Dont blink80% of motor vehicle accidents are preceded by 3 seconds of distraction.  3 seconds: that’s less time than it takes to read the last sentence.  Last week Myra Blanco from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute presented some of the break-through safety research they are doing to the Automotive Communication Council in Charleston, South Carolina.  Not surprisingly the 3 seconds of distraction can usually be attributed to multi-tasking while driving: fumbling with a cell phone, looking at something on the roadside, fishing around the vehicle for something – you know, those countless things we all do too much of when we’re behind the wheel.

As I was listening to Dr. Blanco, I couldn’t help but wonder how many “traffic accidents” our businesses suffer due to moments – or a string of moments – of distraction.  I imagine we all have a notion of the kind of high-quality service we want to deliver to happy customers on the way to achieving our financial goals.  There are so many elements to a successful automotive service operation: facility appearance and up-keep; technical training; equipment acquisition and maintenance; work flow management; hiring and firing; customer communications; marketing; regulatory compliance; safety; vendor relations; accounting – the list can keep going on for pages.

The key to business success lies in organizing the individual elements of success in such a way that they are a support to your business goals and are not treated as a distraction.  For example, what should a service advisor do when he is talking with a customer and gets a phone call?  You want to be sure that every call is answered, but you don’t want the customer at the counter to feel neglected.  So you decide the best way to handle those situations and you write up a procedure for your manual.  You create a checklist for how the bays are to be cleaned up at the end of the day.  You have calendared your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly financial tasks so that deadlines don’t sneak up on you and that you have the financial information needed to manage your profits.  You have a vehicle walk around procedure that is documented and enforced.

In other words, all of these small, but critical pieces of your business are documented as part of a plan to achieve your goals.  When everyone in the operation, including suppliers and other support vendors, is working toward a common end, great things can happen.  If your plan consists of unlocking the door in the morning and fixing cars, everything else is a distraction, an exception, something that requires additional attention and energy to handle.

Unlike driving in traffic, a business distraction probably won’t result in an immediate “crash and burn” situation, but taken together they may mean that you never arrive at your financial destination.  Accurately and consistently following a well-thought out plan turns distractions into stepping stones to success.

Lance Boldt is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoNetTV.  AutoNetTV’s digital signage products deliver entertaining and educational TV programming to the lobbies of automotive service and repair businesses as well as digital menu boards and automotive website video content.