When the internet was just getting started up, I wrote an article about online training coming in the near future, and now, what I predicted has happened. Today we have a variety of online training classes. Training is not something we want to do, but rather something we all need to do to. I have been on both sides as a student and a trainer, and believe me when I say that online training makes things easier for everybody. Let me explain why I say that.

In 1985 I remember packing up a suitcase, driving to Houston and staying in Hotel Hell for a week to go to a management school when I first got in the business. Many of you old timers out there will remember the week of pure torture we were all put through back then.

I was selling home improvement at night up until 1985. My daughter was starting school and I wanted to work days so I picked up the newspaper and looked under sales. There it was, an ad for a salesman in automotive. I thought I would be selling parts or oil when I called, but, to my surprise, they wanted me to sell transmissions. I had no idea that the manager of a transmission shop was a salesman. I told the owner, “That would be a great job for me if I knew what a transmission was.” And I will never forget what the owner told me: “You don’t have to know anything about transmissions.”

Yes sir, that is what he told me. I wanted to make sure I heard him right, so I replied, “Let me get this straight. This is an inside sales job, customers come to me, I don’t have to know anything about transmissions, and the customer does not know I am a salesman. Is that right?” He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “That’s correct.” That was the first lie a transmission shop owner ever told me, and this was how I got in the transmission business.

Hotel Hell

On my first day, the same guy who told me I did not have to know anything about transmissions brought me into a meeting with three other new hires and told us he was sending us all to school. We would be leaving our families and driving down to Houston to attend transmission school. There would be about 50 salesmen from all over the country there. The four of us would all share two rooms, the classes would last a week, and we would be tested on the final day. If we passed we had a job. I raised my hand.

I asked, “I thought you said I did not have to know anything about transmissions. Why are you sending me to school?” He replied, “You don’t, but you do need to learn how to answer the phone and sell an inspection service.” When I asked him what an inspection service was, he told me not to worry about it. “It’s just a week.” I wanted to believe him and I really wanted to work days and have those customers come to me. So, I went.

The four of us drove for six hours together in the same car and became pretty good friends by the time we got there. When we arrived we all went to the bar and got the ball rolling like any good salesman would do I remember at that time. I felt like no one could teach me anything that I don’t already know about selling. I had been a professional one-call closer for 10 years and I had learned from the best. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, home improvement sales was a brutal straight commission sales job. You ran five leads a day in your car and got home after 11 p.m. most nights. You ate out every day. You lived in your car and your car was in the shop a lot. It was expensive to run leads. Only top salesmen could do it because, “If you don’t sell it, you don’t get paid.” There was no salary. I had been selling a product that sold for $5,000 to $15,000. So, to me, selling a transmission for $400 to $1,000 to a customer who drove to me in a car that was broke down, was like shooting low flying mallards. Let’s say I was looking forward to it. However, I was not expecting what happened next.

The trainers came into the bar and told us to go to our rooms and start studying. They were like the Gestapo. They were not kidding around, these guys. So, we went to our rooms. They came in a few minutes later and told us where the classroom was and when we needed to be there. We were instructed to start studying and not to leave the room. I realized then that the trainers were going to be a real problem as time went on.

So, I am feeling like I am in jail now. And to top it all off, my cellmate kept me up most of the night with his night talking. This guy talked too much when he was awake and he did not stop talking when he was asleep. He talked and laughed all night long. I had to listen to him day and night for a week. It was miserable.

The next day, there were about 50 students in a room that had a chalkboard with everybody’s name on it. We were told to write the inspection paragraph word for word. The test will be graded and the grades will be posted on the chalkboard. Get the picture? I don’t need to tell you I failed, and not by just a little bit.

From that point on I was on the Gestapo radar. They came into my room every night three or four times to make sure I was studying and even woke me up when I was sleeping and told me to get up and study. I am one of those guys who needs a full eight hours of sleep a night to function. I admit, the harassment, sleep interruptions, various distractions and the fast paced training schedule made it hard for me to grasp the material. They were even wanting me to memorize how to say things word for word. Like in grade school.

This was Hotel Hell. I was away from my wife and daughter, surrounded by the Gestapo, sharing a room with someone I wanted to murder, not sleeping or eating right, and everybody thinks I am stupid. I got a call from the owner checking in on me about this time and I asked him if I failed the final test would I still have a job? He had the right answer or my career in the transmission industry would have ended on that phone call. Trust me. So, to make a long story short, I finished school and learned how to answer the phone and get an inspection service. I passed their test and received my completion certificate to hang on the wall in my office at my new shop. I could not wait to get to those mallards. It was duck season.

Put it on the board: Yes! 

I needed to sell something and start making some money. I was only paid $200 for my week at Hotel Hell. I will tell you, that is the hardest I have worked for $200 in my life. I think it worked out to about $1.27 cents an hour as I recall. So, I got my first customer in and sold him an inspection service.

I called the owner and asked him, “What do I do next?”

He said, “Don’t worry about it and go get you another one.”

I said, “No, I am worried about it because you told me this morning that I don't get paid until the vehicle gets picked up.”

He said, “OK, then go out and write it on the production board out in the shop.”

Production board? I realized right there that I had jumped out of the frying pan of Hotel Hell into the fire of production management. The owner had not lied to me about this critical part of the manager’s job, he just did not bring it up. What a guy. Great leadership. So, I walked out in the shop and put my first sale on the production board and began my work on mastering the art of production management for the rest of my career.

You see, putting it on the production board and controlling the production board were two very different things. I found out early that what the technicians thought need to be done next was very different than what the manager thought. After going home with a short paycheck a week or two into it, I asked the owner if there was any training for this.

He said, “Not as far as I know.”

I said “Well, why would you send me to school to learn how to sell the transmission repair and stop there?”

He obviously did not know how much money this was costing him. In all fairness, I must say that, most of the shop owners I worked for after that didn't either.
Proper training first

I have worked at flipping shops over the years and the owner is always complaining about the manager when I get there to check out the shop. I always ask the shop owner how much time and money have you put into training him? The answer was always little or none. So whose fault is it? I saw managers with 20 years experience who did not know how to manage production until I taught them. Twenty years is a long time to walk around in a shop and not know what is going on production-wise. For the young managers the training I provided filled in what the schools and the owners left out.

A few years ago, I got to thinking about Hotel Hell and how hard it was for me to get a total understanding of what it took to effectively run a transmission specialty shop. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks. It took a long time. How much easier would my path have been as a manager if I had been given the proper training from the first owner I worked for. I am no longer going into the shops to train anymore, so that inspired me to create my own online training program. I had trained managers that worked for me or my clients for the past 25 years on production management. I had the training already there in my briefcase but, no one else could see it unless I came to the shop. So the task became to take the training out of my briefcase and put it online.

Coach ’em up

I wanted it to be a 4- to 6-hour course complete with testing and certification where the students can login to study and get certified in their free time. It wasn't easy to do. It took a while to figure it all out, but at last, my production management training course is online at the TransTeam website. It includes training, testing and certification. The training is free when you sign up as a TransTeam Shop Owner Member this month!

Now, instead of telling your manager to go write his sale on the production board and fight it out with the techs, just call me at 888-859-0994 or go to “contact us” at the TransTeam website and select “other” from the drop down menu. In the notes section, type in “free manager training /referred by Transmission Digest.”

Let TransTeam “coach ’em up” online for you. No travel. No hotel bills. No food expenses. No missed work. Managers study at home. No effort on your part. The entire online course takes less time than it took me to drive from Dallas to Houston to attend Hotel Hell.

I have a dream. It is a world where there is no Hotel Hell. Students have a place online to easily learn how to manage production efficiently. They don’t have to learn production management on their own or never learn at all. Shop owners out there have stopped lying to new managers about not needing to know anything about transmissions and throwing them into the “firing line” with no support. And the best part of this dream is that I don’t have to be there to teach the class. I sleep in my own bed while the student managers are trained and the students as well as my old roommate all sleep in their own beds.