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How to Catch a Fly

February 5, 2020 By John "My 2 Cents" Hirschmann Leave a comment

Sunlight and a warm breeze flowed leisurely through the open bay doors of Hometown Motors’ service department on the second Monday of June.  Wafting in on the breeze was the distinct aroma of bratwurst and burgers earning their stripes on the grill just outside the rear door. Combined with the hint of grilling onion, the scent was enough to make a person’s mouth water with expectation.

Tonight would be the 6th monthly Service and Parts Department meeting of the year and the second quarterly Tool Award. Bobby was more than a little excited. He knew Tom Morrow, one of his lead technicians, had won this quarter’s award. This was something Bobby “Bull Dog” Matthews counted as a personal victory.

Bobby began a customer appreciation program where technicians would leave cards on the dashboard of vehicles they serviced. Cards with their name on them and a phone number for customers to call with comments about the service they received at Hometown. Additionally, there was a place for each Technician to sign the card. Everyone participated. Everyone except Tom Morrow, that is.

Over the first few week Tom and Bobby had many discussions over this. Some heated. The last one forced Bobby to have to put a disciplinary memo in Tom’s employee jacket for insubordination.  It bothered Bobby to have to take the matter that far, but the placing of the cards had been made department policy, and he had no choice.  At one point the two men were in Bobby’s office belt buckle to belt buckle near yelling at each other over the matter. Bobby knew that Tom was one of if not the best technician on his service floor. He generated a lot of revenue for the shop, did a fair share of upselling service that was needed, and often came in early and worked late. Tom was also looked up to by a lot of the other technicians. They respected him and often would seek advice from him while on the job.

Tom just didn’t believe that the cards made any difference to him.

Bobby explained the cards weren’t about him but were a way of getting to know the customers’ perception of the service they received.  Tom just would have no part of it. He felt the cards were going to become a way for the customers to tell him how to do his job, and that was something he stood fast against.

Bobby knew he had to find a way to get Tom to voluntarily participate or run the risk of Tom quitting, or worse yet, having to let him go. Neither was anything Bobby really wanted to see happen.

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.” It was something Bobby had heard his father say many times growing up. Bobby wondered if a little honey might appeal to Tom.

At the February meeting Bobby announced a Technician Recognition Program.

Each month based on the results of calls generated by the cards, each technician would receive dealership award points. The points were tallied monthly and once every quarter the technician with the highest points would receive some type of reward.

At the April meeting, the tally of points was read off. Tom had zero points. Others ranged from 30 to 50 points.

At the end of the May meeting, Tom managed to have accumulated 62 points. He was participating. He was doing it voluntarily.

At the meeting on that second Monday in June, after the tech film and workbook, Bobby smiled wide and announced the point tally for the quarter. Tom had a total of 114 points. Just 2 points ahead of the second-place technician.  The award that month was a promotional clock the dealership purchased from their Snap-On Tools representative.  Both men smiled a genuinely bright smile and shook hands during the presentation. Danny, the second-place tech teased that next quarter he would beat Tom’s point total, and Tom laughed a reply, “Wanna bet on that?”  

They both laughed and grabbed one more bratwurst, the team all toasted Tom with soft drinks and laughter.

  • Good people are worth an effort to hang on to.
  • There is always more than one way to achieve a goal. Try them all.
  • A little competition within the ranks can be a good thing.
  • People are often driven by the “What’s in it for me?” mentality.
  • To drive a desired behavior, reward those who do well.
  • Demanding participation or behavior will rarely bring the desired results and may well lose a good employee.
  • You catch more flies with honey, not vinegar.

Bobby got what he needed, Tom to have “buy-in” on the cards program. He did it in a way that allowed both he and Tom to keep their self-respect and remain friends.  Hometown Motors has since established an award policy for their parts salespeople and counter people. They’re working well, too.


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