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Gonzo
Gonzo

Going Out For Business - - It takes more than a tool box anymore.

Going Out Of For Business

 

The vocation of an automotive repair person is one of those trades where you might find you have the knack for it at a young age, or you might be one of those people who have the ambition and drive to learn this trade by attending a trade school or on the job. Even though you might know a lot about what you’re doing today, there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it all, and more than likely you will encounter something new and different tomorrow. This is definitely not one of those trades where you learn a couple of procedures and they remain the same for a lifetime. It’s an always changing and always improving career. To stay current with the latest innovations and techniques, today’s mechanic spends a lot of time reading, studying, and learning those latest improvements. Without it, there’s not much chance of making it as a professional mechanic.

 

From time to time, I hear about shops closing up, or mechanics selling their tools and thinking about going into a different line of work. With a national shortage of qualified technicians out there, how is this possible that shops and mechanics are calling it quits? Are they getting tired of the constant negativity from misinformed customers? Could it be that today’s cars don’t break down as often? Perhaps they broke their only ½ inch socket and can’t find a replacement. Maybe it’s just time for certain individuals to move on, or it might be retirement that’s on the agenda. Maybe it’s health or family issues, divorces, or partnership breakups. All of which are a possibility, but I think there is one more thing that is an even bigger part of the problem…. Training.

 

Recently a shop not too far away shut their doors for good. This particular shop had been around for a long, long time. But, their quality of service had dwindled to a very noticeable and unsatisfactory level over the past few years. They were still doing A/C work without a recovery machine (no section 609 either), and no scanners or code readers. How they got by with that for as long as they did is beyond me. Neither the owner, nor the guys he hired wanted to learn anything new. They wanted to keep on doing what they’ve been doing for the last couple of decades, and only work on cars from those eras… and nothing more.

 

Obviously, those types of cars are few and far between these days, but there still out there, and yes, a few shops and technicians have managed to make it a viable market for them, but seriously... there’s not enough of that type of work out there to sustain more than a few shops in a given area. So, what should a mechanic or shop do? I’d say it’s time to step up to the world of electronics, internet, and the sophisticated automobile. Today’s cars are not what they used to be, and the technical knowhow of the modern mechanic has far exceeded anything that I could have even dreamt of even 10 years ago. Yes, that right, the stereotypical mechanic of the past has left the building a long, long time ago. Today it’s a whole lot different. Now it’s college educated, or trade school graduate, or a lot of off hours training, and it requires a highly skilled craftsman to make the repairs. But, along with good training, good equipment, and a good attitude today’s shops and mechanics alike spend plenty time getting the word out to those potential customers. Uses what else? The internet, from social media pages to videos, to instructional lessons and chat groups they’re getting the word out… they’re going out for business.

 

Mind you, there are still a lot of throwback customers and mechanics out there who believe the world of automotive repair should consist of a dingy, dimly lit small shop with grease covered floors, and a mechanic who still carries his grease rag in his back pocket. (No offense to those who still do.) Some of these customers and mechanics haven’t figured out that computers have taken over everything yet. They’re about 40 years off of today’s pace. Today’s modern shop is clean, well kept, and anything but those early dirt floor shops. That’s not to say you won’t find a small older shop with a few rough edges here and there that has all the same modern technical information, and a mechanic that knows how to use it all just like the large volume repair shop does. There are still plenty of those types of shops out there as well.

 

For the most part, gone are the “swap-til’-ya-got-it” repair days. For example, back in the 70‘s and early 80‘s electronic ignition systems only consisted of a few components, and it was common practice for a mechanic to have a few known good ignition modules lying around that were used as test pieces. (I’ll bet, if I dug around a bit I might even still have some of those old modules still hiding in a drawer somewhere.) These days a good scanner not only reads codes, but allows for bi-directional control of a lot of systems, as well as letting the mechanic see just about every facet of the car by simply plugging it into a laptop. From power windows to the transmission, with the right tools and training you don’t even have to turn a wrench (most of the time) to do any analysis on a given system.

 

Instead of going out of business maybe what some of them need to think about is “Going Out for Business”. Simply put, it’s using today’s internet, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc... to their advantage. There are so many sources for information and videos there is no excuse for not being able to repair today’s vehicles. Along with that, websites for the shop and even an individual mechanic are useful to gain knowledge and a reputation for quality work by showcasing what he/she does. It’s all about communication and getting the word out to the masses that you’ve got what it takes to repair today’s cars. Sure, word of mouth is still a tried and true method of exposure, but the tech savvy mechanic and/or shop will find an even better response from using the today’s technology to draw in new customers. As a shop owner myself, keeping the bays full is a premium, and taking advantage of the internet is a must.

 

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Doing the same thing, but expecting different results is the definition of crazy”. As mechanics, shop owners, and even as a customer we all can fall into that trap of doing the same thing. So instead of making yourself crazy by doing the same old thing...or giving up and going out of business… try going out for business instead.

 

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Not one of my usual stories but after the recent closing of several shops in the area I did some checking as to why they closed. All for the same reasons... no work. Then a little more checking it was clear as to why they didn't have any work, they all didn't want to deal with the newer models.

 

go figure.

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Gonzo: Were most of the employee's of these shops older workers(with a few young one's mixed in) that just learned what they know without any formal education, or training and never thought that going back and getting some training might change things. They never gave it a chance!

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Gonzo: Were most of the employee's of these shops older workers(with a few young one's mixed in) that just learned what they know without any formal education, or training and never thought that going back and getting some training might change things. They never gave it a chance!

The shop in question had been around since the 60's but under several different owners after about the 80's. From what I could find out the last couple of owners were young and no experience in shop management but what they did have was family money. Which of course is all gone now. They guys they were hiring in were rejects from other shops. So the whole thing was a fiasco from the start. This time instead of finding a buyer the last owner just sold all the equipment they did have, which amounted to nothing more than over used, well worn out original type equipment from the 70's. Not even worth my time to buy anything.

 

It was a great location and that was the best part. Some convenience store will probably snap up the property now. Besides, the location is worth more than what those guys were turning out in the shop. LOL

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A little different for you, but as usual, right on point. There are so many businesses, not just repair shops, that run their business like it's 1980. Everything living thing has to evolve. And a business is a living entity. If we don't embrace change and refine our strategy, we fall victim to complacency.

 

As you pointed out, we need to stay at the forefront of mechanical technology, but also with regard to business and marketing. Be more proactive is both challenging and intimidating, but it will put you headed in the right direction.

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I really am an advocate of sharing found knowledge or procedures/short cuts. If it wasn't for the internet and it's many sources of information there are many, many cars I probably wouldn't have been able to repair. But, the sophistication of the modern car and the internet seem to go hand in hand. The more complicated they engineer things the more research and information is needed, and the internet (with all it's failures and good points) is the place to go and find that info.

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I really am an advocate of sharing found knowledge or procedures/short cuts. If it wasn't for the internet and it's many sources of information there are many, many cars I probably wouldn't have been able to repair. But, the sophistication of the modern car and the internet seem to go hand in hand. The more complicated they engineer things the more research and information is needed, and the internet (with all it's failures and good points) is the place to go and find that info.

 

amen brother!

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