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The Toolbox is Last to Leave, First is the Heart

It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door. While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begin

Want to End Your Technician Shortage? Focus on Retention!

I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought abou

Here’s The Perfect Automotive Technician Pay Plan!

Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best. At a recent industry event, a

What Your Customers Don’t Tell You is What’s Most Damaging

You’re out to dinner with a friend. The service was horrible, the meal took forever to get to your table, and it was not what you expected. You get the check, pay the bill, and start heading for the door. At the door is a woman, a staff member, holding it open and saying in a monotone voice, “How was everything?” You pause for a second, look her in the eyes, and reply, “Everything was fine, thank you.”  As you walk to your car, you turn to your friend and say, “That’s the last time I go to that

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Customers

Shop Owners: Stop Doing Oil Changes!

No, I have not lost my mind. You and I both know that the oil change business is different today from what it was years ago. If we go back to the 1980s, and up through the 1990s, we judged customer visits by a factor of 4 to 5, which meant that we needed to see a customer at least 4 to 5 times a year, an indicator of customer retention rate and loyalty. Back then customers brought us their vehicles every three to four thousand miles for the traditional oil change. That business model no longer h

Technician Production is More Complicated than You Think

Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency. As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor t

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

The UAW and the Big Three Can Learn from Auto Shop Owners

While the United Auto Worker’s strike may be over, this won’t be the last time Detroit will hear from the UAW. As a result of the contract agreement, the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis) will now have to find ways to pay for the increases in wages and benefits, which are estimated that it will add $850 to $900 to each vehicle produced. Putting politics aside, the effects of this strike are far-reaching, with no clear winner. Here’s a quote from UAW President Shawn Fain, “We

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Employee Retention

Three Simple Steps to Improve Customer Retention, Sales, and Profits

Nearly every car that leaves your auto repair shop today will need some sort of service or repair in the future. The question is, will your customers take their car back to you? In this blog, I will discuss three simple ways to increase your customer retention rate, which will also increase sales and profits. First, ensure that the entire customer experience is amazing; from scheduling the appointment, vehicle write-up, the sales process, and especially car delivery. A poor experience could

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Customers

Shop Owners: The Best Investment You Can Make Will Surprise You

I am going to borrow a quote from billionaire, Warren Buffet, “The best investment you can make is in yourself,” This statement, while simplistic, speaks volumes. A shop owner is much more than a boss, a shop owner is a leader. And leaders are solely responsible for the success of their team. This means that you must work hard and commit to a life of continuous learning and improvement. It also means that if the team fails, a leader must always blame himself or herself for that failure and find

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Hey Boss, Are You Approachable?

My son is not in the automotive industry. He is in the commercial real estate business. However, the workplace problems are the same. Recently, his frustration with the heads of the company reached an all-time high. When I asked him why he doesn’t speak up and let the leadership know how he is feeling, he responded, “Anyone who has voiced concerns or issues has been viewed as weak and incapable of doing their job. I don’t want to be viewed like that.” This is an example of a toxic work environme

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Shop Owners: Don’t Expect Your Employees to Leave Their Problems at Home

“Leave your problems at home” is a common expression. The thinking behind it is that if you are having a problem at home, it will affect your performance at work. So, change gears when you get to work and put the problem out of your mind. However, can people just shut it off?  Can they leave their problems at home?  Consider this example; your technician and his wife have a very sick child who is getting worse. Their doctor is concerned and wants to refer the child to a specialist, fearing

Pricing Myth: Independent Repair Shops Need to be Cheaper than New Car Dealerships

I was taught a valuable lesson in pricing back in the 1980s by a fellow shop owner. Tom (not his real name) owned a five-bay independent auto repair shop. We met in a training class and became instant friends. The discussion of labor rates and pricing came up often, and his opinion was spot on.  He would tell me, “Joe, we will never get paid what we deserve until we put a higher value on what we do.” This leads me to the reason for this blog: The mindset that auto repair shops should price

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Marketing

Service Advisor Incentive Pay Should not be an Entitlement

I am a firm believer in providing employees with a competitive wage and the opportunity to earn more through incentives. However, any additional incentive bonus must pay for itself. That means any additional incentive compensation must not eat into company profits. While we typically look at payroll as an expense, everyone in your company must be productive enough to support their compensation plan. This is especially true with service advisors. Too often, shop owners don’t properly establi

Your First Step to Attract & Retain Quality Employees

A recent study, done by Harvard Business School, concluded that the real problem with attracting and retaining employees has more to do with the workplace environment, not pay or benefits. While the study did find that an adequate pay plan and offering an attractive benefits package did help with recruiting and retention, it’s not enough to satisfy the needs of employees, especially those of front-line workers. The study also stated that in 2021, many companies were convinced that giving ra

Forget About Criticism; it Doesn’t Work

Have I got your attention? Great. Let me start by saying that I believe in giving praise when deserved and letting employees know when they dropped the ball. However, the truth is that no one enjoys being reprimanded or told they messed up.   The question is, what is the appropriate balance between the right amount of praise and the right amount of critical feedback? According to studies done by Harvard Business School, the ratio of praise to critical feedback should be about 6:1 – Six

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Raising Labor Rates and Prices May Not Achieve Profitability

Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple? The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

5 Reasons for Low Shop Production

Typically, when productivity suffers, the shop owner or manager directs their attention to the technicians. Are they doing all they can do to maintain high billable hours? Are they as efficient as they can be?  Is there time being wasted throughout the technician’s day?  All these reasons factor into production problems, but before we point fingers at the technicians, let’s consider a few other factors. Are estimates being written properly? Are labor testing and inspections being b

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Auto Shop Owners: Your End-of-Year Tax Planning Checklist

For automotive shop owners, tax planning is an ongoing process. You should meet with your accountant at least once a quarter to review your financials, expenses, major purchases, cash reserve, payroll, etc., and make needed course corrections. Below is a general list of tasks that should be done by the end of the year to prepare for tax season, which is right around the corner. Schedule a meeting with your accountant and ask if any information, reports, or documents are specific to

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Do You Know the First Step in Your Marketing Plan?

There are many things to consider when creating a marketing plan. Among them are establishing a budget, what forms of media should be used, and whether traditional advertising, such as TV, radio, and print, is still relevant.  And of course, how much should be allocated to social media and digital advertising? All the above are essentials to any marketing plan. However, the first step is ensuring that you have a healthy workplace and that your employees understand your company’s culture and

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Marketing

Nine Ways to Improve Your Bottom Line

The strategies outlined in this blog reflect real-world strategies I have learned and used in my 41 years as an auto shop owner. I also use these strategies when helping clients as a business development coach.  While running a successful auto repair shop today has many components, the list below contains the top 9 strategies I believe every auto shop owner should consider when looking for ways to improve their bottom-line profit.  Ten Ways to Improve Your Bottom Line: Hire the

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Don’t think you need an Exit Plan? Think Again!

As shop owners, we get consumed with the day-to-day routine of running our businesses. When we are young, we think we have all the time in the world to plan for our futures.  When we hit middle age, we think about our end game, but too few of us do something about it. And when we reach retirement age, we wonder if we did all the right things to prepare for life after owning an auto repair shop. The reality is that life can throw you a curve ball at any age. This means you need to prepare to

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Management

Why Your Employees May be Looking to Quit

I don’t think there’s an auto repair shop in the country these days not looking to hire. At the top of the list is finding qualified technicians. However, while auto repair shop owners may be on the hunt for new workers, they shouldn’t forget the people they employ now. A recent Gallup poll found that while job seekers consider pay compensation and benefits package their primary consideration, it isn’t why many employees feel disengaged at work and may be looking to quit. A recent Gall

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Employee Retention

Why You Don’t Want a 5-Star Google Review Rating

Contrary to what many people believe, having a perfect 5-star Google review rating is not something a business should expect to achieve. After all, no company is perfect. And Google realizes this too. There’s no denying that consumers look at online reviews and base part of their buying decision on these reviews.  A great online review rating on Google is essential to draw traffic to your website and your business.  However, it’s better to have a mix of great and not-so-great reviews.

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi in Customers



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