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Who is the Squeaky Wheel?


On this week’s edition of the Weekly Tune-Up, Becky Nixon explains how to find out who the “squeaky wheel” is in your department and how you can get everybody to work smoothly together.

Video Transcription:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the CBT News Weekly Tune-Up Program.  I am your host, Becky Nixon, and I want to welcome you to today’s show.

Let’s get right to it, we have all heard the cliché, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The meaning, or understood meaning of that saying, seems to be that whoever screams the loudest gets all the attention.  This could be good attention, resolving problems attention or it could even be more grief, because that’s all the giver has to offer.

Every manager or leader has a squeaky wheel in their operation.  You may not have put much thought into it, but I am sure, whether you are a Parts, Service or Body Shop manager, you have at least one squeaky wheel in your department, maybe two.

This could be one of many different things:

It could be one or more of your employees, like service advisors that fight you at every step on following the processes you have set in place, causing most of your time and attention to be spent trying to micro-manage them.

It could be technicians that are constantly on edge, poor shop morale or young and inexperienced techs making it so that your time is mostly spent in the shop trying to make sure hours are getting turned and jobs are getting finished.   Maybe you are having to assist with dispatch so that not enough time is available to work with the front line or with your advisors.

Parts managers, yours could be your inventory causing you to spend several hours a day chasing a $5,000 obsolescence or special order problem, or the delivery driver who is running off your wholesale business, or a parts counter person who is socializing so much that phones are being ignored and jobs in the shop delayed.

Perhaps you hired the first warm body you interviewed for a mechanics or back counter position and now everyone is screaming and you find yourself planted at the rear parts counter while other aspects of the department are coming apart at the seams.

I encourage all of you – Dealers, GM’s, Directors, Managers and Advisors who are listening right now:  STOP acting like Smokey the bear just running around all day and putting out fires.

. . . . . In a moment I am going to tell you how to solve these problems.  But first, here is a message about the training we have available at David Lewis & Associates.  Training that can help you resolve these and other problems that occur when things start going awry in your Fixed Operations.

Okay,  Now let’s take a look at some ways to resolve these issues and bring order to the insanity that has been unleashed in your Department.

First, you need to assess your situation and take a non-emotional picture of your department or of the entire operation.  Are the right people in the right positions?   If not, start at the beginning, resist the urge to panic hire and start thoroughly vetting applicants.

Just like giving the right job to the right tech, when we hire the right person for a position, there is less need to micro manage that employee.

Next, resist the urge to become operationally involved on a day to day basis, responding to every squeaky wheel.  Deal with the wheel itself, or with the area that’s is creating a problem.

Put processes in place, put them in writing and the train on them.  Training is key!

Too often managers assume that employees understand how to put into motion what is being asked of them.  Almost every front-line position, from the parts department, our body shops and service departments are complicated, and the level of difficulty in each position is clearly a ten.   Because of this, it is imperative that you make sure clear processes are in place, with attainable goals attached. Then make sure your employees have the tools and training needed to accomplish these goals.

Make sure your valuable employees are in the right spot, and make the tough decisions on the ones that are only interested in collecting a paycheck. It is worth repeating, when you hire their replacement – do not make the same mistake again.

Our automotive dealership industry is a complicated, fast moving, performance based retail environment.  Like creating a highly competitive performance based sports team, you need to stop babysitting employees whose only mission seems to be riding the bench.

No matter who you are, if you are in a position of authority, the grease in this episode is your energy, patience and stress levels.  With the grease gun in hand, are you spending all day going from one wheel to the next and not really focusing on moving the needle in your operation?

If you are, you need to assess your own work habits and take the lead in bringing your house back into order.  If you don’t, you will become your own squeaky wheel and your management of things will become a chaotic effort in futility where little gets done to anyone’s satisfaction and Customers start noticing the chaos and find themselves looking elsewhere to solve their vehicle maintenance and repair problems.

Sometimes squeaky wheels are just excuses for bad habits and work processes that have gotten out of synch and no one is doing their part to put them back in right order.  Anything can be fixed and returned to its proper function when the right processes are put in place and people are trained to do things the way they are designed to be done.

Just like applying the right chemical to a particular squeak, things can be made to run smoothly again in your shop when everyone is working together in harmony.  When the right people fill the right positions, and are trained to do their best, you can to achieve the goals and objectives you have set for your dealership fixed ops department.

You Dealership will flourish and your Customers will continue to come back whenever they have a need for the services you have to offer.

. . . . .  . . . . . Well, that’s it for today.  Thanks for joining me for this broadcast and be sure to send your comments and suggestions to  And if you or your staff have needs for any training to refresh or advance your skill levels, just contact us at and see what we have to offer in the way of training for every aspect the retail automotive industry.

So until next time, have a great week!


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