Auto Detailing - July 2010

Post CCWE — Implementing Ideas
By Prentice St. Clair

By the printing of this article, many of you may have attended the 2010 Car Care World Expo (CCWE), which took place May 12-14 in Las Vegas. Moreover, hopefully many of you attended the seminars and events sponsored by the International Detailing Association. (If you did not, please stay in tune at the website www.the-ida.com for upcoming events.)

For most of us, attending a convention and expo like CCWE is a welcome break from the mundane daily duties of our detailing operations back home. It can offer a “shot of adrenalin” to help us get out of our ruts. That shot yields enthusiasm and excitement in the form of new ideas from attended educational seminars as well as the tidbits gleaned from fellow operators. We return home with a mental list of cool ideas to try and improvements to make.

Unfortunately for many of us, myself included, we return home only to get caught up in all of the normal operational concerns, including making up for the time away. The point of this month’s column is to encourage those of you who are still filled with some excitement to take steps to act on the ideas that you heard in Vegas.

START WITH COMMITMENT

The first thing we need to do is to make a commitment to implement some of the ideas that we learned at CCWE. Typically, the implementation of new ideas takes extra time, which is especially unavailable during the detailer’s peak season of summertime. So you will have to carve out some time in your schedule to make it happen.

You will need time alone, away from distractions like phone calls, e-mails, and operational issues. If your day is hectic, you may have to do this in the evening, or perhaps come into the office an hour or so early (with a big cup of coffee), and sit down at your desk in the peacefulness of the pre-rush morning hours to start your journey.

How much time you need depends on how much you want to accomplish and how fast you want to accomplish it. For most people, this probably involves one-to-two hours a week, and I recommend that you take care to not overwhelm yourself with this process, or you’ll end up frustrated, give up, and do nothing. Better to take it slow and steady with “baby steps” than to overload.

REVIEW YOUR NOTES

Once you have made the commitment and found some time, the first couple of hours will be spent reviewing the information that you got from CCWE. Start by taking out your notes from the events. I like to bring a fresh, new spiral-bound notebook to each convention that I attend. I take down notes from the educational sessions, names and phone numbers of contacts, as well as any ideas that pop into my head during the time away from the grind.

Now, go through your notes with a highlighter and a pen that has an ink color that stands out (e.g., red) from the one you used to take notes. Highlight the important points or things that suggest the taking of some action. Also, write in additional notes as your memory is refreshed. This will help “fill in the blanks” of the notes you already wrote. Do the same thing with any presentation handouts that you might have collected.

Next, take out the folder of brochures and the stack of business cards that you no doubt collected while walking around the trade show floor. I learned a great trick from early business education — when someone hands you a card, write down the date on the back and jot a few key words that will help you remember what your conversation yielded with that person. Then, when you get back home, you have an instant memory refresher that tells you what action to take for each card you collected.

As you go through your notes, handouts, brochures, and business cards, you may want to have a second sheet of paper — a blank computer document or another page in the same notebook — to start creating a list of tasks or action items.

MAKE A “TO DO” LIST

By the time you review all of this material from the convention, you should have a pretty good idea of the action items and projects that you would like to accomplish. If you have not already done so, make a clean “To Do” list. Some of the types of list entries you might have include:

  • Investigate website improvements (idea from seminar on “21st Century Marketing Techniques”).
  • Call Joe at ABC chemical company to compare pricing with current supplier (from business card).
  • Purchase steam machine (several fellow detailers recommended and saw demonstration on trade show floor).
  • Check all bottles for proper labeling (task recommended in seminar on OSHA compliance).

Now the above list is rather short —hopefully you ended up with all kinds of ideas and things to do. In fact, a common problem is that we overload ourselves with such a big list that it is overwhelming to look at and we end up doing nothing. To avoid this problem, it is important to prioritize the list so that you can pick which items will get done first.

You may choose a prioritization scheme that works for you. One suggestion is the A-B-C rating system, in which items rated as “A” must get done and as soon as possible; items rated as “B” should get done, but only after the “As” are completed; and items rated as “C” are the least important and can be accomplished if time permits. Using the above list example, it might go something like this:

  • Check bottle labeling — rated “A” because you realize that you are not in compliance with the law, this is a simple thing to do, and the technicians have made mistakes in the recent past by picking up the wrong bottle.
  • Purchase steam machine — rated “A” because you have been reading about this technology for a year and finally saw it in action at the show and you realize it is going to save you time on your detailing process.
  • Investigate website improvements — rated “B” because you realize it is needed and important but not urgent because you have enough work right now.
  • Check ABC chemical company prices — rated “C” because you are happy with your current chemical supplier, but if there is time, it would be nice to see about saving some money on chemical costs down the line.

Another simple way to prioritize is to number the items in the order that you want to accomplish them. Again, using the above list as an example starting point, it may be prioritized like this:

  1. Check bottle labeling.
  2. Purchase steam machine.
  3. Investigate website improvements.
  4. Check ABC chemical company prices.

I think you can see that there is a large difference in between the first list, which sort-of randomly notes some things to do, and the prioritized lists, which offer you a clear picture of the order in which the items should be accomplished.

CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION

Now some of the items on your list might be quite simple, being composed of a single action, such as “call Elaine at ABC Equipment and request a catalog.” Others might be quite complex, such as the “website improvement” item above. In the case of the more complex items, it may be necessary to start a separate page with that item at the top and then create a list of tasks that each need to be individually accomplished in order to complete that item.

For example, investigating website improvement might include several action items:

  • Call Robert to see how his company can help us revise our website (business card from one of the seminar presenters who spoke on the subject).
  • Check our ratings on the online search engines (suggested at a seminar).
  • Review our current website content for possible revision (its been three years since you did so and all the “buzz” at the convention was about the importance of websites).
  • Call trusted business contacts to find a recommendation for a local web designer.

As we did with the overall list, it is probably wise to prioritize the list of action items so that they can be accomplished in an appropriate order.

STAY THE COURSE

Now, after a couple of sessions (a “notes review session” and a “to-do list creation session”), you should have a fairly clear picture of the things that you would like to accomplish as a result of ideas picked up at the convention. Moreover, you should have a clear action plan to accomplish each of those items.

I recommend setting up a time (or times) each week in your schedule — writing it into the schedule just like any other appointment — that you dedicate yourself to knocking off the action items on your list. If you are consistent with this and stay the course, you will find that after only a few short weeks or months, you have completed most or all of the items that you initially listed.

As such, you will have successfully implemented the ideas as opposed to letting them continue to bounce around in your head until they fade away.

SUMMARY

It’s great to go to conventions and get all juiced up about how to improve our businesses. It’s even better when you can return home and actually implement some of the ideas that you obtained from the convention. You can do so by creating and prioritizing a master list of projects and then creating a list of action items for each project. Then set aside a bit of time each week to check off some of those action items until most or all of your master list is actually implemented.

Prentice St. Clair is president of Detail in Progress, a San Diego-based automotive reconditioning consulting firm. To contact him, e-mail Prentice@DetailinProgress.com or call (619) 701-1100.

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