In their 1964 hit song – one of several Top 40 hits they had that year – The Beatles sang about “Eight days a week.” For the last several years, Dale Donovan, the owner of Donovan’s Auto & Tire Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been singing the praises of being open five days a week.
Donovan says switching from a six-day format to a Monday-through-Friday schedule was one of the best decisions he has ever made – not just for his three-location dealership, but also for his employees, his family and his own happiness.
“We worked Saturday mornings for 49 years,” he says. “At the time, it was either my brother, my father or myself” running the stores on Saturdays. “And as we grew, we had managers running them.”
I sensed it was time for a change. “I tracked what we were billing out and what we were paying. I tracked it for a solid year.”
After crunching the numbers, he sat down with his employees. “I said, ‘Here’s the deal. We either need to stay open all day on Saturdays or we’re closing on Saturdays. What do you want to do?’ I knew that (closing on Saturdays) would cut into their overtime.”
I have received a unanimous answer. “Everybody said, ‘We want to close on Saturdays!’ That’s exactly what they wanted. And I said, ‘OK, we’re going to try it. But if this doesn’t work, we’re going full-time on Saturday.’”
Everybody at the dealership agreed to the deal.
“I then let my customers know. And they said, ‘Not a problem!’” (During the transition, Donovan only lost one customer, a man his employees called “Saturday” due to his habit of coming into one of the dealership’s stores – you guessed it – each and every Saturday.He returned a few months later.)
Donovan’s locations were doing well before the switch. And things only took off from there.
“Our technicians started producing more. And customers started to figure out how to get their cars here Monday through Friday. It’s not just about the hours or the money, though. It’s about morale.”
His employees now have Saturday and Sunday “to refresh” themselves. “And they come in energized on Monday.”
Are there skeptics? Sure, says Donovan. One of his store managers used him to work at a big box outlet. “When I told him we were closing on Saturdays, he thought I was crazy. He said, ‘You can’t run a tire store and not be open on Saturdays.’
“He doesn’t think I’m crazy anymore. He sees how it works. Our customers figure out how to get rides” to the dealership’s stores Monday through Friday. “They use our loaner cars. We’ll even drive them home.”
Donovan adds that eliminating Saturdays has helped with recruitment – a bonus in his labor-strapped market.
“I’m interviewing a guy from a big box store for a service writer job,” Donovan mentioned when I spoke with him.
When first approached, the man told Donovan that he wasn’t interested in making a move. “I said, ‘We only work five days a week – Monday through Friday. We don’t work Saturdays or Sundays.’”
He said, “What?” And I said, “We work Monday through Friday. I want you to spend weekends with your family.’ And that was a game-changer. We’re meeting next week.
“If you ask people, ‘Do you want more time off or more money?’ they’re going to tell you they want time off. This is what they’re looking for. It’s not so much about the money.”
Last but certainly not least, moving to a five-day week also has benefited Donovan and his family.
“I think most shop owners are control freaks,” he told me, adding that he once put himself in that category.
“When I wasn’t working Saturdays, I was worried about what was going on at my stores. I was looking at my cameras” to make sure all of his employees were present. Ditching Saturdays was liberating.
“It took a lot of stress off of my family and me” and has helped him make up for lost time.
“I have five children. I’m 60 years old. I never got to watch them play sports.”
When I asked Donovan what advice he’d give to fellow tire dealers who are thinking about moving to a five-day work week, his reply was immediate and emphatic.
“If you’re a good shop, if you’re a reputable shop – pull the trigger. You won’t regret it. Go to a five-day work week. You just have to make sure you schedule right.”
Donovan’s stores schedule all auto service work ahead of time. Customers looking for new tires will receive same-day service “if we have the tires in stock.”
If not, Donovan’s employees will schedule a day for installation after the tires arrive. “But it has to be Monday through Friday.”
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