MANAGING THROUGH FAILURE
What an unpopular topic in our industry! For some reason, in any other industry “failure” has morphed in to a positive expression of growth and learning. Some call it falling forward, experimenting, pivoting, or any other myriad of positive spins. For some reason, having a failure in the automotive industry is taboo. That all changes today.
I said at the outset I’d disrupt the industry and my goal is to do just that. So here we go with the unpopular topic of failure.
The first issue in dealing with failure in our business is “who’s fault is it?” There are so many factors to each unique failure that this industry instantly begins playing the finger pointing game. Was it the customer’s fault? Was it the engine builder’s fault? Was it the shop’s fault? Was it a parts vendor? The list goes on and on. No one wants to step up and say, “I got you, stuff happens, let’s get to a resolution.” There are a number of reasons for this, the easiest to see is the monetary aspect. A customer who just spent $10,000 on their vehicle, mis-shifts, over-revs and blows a built motor doesn’t want it to be their fault. If it is, they are out $10,000. A shop doesn’t want it to be their fault because every dollar counts and margins are already pretty thin in this business. You certainly don’t want to have to buy new parts and comp the labor to fix the issue. An engine builder is on the same page as the shop. Lastly, a parts vendor doesn’t want to take a revenue positive sale and turn it in to a revenue negative sale.
No one wants to hold the “hot potato” when something goes wrong. Funny though, when a race car breaks records and not parts, everyone wants the recognition. Seems a little hypocritical to me.
So, what do you do? As a shop, I document EVERYTHING. Example, if you are installing injectors and putting a tune on a vehicle a customer could tell you their brake calipers are lose. Of course, you never touched those aspects of the vehicle as they were out of the scope of the install. Doesn’t matter. The burden falls on you to have documentation that you either checked or didn’t check an aspect of the vehicle. As a normal “dealership” type procedure you should do an inspection of all dynamic vehicle functions. In this case, if the calipers were not inspected, note that, if the bolt on the strut tower wasn’t looked at, document it, document everything possible, it doesn’t matter how big or small. The more you cover the better. Something as simple as “Every vehicle undergoes a standard multi-point inspection process on the vehicle’s dynamic functions. Not every aspect of the vehicle is covered by this inspection and additional inspection of systems will be documented within the scope of the project.” I just thought of that right now while typing. It isn’t perfect, but it’s something for you to use in the event there is an issue.
What if something does happen? Be calm, be professional, run towards the issue instead of distancing yourself from it. It is far worse to abandon the situation than to work toward a resolution. Gather facts of the failure, determine the cause, review your documentation, communicate. All of these things are fairly simple but in the middle of a tense situation where words matter, they become difficult.
Once you find facts and even get a few third-party opinions if you have to, get to a resolution. If that means you come to the table with time or money because it’s something you did, DO IT! I promise you, failures of race car components will happen. How you respond to those failures will win you way more credibility in the long run than running to hide behind your successes.
Do the right thing and you’ll win in the end. If you have to comp $500 in labor but your customer is the happiest person ever, they will generate you much more than that in future business.