When running a business, a good idea can come from the unlikeliest of sources. Andy Savva discusses the advantages of letting employees have a voice when making the big decisions.
Andy Savva is a former multiple independent garage owner who boasts over 30 years’ experience in the automotive repair sector. In every issue of PMM he’ll be sharing his advice with workshop owners who want to improve their business’ bottom line, but simply don’t know how to go about it.
If you are ever in a position to expand your business, should you take full control or let your employees have a voice? This is not as straightforward as the question may suggest. Let me explain.
In most garage businesses that I’ve encountered, it’s very rare to find an established culture where employees are encouraged to give feedback and produce ideas, let alone take charge of a new business opportunity that an owner may have recognised.
Let’s for a moment imagine you’ve decided to allow your team to take control. As with any new business idea, funding is required, so would you seek financial assistance from your people? Why wouldn’t you? After all they are the ones who are going to drive this business opportunity forward.
Well, here is where conflict may arise. Most employees are not in a financial situation to invest, and if they were, how much and what return will they seek? Or how much stake will the current owner be willing to give away? Do they have the necessary business skills needed for the project to succeed? There will almost certainly be a barrier from others and a lack of employee enthusiasm. These differences and expectations between stakeholders can create a split between the whole team. It’s natural for individuals to have different assumptions and beliefs.
For a garage business to be successful, it’s my view that, whatever the scale, it must have a strategy in place where all employees are encouraged to provide feedback and ideas.
It’s important to encourage a forum of dialogue and, at Brunswick Garage, this was communicated at interview stage to prospective new starters and then constantly communicated with all staff throughout the year. This enabled staff to influence events at work and create a sense of collectiveness. It was important for me to communicate this effectively in order to gain meaningful input and ideas. Everyone in my organisation was aware of our business and financial performance, marketing plans, tool and equipment needs, charity involvement, and of course, challenges facing us in the automotive aftermarket.
The advantages of developing employee voice
■ You will be more aware of what’s going on in your business
■ Increases employee engagement
■ Encourages effective decision making and drives innovation
■ Helps employees feel that their opinions are valued
■ Encourages employee retention
Criteria used to help evaluate employee ideas
■ Cost reduction
■ Generating business income
■ Increasing market share
■ Improving customer service or relations
■ Improving the working environment or work/life balance
■ Enhancing the reputation of the business
■ Improving decision making or reducing risk
The relationship between my staff and successful strategies was integral to the success of Brunswick Garage. Creating an environment where employees strived to achieve success was crucial for me and a central part to their involvement in our strategy.