Avionics News March 2017 - 63
life, that are otherwise only touched upon in books and
presentations. These hypotheticals are informative, but
they're also sometimes difficult to successfully implement at
your shop, according to R&W readers, particularly for handson learners who might struggle to take complete notes, create
an action plan and put a new initiative to work. However,
seeing those notes come to life at a shop provides a clear
illustration of how to get the new initiative underway.
This means you'll get to see a process in action, so you
gain sharper insight into whether it's something worth trying
- especially when it fiddles with your shop's operations. You
can also get to see what it takes to make a change, how best
to do it, and how it will effect performance. There's a lot to
be learned from other peoples' experiences, R&W readers
say, and it's one of the best training strategies they've found
to make their own shops run smarter.
The challenge, of course, is locating the industry peers you'd
like to visit, and then building the relationships that open doors.
It takes good, old-fashioned connections, and you'll create
those when you network for education, open your ears for
interesting ideas, and find ways to pay innovative peers a visit.
The starting point is to expand your network of informed
colleagues, according to Fender Bender magazine, a trade book
of independent collision-repair centers, which advises that you
"can't fly solo anymore." This requires getting out of your
shop and becoming active within your greater industry - for
example, the AEA, as well as local small-business associations.
Use those resources, training opportunities, trade shows,
and the like to ensure you're up-to-date with regulations, the
freshest ideas, valuable news and peer support.
Build that network during those training sessions and
industry events, too. Talk to as many participants as possible;
they might be doing something innovative that's worth
exploring or experimenting with - or they may know someone
else who is. Talk to the instructors as well as your vendors,
including OEMs, suppliers and others; these companies are
tapped into the industry around the country, and they have
vested interest in your shop, and the whole industry, getting
Tap that network for ideas for improvement, references for
shops who have solutions to your concerns, or even contacts
for folks you need to meet. The more people you know, the
better shot you have at finding good leads for visits; ideally,
that's someone who's similar in size, revenue and philosophy
to your shop, which provides the most closely aligned model to
emulate, according to the magazine.
Then take some time to travel, however that works for you.
Schedule visits whenever you're out of town, whether that's for
vacation or business travel. Certainly, shops in those locations
are apt to be more open because they know you're not a threat.
Among the readers of both magazines are shop owners who
have done multiple peer visits a year for more than a decade.
Tours have helped them identify strengths and weaknesses and
take the best ideas home to their own shops. However, each
recommends not only coming armed with questions you want
answered, but also keeping your eyes open to new things you
didn't yet know you needed to learn.
To get the most out of your visits, have a specific focus for
your tour, according to Fender Bender. Identify one or two
specific improvements that would benefit you based on that
shop's reputation (or your reason for stopping by) and find
potential solutions to those problems you're dealing with.
Aim to explore the topic from top to bottom, and from line
employees to managers and owners, to see how those problems
are addressed at that business, how the shop improved that
function, and the challenges they encountered (and overcame)
in the process. Create a template for making it happen
efficiently at your place, too.
But keep your eyes open, and ask questions. Random
improvements may lurk anywhere, according to R&W, and a
keen eye may lead to other beneficial changes. For example,
one reader learned of a shop that sent cookies to a customer's
workplace as a thank you - and promotional tool. Certainly,
that's something that you might consider doing to one of your
customer's flying-club meetings, as well.
Beyond that, you might learn about better office layouts,
estimating procedures, storage, shop-floor layouts, lighting,
energy efficiency or landscaping. By asking why the shop does
certain things - and how they'd do them differently if they
were starting over - you might glean a best-practices nugget
you would never otherwise encounter.
Lastly, don't forget to use your tour as a networking
opportunity. Expand on the relationship that got you into the
door by getting to know the owner, managers, and staff so you
build friendships that allow you to bounce ideas off of them in
the long run.
There's no question that to stay competitive in business,
you have to keep learning, and the best place to look for
new ideas can be within your own industry. By exploring
how other shops solve the various complications they've
faced, you can bring that knowledge and experience home to
build yours, too. In the end, that's what getting out of your
shop for learning is all about.
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