became more of a full-time job at the dealership. It was no longer build a shop or hang out the hiring sign and they would come. The rules changed, wages accelerated, sign on bonuses where generously offered, the promise of a free set of basic tools were offered after so many days / months of employment and many other hiring incentives. 

Trying to forecast a technician reduction is like playing the stock market. Move too soon and you will lose good techs who may not come back when business picks up. Move too late, and your bottom line could take months to recover. I admit I erred on the later side as I wanted to do everything in the company’s power not to lose good techs. But the day would come when the difficult management decisions had to be made. Here are some guidelines I think can help.

Before pulling the reduction in staff trigger, I’d expect to see these items as facts. 

  • Revenue recovery to be 80% to 85% and trending upward.
    Overtime averaging at least 10% in the last three-month period.
  • No other locations have techs to transfer over to the location needing techs, now, today.
  • Labor sales per day are trending at 90% of your street labor rate. 
    • This is a technician efficiency cross check. 
    • Gives visibility to reducing labor rates to keep revenue hours up.
  • Operating profit at or above the forecast. 

My goal was to support the decision of adding techs, not just adding more cost if not required. Adding techs can add revenues. But if your shop is inefficient (not meeting the requirements above), adding techs will only add to your cost. No need to add techs if another location is slow. 

Look at the larger picture, not one location.

I created a short form (regarding the points above) for the person requesting the addition headcount. This forced the person making the request to review and know their numbers and or realize it’s maybe an efficiency issue, not a headcount issue.

Hopefully (by the way, hope is still not a strategy) we will not be crushed by another deep recession. But if the time comes, here are some ideas that worked for me to support a reduction in staffing.

  • Recovery rate below 70 and trending downward
  • 0% Overtime in last 3-month period trending downward
  • No other local stores we can take technicians for the short term
    Labor sales per tech per day 60% (what your daily break-even rate is) or lower, trending downward

Downsizing is tough under any conditions. You should be doing everything in your power to keep the techs you have trained and coached on board. Good techs will quickly be picked up by a contractor looking to get a dealer trained and experienced tech at a lesser cost. One possibility is to go to a 32-hour work week. This keeps all your techs working although working one day less a week. This option is worth talking over with all your techs, get their buy in and no one loses their job.

If the downturn is looking like a short term, get your techs caught up on their training. I know you will already have marketing promotions out looking for work. Get your service trucks cleaned up and finally get to all those items in the shop that need repaired. It’s an investment into your dealership or business. Remember it’s your job to keep the shops full. Hopefully the downturn is short and soon your hair will be on fire (again) when the work picks up and you’re back in the tech recruiting arena.

Here are some ideas regarding support staff or as I called it an admin to tech ratio.

Administrative is defined as a Service Manager, Shop Supervisor, Service Admin, Service Writer, any employee charged to the service department as 100% expense/nonrevenue generating.

I suggest a starting ratio of one (service manager or shop foreman) administrative position for the first five technicians. At five techs, one person will be getting stretched to perform all the service department admin functions, i.e., quotes, labor entry, work order maintenance, customer calls, closing work orders.

Once a sixth tech is hired or being recruited, we can consider a second admin person in addition to the SM or shop foreman. Two service admins should be able to manage an additional 4 techs up to a total of 10.

When an 11th tech is required, consider a third service admin. This will cover the admin ratio up to 15 techs.

At face value, this ratio may look a bit on the high side. But I’d disagree, especially if your service administrative employees are doing all the functions required to keep a service department running smoothly and not burning out the service manager or shop supervisor. I’ll not try to list all the daily functions within your service department (but I bet there are many), but I’d suggest getting out a pencil and make a list of administrative activities being performed daily. And don’t forget to add following up after the work has been completed to ensure 100% customer satisfaction, after all, these customers are the ones who can keep your shops working when the slow down comes!


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What Benefits Are YOU Going to Receive from Learning?

What Benefits Are YOU Going to Receive from Learning?

Founder and managing member Ron Slee invites readers to start their education in “What Benefits Are YOU Going to Receive from Learning?”

I think most of us can remember our regular school years. I know that I can remember mine very clearly. I have written about them here before, but today I wanted to bring YOU back into learning and explore the differences time and technology have made for us.

Those of you who know the Learning Without Scars story know that we began our employee development in traditional, in-person classrooms when we were still organized as Quest Learning Centers. We adopted the webinar format in order to make education more accessible, and then adopted the asynchronous, online classroom. I like to point out that we did this long before the pandemic began, so we were early adopters.

Most adults I speak to have had a negative experience with education. After all, if you think about it, Kindergarten through Grade 12 education doesn’t give you, the student, very much in the way of choice. By the time we establish ourselves in our profession, we have the added pressure of expectation. We are expected to know what we are doing, all of the ins and outs, in many cases without a great deal of training.

Education has changed dramatically. As educators, we have a lot more research on how to deliver learning to improve results. Lecture times and quizzes and other devices to improve learning and retention have seen changes recently. Technology has helped tremendously as the students in the lecture halls have cellular phones or tablets or laptops with them. The professors and teachers can post a quiz question on the screen or white board and get instant feedback from the students on whether or not they are “getting” it. 

My daughter Caroline has a Master of Education Degree. I taught people how to teach at university for six years. We have a little experience in the world of teaching, in addition to having front row seats to all of the changes in education over decades. We started the search to find a good source, widely respected and international to provide some level of certification. Caroline found the International Association of Continuing Education and Training – IACET. She then put together the application for Learning Without Scars to become an Approved Provider. This allowed us to provide Continuous Education Units – CEUs to our successful students. CEUs are education credits that are applicable to qualified institutions from technical schools, junior colleges and universities world- wide. It was quite a journey and serious challenge to satisfy all of the IACET requirements. In November 2021 we became the only Approved Supplier in the Construction Equipment Industry World-Wide to have this accreditation. We are very pleased with that.   

Albert Einstein once said, “When you stop learning, you start dying.”

I’m pretty sure that isn’t an outcome we want, is it? My hope is to shift your thinking about learning. My goal as a teacher has always been to help students to identify and access their potential. My role is to facilitate YOUR growth and help you to reach YOUR goals.

We built our Learning: On Demand courses to bring the classroom to you and remove the hoops many adult learners have to jump through in order to incorporate classes or training into their already busy schedules.

So, as we start this new series of posts on the subject of education and learning, I have a series of questions for you to ask of yourself. It’s just a simple way of taking stock, in order to better plan for what you want to be learning.

  1. What is your current role?
  2. What are your likes and dislikes about it?
  3. Where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?
  4. What would help you to be successful in reaching your goals?

Learning is simply a way for you to unlock your potential, and the opportunities that come from growing and developing your skills and knowledge.

The time is now.

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It Is Time to Fail Faster

It Is Time to Fail Faster

Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee shares words of wisdom he heard recently in today’s blog post: It Is Time to Fail Faster.

I never thought that I would call for “failing faster” in my life. Imagine failure? Of course, if we think about this, a moment’s failure is important to anyone who is interested in getting better at how they do things. 

I was given this “line” by Stephanie Smith, Vice President of Marketing from Newman Tractor on a recent Podcast with Mets Kramer. We were talking about Marketing and the Digital Dealership and how fast change was happening. Stephanie calmly stated that we have to learn how to fail faster. I stopped her and asked her to repeat it. I found it to be so profound. Days later, to me it is still a very profound observation.

I was in school in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was a very basic education. Nothing particularly fancy. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. My Mother was a teacher, she was the Vice Principal at the grade school I attended. She chose all my teachers. I couldn’t get away with anything. My Grandmother was a teacher in the proverbial one room schoolhouse. She got a Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in the early 1900s. One year I was doing miserably in Geometry and Latin. I hated studying so I refused to memorize. I either understood it or I felt it was not that important. My Grandmother took over my schooling on the weekends. I spent several months with her every weekend. The first semester I got 38% in both Geometry and Latin. That was unacceptable to Granny. By the final report card, I averaged 78% for the year. I had no choice but to stop failing. I was “taught” a very important lesson that year. It wasn’t “don’t mess with Granny.” No, it was “apply yourself or there will be a consequence.” Did I ever learn! That, plus my experiences in the swimming pool as a competitive swimmer, made me who I became.

That led me to my favorite question: “Why?” It seems from a very young age I was always asking why. Perhaps every child does. But that meant I would try things. That was when I started experiencing failure. I remember one instance when I was doing some work in the warehouse at the Caterpillar dealership in Montreal. I think we were moving parts around trying to make more space. Bob Hewitt, the dealer principal, came out to the warehouse and put his arm around my shoulders. I was surprised. Here I was in a sweat shirt and jeans working and dirty in the warehouse. He was in a three-piece suit looking very elegant. He looks me in the eye and says “I am really disappointed in you.” Even in those early years I was rarely at a loss for words. I quickly responded “me too. Why are you disappointed?” I looked up at him and I could see his face start to twitch. He said “when you are finished come see me in my office.” The thing he was disappointed in was that the roads to a remote branch were closed for the winter and I had placed a stock order that wasn’t going to get there. I hadn’t planned for an early snowfall. I told him if I would have known that snowfall was coming, could have predicted that, I would be working somewhere else. True story.

I have made an unbelievable number of mistakes over the course of my lifetime. They continue even today. The trick with mistakes from my perspective is very simple. You are going to make mistakes, that is clear, identify the mistakes as quickly as you can and make adjustments, corrections, fix it. Fast. Today with the rate of change in society, in technology, in telecommunications, in fact in nearly every aspect of our lives is dramatic. Change is coming at us so fast it is impossible to keep up. At least that is true for me.

When Stephanie made the comment, we have to “fail faster” I was amazed. It was so appropriate. It was profound to me. It was an “aha” moment. It forced me to think about things again in a new way. I needed to pick up my pace and make more changes more quickly. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Don’t worry about failure. That is going to be a consequence of doing more things. Mistakes and failures are also a part of the process of learning. You just have to recognize when things don’t work and make adjustments. Make corrections. Everything will continue to be alright. No one is going to shoot me. At least, not for making a mistake. 

Thank you, Stephanie.    

The Time is Now.

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How Do We Find Our Individual Potential?

How do we find our individual potential? 

As many of you know, the primary purpose of our Learning Without Scars business is to help people find their personal potential. That confuses a lot of people. Most of us don’t have any idea of our potential. Early on in civilization it was quite basic and very simple – to have the strength to be able to find and get food. We were hunters and gatherers. If we couldn’t find food, we died. Simple, right?

Today it is much more complicated. Governments are determined not to have people die from lack of food. We have many social programs to ensure that people will have access to the basic requirements of life. Even in these advanced times, we have many who choose to stay off the grid for one reason or another.

In the United States in 2020, about 18% of the population was under 15 years old; 65% from 15 years old to 64 years old; and 17% over 65 years old. I believe that understanding our potential changes with our age. It varies as we get older. One of the definitions of potential causes me some difficulty. It is the “possibility of becoming something more.” Isn’t that always the case? Aren’t we constantly learning things? Another definition is “coming to self-realization that there is more to our lives.” This definition gets rather personal for me. One day, while my father was still alive, we were having a glass of “brown water” and solving the problems of the world, he paused and looked at me and said “I don’t understand you. You are never satisfied.” I responded quickly with the blithe comment “well there is always more, isn’t there?”

And that becomes the challenge of potential. There is always something more.

One of my grandchildren is in High School and we were talking about what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I don’t know.” It is a terrific answer for someone in High School today. There are so many choices available to us. There are the sciences and the fantastic developments being made within them. The arts and the various media – sculpture and painting – as well various methods to express ourselves visually. Music and literature and drama. Fashion and Makeup. I might add that many of the early school years tend to “stifle” creativity not “encourage” it. How do you start in finding this something “more?”

Well, how about starting with those things that do not turn you on? These are the things that you don’t like to do. In 1998 Sir Ken Robinson led a commission created by the government in the UK – “Commission on creativity, education and the economy.” It turns out he was highly critical of the education system under which he was taught. He regretted the fact that neither the primary school, secondary school nor college enabled people to develop their talents and discover what they really wanted to devote themselves to in their lives. Doesn’t that condition still exist where you live? Where you went to school, or your children and grandchildren are going to school? Where are we supposed to find this magic “thing” to which we want to devote our lives?          

This is a difficult undertaking, isn’t it? This pursuit of our potential. How about we look at the other side of the question. What don’t we want to do? What aren’t we very good at in our lives? Sometimes that is easier to identify.

  1. What was something you disliked studying?
  2. What were some jobs you hated?
  3. What are some of the household chores you really don’t like doing?

Isn’t there anything common in the items above? 

  1. Are they some activities you do alone or without somebody else?
  2. Does someone tell you to do these tasks or does it depend only on you?
  3. Do the activities need something physical or intellectual?

Now let’s make another list.

Write down everything you like or liked to do in the areas below: 

  1. School or Education
  2. Jobs
  3. Everyday tasks

Now find the common denominator in these items.

Have you stopped any of these activities you enjoyed? 

  1. Why?
  2. Can you recover it and start it again?

Now let’s rank the things you liked to do.

  1. What is in first place?
  2. Can you make it more prominent in your life?

Some things should now be standing out. Things should be clearer.

Now comes a big question. I think it will have become clearer to you. You know better now some of the things you want to do. So, let’s ask that magic question? What have you always wanted to do but were afraid to start doing it? Do you think it is time to start doing it? That is the beginning of your potential. The possibility of becoming something more. Are you ready to get started?

The Time is Now.

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A Special Announcement from the NTDA

A Special Announcement from the NTDA

The National Trailer Dealer Association (NTDA) offers resources to their members across North America. Established in 1990, NTDA has strengthened the voice of independent semi-trailer dealers within the trailer industry. This week, they have shared a special announcement on their website:

NTDA Announces Partnership with Learning Without Scars to Provide Online Parts, Service, Sales Training

The National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) Board of Directors voted at its April 11, 2022 meeting to partner with Learning Without Scars (LWS) to provide online parts, service, sales and marketing training for members. LWS is accredited by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training.


The NTDA will work with LWS  to  develop  trailer-specific  content for members in the future. The site,, provides comprehensive online learning programs for dealer employees starting with individualized skills assessments. The assessments allow the Learning Without Scars staff to create a personalized employee development program.

Based on assessed skills, the employee is  asked  to  select  from  classes designed for their  skill  level,  allowing  them  to  address  gaps in their knowledge level. This allows  employees  to  move  through  four progressive categories of learning: Developing, Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Classes are designed to offer both employees and employers something that matters: continuous improvement to the benefit of each. Too often, we hear employees talk about wanting to have a career path, but not being sure where they fit in their profession. Learning on-demand classes build and develop the professional skills an individual needs to continue to grow and make progress with your company and your industry.

Managers/supervisors have access to employee skills assessments and employee training scores. There are 108 online classes available in 12 languages. Online assessments and courses are available for $125 per each.


Courses can be taken on a PC, a Mac, a tablet, or a smartphone. A student requires an Internet connection to access all course materials. Supplemental reading for each class is available as a .pdf, so a .pdf reader such as Acrobat is recommended any device on which students are taking courses. Students will need access to speakers for video clips and audio tracks (these are optional).

Classes are categorized by department,  job  function,  and  skill  level to ensure employees are able to target the right skills. Learning on- demand programs cover Parts, Service, as well as Selling and Marketing of Product Support.

NTDA Members can sign up for LWS’ free e-newsletter at https://, or take advantage of free blogs, podcasts, and audio learning opportunities.

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