You in Your Schedule: Taking Care
of You is Taking Care of Business
Prentice St. Clair
Does this scenario sound familiar? It's Friday evening and you
just got home after finishing your last detail of an over-booked
day. Actually, this is just the last day of an over-booked week.
You've hardly had time to breathe, much less take a moment to eat
lunch during the day. Your schedule has forced you to make these
kinds of decisions: "Just grab another doughnut and a cola
and keep going. Never mind that twinge in your lower back - you
can rest on the weekend. Forget the goggles - got to get this engine
detail done before 1:00!"
All of us have been in this type of situation at one time or another.
Some of us operate like this all of the time. That is, we get so
we put our commitments to the customer above our commitment to our
personal safety. Isn't it great to have such a packed schedule that
you don't have time for anything else? Should that packed schedule
be at the expense of your own body?
PUTTING "YOU" IN YOUR SCHEDULE
I have always been a strong proponent of focusing on the customer's
needs. However, this should never be done to the detriment of the
detail technician's health. If you are so busy that you cannot or
will not take time to do the common sense things that help prevent
acute and cumulative injuries, you need to re-examine your priorities
and your schedule. You are not helping your customers if you become
sick or injured due to a disregard for personal safety.
Unfortunately, your chances of injury increase the more you ignore
yourself. You may think, "I don't have time for stretching
or putting on safety equipment because I'm too busy making money."
However, if you don't take the time for these preventative measures,
you may end up spending more non-productive time laid up with an
injury. Additionally, you may not be doing your work as efficiently
as you could. Your body is (or should be) the most important piece
of equipment that you have. Think about it - the buffers won't work
by themselves, will they
What I'm getting at is that, in addition to attending to the customer's
requirements, the other way that you can best serve the customer
is to take care of yourself first. Simple preventative measures
like consistent use of safety equipment and regular care for your
body can go a long way to preventing the downtime and inefficiency
of work-related injury. This type of approach to your business requires
a commitment to yourself which, if applied in a balanced fashion,
ends up being a tremendous benefit to your business and your customers.
This commitment to yourself may require adjustments to your schedule.
We often forget to put ourselves into our schedule. Does your schedule
include a written-in 15-minute period at the beginning and end of
each day for stretching? Does your schedule include a written-in
exercise session several times a week? How about a regular therapeutic
massage or chiropractic appointment?
Now, if you're response to these questions is something like, "Yeah,
that's all great, but I gotta pay my bills!" then maybe it's
time to take a serious look at your pricing structure. I find that
most detail shops are not charging what the market will bear in
their area. If you raise your prices up to what the market will
bear, you instantly create more time because you can now work less
hours per week and make the same amount or even more than you currently
do, thus creating time to "take care of yourself."
The most common fear of raising prices is "customers won't
like it." Actually, if you give your regular customers a 30-day
written notice with a tactful, respectful, and logical explanation
(e.g., the price of operating your business continues to go up,
you haven't raised prices in X number of years, you are adding new
(small) extras into your packages, etc.), you will find that the
majority of them understand and accept your new, higher rates. The
customers that don't accept rate increases are usually the cheap
ones that shop for lowest price instead of the best value in town.
You will find it a blessing that these customers weed themselves
out from your customer base.
A MESSAGE FOR EMPLOYERS
If you are an employer or manager of detail technicians, part
of your responsibility to the operation is to make sure that your
employees take care of themselves. The United States Occupational
Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide
workers with adequate protective and safety equipment as well as
education about hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. (It's
unfortunate that we have to have legislation that forces people
to watch out for other people - shouldn't it be a natural inclination
that drives an employer to want to keep employees out of harm's
way?) Ignoring this responsibility is like ignoring frayed, bare
wires on a buffer, only worse; you are dealing with a human being,
not a machine that can be replaced.
Yes, employers should make sure that their detail technicians are
wearing the mandated safety equipment like goggles and gloves. Employers
should also encourage the use of the optional equipment as well.
Things like kneepads, roll chairs, and hats may not be required
by OSHA, but will make the job more comfortable for the detail technician,
thus helping to reduce the possibility of cumulative injury while
increasing the efficiency of the technician. Think about it for
a moment - don't you get more done when you are not straining or
fighting discomfort? If nothing else, consider this approach as
a way to increase the profitability of your operation. That is,
take care of your employees and encourage them to take care of themselves
so that they can operate more efficiently and with less downtime
so that more work gets done so that more money is made!
YOUR COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF
Your commitment to yourself can be categorized into three areas:
injury prevention equipment, personal comfort equipment, and preventive
maintenance activities for the body. Your commitment to yourself
will allow you to work more efficiently and comfortably. Moreover,
your customers will notice your commitment to personal safety. During
my years as a full-time operator, it was not uncommon for a passer-by
or customer to comment, "It's really smart that you wear all
that stuff" or "You take your work seriously" as
I worked with a hat, safety glasses, apron, and kneepads.
Injury Prevention Equipment
Injury prevention equipment is the stuff that everyone should
be using. Protect your eyes from the potential of splashing chemicals
through the use of safety glasses or goggles. Similarly, protect
your hands by using gloves. Not only will you prevent cracked, chapped
skin, but you will reduce the amount of absorption of chemicals
through the skin - even chemicals that are relatively harmless during
occasional use can accumulate in the body as a result of being absorbed
through the skin. Disposable gloves are fine for most jobs. Use
the special chemical-resistant gloves for heavier jobs.
Protect your knees and back from excessive bending and stooping
through the use of rolling chairs. Your knees may not feel bad when
you occasionally kneel down on them, but think of the cumulative
effect of years of "standing" on your unprotected knees.
Instead, protect your knees through consistent use of kneepads.
Consider using hearing protection while using noisy equipment like
hot-water extractors and polishing equipment. These machines may
not be loud enough to cause immediate discomfort, but the cumulative
effect of listening to them all day long can actually cause physical
fatigue, not to mention permanent hearing damage.
Personal Comfort Equipment
Personal comfort equipment is not as critical as injury prevention
equipment but should be considered just as important in the prevention
of injury and fatigue. Protect your feet and back through the use
of high-quality work shoes. Protect your clothes and body from chemical
splashes through the use of aprons. Protect your skin from the damaging
effects of the sun through the use of a hat, sunscreen, and if appropriate,
a shade canopy. Long exposure to direct sunlight and heat can cause
I consider water to be a piece of "personal comfort equipment."
Studies consistently show that
Americans tend to be at least slightly dehydrated because we don't
drink enough water during the day. Many people choose beverages
like soda and coffee instead of what the body really needs - water.
Water, like oil or coolant in an engine, will help your body run
more efficiently during the day.
Preventative Maintenance Activities
There are a number of things that you can do to help prevent
injury and discomfort by taking care of your body. The most simple
and inexpensive thing that you can do is stretch before, during,
and at the end of the workday. Stretching at the beginning of the
day prepares your muscles and other soft tissue for the physical
work ahead. Stretching during the day (e.g., between jobs) helps
remove "kinks" that develop as you work. Stretching at
the end of the day ensures that those "kinks" don't go
home with you.
Another low-cost method to help prevent injury is regular exercise.
A balanced combination of aerobic and strength-building exercises
will not only help your body work better but help you feel better
in general. It doesn't have to be an extensive, intensive "training"
program - just do something that gets your body moving, like swimming,
jogging, cycling. A simple 10-minute brisk walk at the beginning
of each day will do wonders!
I recommend seriously considering regular use of the healing arts
and preventive therapeutic techniques. This requires a bit of money
but it should be considered an investment in your health, not just
an expense. For example, regular (once-a-month to once-a-week) therapeutic
massage will help work out the adhesions that build up in your muscles
and other soft tissues. These adhesions can lead to reduced flexibility
and injury if allowed to go too far.
Chiropractic treatment will help in the alignment of the spine
and joints so that the body can move freely. Misalignment puts strain
on the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. I spent two years
suffering through chronic lower back pain while working. Then, a
retired orthopedic surgeon suggested that I see a licensed chiropractor,
who, after a few short sessions, eliminated the pain. Now, an occasional
adjustment is all I need to keep my back happy. Not everyone finds
relief through chiropractic procedures, but it's a great place to
start and requires substantially less financial and time commitment
than traditional medical arts.
And, of course, there are a number of other great healing arts
that can be used. Yoga is perhaps the best stretching and strength-building
exercise combination on the planet. Acupuncture and acupressure
techniques can be effective at reducing acute physical discomforts.
Does this stuff sound goofy? If so, you might consider examining
the types of therapies typically used and embraced by most of your
favorite sports stars. Guaranteed -- any sports figure you can name
uses, on a regular basis, virtually all of the therapeutic techniques
I just described. For the sports star, the body is the moneymaking
tool. Isn't it ultimately the same for us? Shouldn't we then make
the same type of commitment to the health of our bodies?
As you make your commitments - to operate a first-class detailing
business, to create satisfied customers, etc. - make a commitment
to yourself as well. Use your safety and ergonomic devices to help
reduce injury and fatigue. Put you back in your schedule so that
you can engage in preventative activities that also help reduce
injury and fatigue. If you take care of your body, which is the
most important tool in your shop, you will increase your efficiency
and reduce the
possibility of downtime due to injury, thus increasing your profitability.
Prentice St. Clair owns and operates Detail in Progress, an automotive
reconditioning brokerage and consulting firm. He is the author of
several training videos and also is the lead trainer at Rightlook.com
in San Diego, CA. He is available for questions or comments at (619)