Woodhaven Service is a small, independent gas station located in the Woodhaven section of Queens. The station has three gasoline pumps and two service bays. The repair facility specializes in automotive maintenance (oil changes, tune-ups, etc.) and minor repairs (mufflers, shock absorbers, etc.). Woodhaven generally refers customers who require major work, such as transmission rebuilds and electronics, to shops that are better equipped to handle such repairs. Major repairs are done in-house only when both the customer and mechanic agree that this is the best course of action.
During the 20 years that he has owned Woodhaven Service, Harold Mateen’s competence and fairness have built a loyal customer base of neighborhood residents. In fact, demand for his services has been more than he can reasonably meet, yet the repair end of his business is not especially profitable. Most of his competitors earn the lion’s share of their profits through repairs, but Harold is making almost all of his money by selling gasoline. If he could make more money on repairs, Woodhaven would be the most successful service station in the area. Harold believes that Woodhaven’s weakness in repair profitability is due to the inefficiency of his mechanics, who are paid the industry average of $500 per week. While Harold does not think he overpays them, he feels he is not getting his money’s worth.
Harold’s son, Andrew, is a student at the university, where he has learned the Socratic dictum, “To know the Good is to do the Good.” Andrew provided his father with a classic text on employee morality, Dr. Weisbrotten’s Work Hard and Follow the Righteous Way. Every morning for two months, Harold, Andrew, and the mechanics devoted one hour to studying this text. Despite many lively and fascinating discussions on the rights and responsibilities of the employee, productivity did not improve one bit. Harold figured he would just have to go out and hire harder-working mechanics.
The failure of the Weisbrotten method did not surprise Lisa, Harold’s daughter. She knew that Andrew’s methods were bunk. As anyone serious about business knows, the true science of productivity and management of human resources resides in Professor von Drekken’s masterful Modifying Organizational Behavior through Employee Commitment. Yes, employee commitment was the answer to everything! Harold followed the scientific methods to the letter. Yet, despite giving out gold stars, blowing up balloons, and wearing a smiley face button, he found Lisa’s approach no more successful than Andrew’s.
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