Why You Should Hold Staff Meeting at Your Shop

Nov 14, 2012

Taking time throughout the week to catch up with your staff can improve productivity and customer service, and help your shop reach its goals. Here, six shop owners and one expert share why staff meetings are vital to a shop’s success.

When Joey Steckler was struggling with some issues at his shop when he found the solution in an unlikely place-a reality TV show.

“I was watching…a biker build-off show and the guy was holding a morning meeting with his key people and I thought, ‘There’s my idea,'” the owner of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based Joey’s Place said.

“I was struggling; I had a senior guy who wanted to show up fashionably late and a painter who liked to do the same.”

Having meetings each morning at 8 a.m. has cured the lateness issue.

“It’s mandatory,” Steckler said. “It makes everybody have their timecard punched at 8 in the morning, otherwise it’s really easy to sneak in three or four or five minutes later, but when everybody’s standing there, you don’t get to do it too often.”

Shop owners like Steckler who institute regularly scheduled staff meetings have discovered multiple benefits, such as improved communication and stronger customer service.

Regardless of the motives and rewards, the important thing is that they have the meetings, according to Dan Stockdale, CEO of Adventures in Leadership, a Harriman, Tennessee-based management-consulting firm.

“[Having regular staff meetings] is critical, even in a small operation,” he said. “The breakdown in communication is the biggest issue that prevents smaller businesses from growing, so it’s vital, regardless of the size of the company.”

Stockdale recommends companies hold daily staff meetings.

“I’ve seen some organizations that do weekly staff meetings or monthly or quarterly staff meetings, and my personal opinion is that’s way too long of a timeframe,” he said. “The only way you’re going to have consistent, methodical growth and make sure that you’re consistently day in and day out providing the type of service your customers expect, creating the customer experience that your customers expect to have and mak[ing] sure that your employees’ needs are being met and taken care of as well is to [hold meetings] on a daily basis.”

Steckler’s meetings last about five minutes, during which he discusses current projects and what stages they’ll go through that day.

“It gives everyone a sense, I think, of how we all have to work together because in a restoration shop or a specialty shop, no one person, at least in my business, is doing everything,” he said. “I have two buildings, one of the buildings has three departments, so you have a prep department, you have a fabricating department and you have an assembling department, and they all have to work together but sometimes not in the same area, so this is the way we all communicate.”

Ray Younkin, owner of Stripmasters in Milton, Florida, also hosts daily staff meetings.

“We generally have a quick meeting every morning, about a half-hour just to go over anything that came up late in the day the day before that needs to be addressed and figure out the plan for the day,” he said. “I get a lot of e-mails at night from customers and if something changes or if something has to be changed on a car, we just get together for the first half-hour every morning.”

Having these meetings keeps everyone at Stripmasters informed on what’s going on with shop’s various projects, which could number as high as 15 at a time.

“It keeps the workers informed of what the changes are in projects and if there are changes to be made, they know it so when they’re doing their part of the project, there’s no guesswork,” he said. “It keeps the workers informed…it keeps everybody on the same page of the projects and what’s going on and tends to make for a smoother operation, that way there is no second-guessing on anything.”

The Monday morning staff meetings Ross Smith hosts at In-Gear Inc., the Douglas, Massachusetts-based shop he runs with his wife, a full-time employee and an intern, also cover project statuses.

“My wife [has] a dry-erase board and she [lists] all the jobs that are in the shop for that particular week, [and] tries to divide them up per day, what we need to do per day on the board,” he said. “Hopefully, if things go right, you can follow it, but at least it gives you that path of what needs to be done and when.”

Smith has found these meetings help unify his team on projects.

“It’s a big bonus as far as everybody [being] on the same playing field, everybody knows what needs to be done, what jobs are urgent, which ones aren’t,” he said. “That way there are no real excuses, [like] ‘I didn’t know that job was leaving on Wednesday,’ because it’s all out in the open.”

In addition to discussing current projects, the weekly meetings at Classic Nova & Performance in Ashland, Oregon, cover inventory, new product lines and events.

“If we’ve got work in the shop that’s going to be leaving that week, we’ll go over that, inventory parts orders, parts that we need to make sure we get from manufacturers, it can be possibly a new product that I want to look at and evaluate,” said Walter Anders, owner. “We travel to about nine shows a year and so when we start getting closer to the show, we need to address where our inventory that we take with us is,  and make sure we can get it ordered and have it in time to get it in the trailer before we leave for a show.”

Like Younkin, Anders also shares any updates or changes he gets from customer phone calls and e-mails in these meetings.

“I’ll go through phone messages or e-mails that came in over the weekend. That kind of gives you some of the things you have to deal with for that week,” he said. “Then we can discuss that and work it into the stuff we already knew we had to do for the week.”

Having weekly staff meetings has helped improve work quality at The Hot Rod Barn in Morris, Illinois, according to owner Bernie Myers.

“Since we’ve started [having weekly staff meetings] there’s been a definite benefit seen in the business as far as there’s been [fewer] mistakes, less doing the job twice, there’s been [fewer[ instances when we’re doing something on a car we shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “I think opening up that communication at the beginning of the week has helped all the jobs go so much smoother.”

Myers has noticed a particular benefit when it comes to large jobs.

“It’s really important for everybody to be focused in on the same vision,” he said. “If you’re doing a little job that’s here for just a couple of days, that’s not really that big of an issue, but when you’re heavily involved in doing a major build from the frame-up or a frame-off restoration where the car is here for some time, you can really save yourself some steps and a lot of labor hours by just making sure that everybody has the same direction that the customer has.”

Holding weekly staff meetings has helped strengthen relations between customers and employees at Alternative Restoration in Calgary, Alberta, Canada,  in addition to multiple other benefits, according to owner Byron Valcourt.

“The morale is the number-one boost. [The employees] come in earlier, they overall work harder, they tend to be more involved in the projects,” he said. “They want to chat with the customers when they come in the door, whereas in the past I noticed the employees would be a little more isolated and they would treat it more as just a job, now they seem to take a little more personal interest and feel like they’re [a bigger] part of the business.”

Valcourt hosts hour-long meetings Fridays at lunch where he and his employees discuss projects, shop maintenance, equipment and any concerns.

“We give [each employee] a few minutes to address any of their issues or even tell us that they had a good week and that there are no issues,” he said. “We jot notes down and if there’s one particular issue that crops up, then we’ll talk about it more just to see if we can come up with a solution for it.”

Giving employees time to discuss any issues or concerns on a weekly basis prevents these problems from growing, according to Valcourt.

“Because we do it in a week period, things don’t sit for very long so nobody feels like they’re stewing over an issue that they’d like to have attended to,” he said. “We find the one-week period seems to clear up anything that’s ongoing and we get to move forward.”

Whether a platform for discussing projects, customer issues or employee concerns, staff meetings are a great way to keep your shop on the right track.

“There’s a saying, ‘How does an ant eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’ Well, how does the owner of a shop get to their goal, whatever that goal is? They do it one bite at a time or one day at a time,” Stockdale said. “They have to make sure that every staff meeting they have is advancing them further toward the goal they have set.”

“The owner of the shop has got to have a clear vision as to where they’re headed and what the goals are,” he continued. “Without that, without the owner themselves having that vision and knowing what the expectations are -¦ if every single staff meeting isn’t helping advance the operation toward meeting those goals, then they’re conducting the meetings incorrectly.”