Ask Mike: How Can Shops Keep Employee Morale High?

This month, we “ASK MIKE” for his thoughts on how shops can keep employee morale high in 2023. We at Hammer & Dolly hope you find the following exchange useful, and we encourage you to reach out to us if you have a question for Mike on this or any industry-related matter that he can answer in a future issue.

Hammer & Dolly: We’re now in 2023, which – among other things – is the third anniversary of the pandemic and all these wild changes we’ve all had to deal with. Some things are getting better, but other things are getting more difficult. As the industry moves through this new year, what are some things that shops can do to better keep morale high despite the challenges ahead?

Mike Anderson: The biggest thing that shops need to work on in 2023 is their culture. Everybody has work today. It’s not about who can get cars these days; it’s about who can keep good people. It’s really important that shops focus on culture and being the employers of choice. You really want an environment where people don’t just love their job; they love the organization as well. You want them to be proud of who they work for. Think about sports fans who wear the jersey of their favorite teams and players. You want to be the organization that inspires people to wear that shirt or uniform or jersey. That comes from focusing on your culture and investing in it.

There are people like Mike Jones from Discovery Leadership Training who work with shops to achieve that type of environment. There are tons of resources out there that can help you with leadership training. It’s also very important to keep yourself involved. Being a part of 20 Groups can really recharge your batteries, which benefits your employees.

When I had my shops, we would go to another shop and say, ‘Hey, let’s have a softball game together on a Saturday!’ A team of our employees would engage in a little friendly competition against their employees. We would also shut down one day a year and pay for our employees to bring their kids to an amusement park. We were always looking for ways to build culture and teams together. I once heard this at church: ‘The sign of a healthy church is when people still hang out in the parking lot after church.’ Well, a sign of a healthy business is when people hang out there after hours. That signals you’ve created a healthy culture.

H&D: As you begin 2023, what things are keeping your morale high as an industry veteran?

MA: There are so many people out there who preach a message of doom and gloom, but what keeps my morale high is hanging out with younger people in this industry – whether it’s people on my team or people in shops. These are the people who haven’t lost that eye of the tiger and who aren’t negative nellies.

We all need to embrace the young people in this industry. I see a lot of kids who are engaged and have a lot of ideas, but their parents shut them down. Those kids should be encouraged. If young people try something and it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world…We shouldn’t kill their spirit.

H&D: You have the most positive attitude of anyone we know in the industry! You were a shop owner, and you own a collision-related business now. As you know, this is not the easiest industry out there. When you’ve had struggles in this profession, what has most enabled you to rise above them and maintain that positive spirit within yourself?

MA: My faith is the first thing. The second thing is that I have some really awesome friends in this industry who I can call at any time and they’ll talk me off the ledge. It’s the same thing with my team at Collision Advice. We’re up to 12 employees now, and it’s a positive team.

I read a book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles called Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization. In that book, they talk about geese. When you have a goose that’s flying out in front of a flock and all the other geese are honking, that’s because that goose in front is getting tired and the other geese are honking to encourage that goose to keep going. When that goose gets too tired, it goes back to the flock, and another goose steps up. That’s what you need to do – trust your team, your friends in the industry and the people who are in the trenches with you.

Oftentimes, when we think that we don’t have it all figured out and we tell someone that things aren’t going well and we’re having a bad day, we fear that we’re going to be judged. But when you’re honest, most people will encourage you and lift you up. People are often afraid to expose their weaknesses, but I’m the opposite. I’ll tell somebody, ‘Hey, I’m struggling here’ and see what they can do to lift me up or help me. It’s really about who you surround yourself with to help you be grounded. You could surround yourself with a bunch of people who lead you to bad habits and do not call you out on your BS…or you could have a really good circle of friends who will call you out if you are doing the wrong thing or going down the wrong path. Choose wisely.


Want more? Check out the January 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!