Why bother to keep a clean shop?

Would you go to a doctor's office with blood splatters on the wall? Would you feel comfortable with the dentist working with his Bahamas t-shirt on when it is hot out?

Then, why do so many of us work in dark, dirty and disorganized shops?

When I see pictures of brand new shops, I am amazed at the photos that show how clean some of them are. Granted, they are doing a photo shoot, so they are on their best behavior. Even yet, I can never make my shop that clean.

I have a normal three-bay garage in a suburb of New York City. I don't have those shiny floors that resist dirt. Yet, people still compliment me on my shop's cleanliness.

I think my region has low expectations for these things.

Nevertheless, people can tell when you do the little things and try to keep on top of shop cleanliness - even without shop floors that shine like a mirror.

I invested $2,500 in my front office to have Spanish tiles and austere walls with a flat screen television. It's comfortable and professional.

The customer bathroom has the same tiles. The tiles are dark so they don't show dirt that might get in from the shop.

Whenever we are slow, we clean the walls. Every couple of months, we paint the scuffs and scratches that are part of the business. This happens from winding up the air hose and it whipping around, chipping paint on the wall.

Everyone here wears uniforms, even when it is 100 degrees out. To be honest, I've been thinking of upgrading to Volvo dealer uniforms and putting our patch on top of the Volvo symbol.

The result? Technicians can find their tools when they drop them and realize that that there are high expectations for cleanliness and good work in the shop. Customers feel comfortable seeing the shop. We look like professionals and we work like professionals.

Quite frankly, keeping a clean shop is needed to keep up a professional image. It helps us command a higher labor rate and gives our mechanics pride in their work.