Hi, Natalie here. You have a great selection of tools on hand that will cover every job a customer will bring into your shop. Whether it’s Mac Tools, Snap-on, OTC, or Wright, the right tool for the job is priceless.
The tools we’re talking about in this post are for finances, but the same strategy holds true. If you’re planning to do your own bookkeeping, the right tool for your financial job is also priceless. They can take what may appear to be a daunting challenge and save you a ton of time. You’ll be back to running your shop before you know it.
Stick around until the end and I’ll outline what’s in my bookkeeping toolbox. Here is an overview with some suggestions on how to choose great financial tools
Here are the top 10 categories:
1. Accounting Software
QuickBooks has been the go-to software for accounting for decades. There are online tools that may be a better option for you. The most popular choice is Xero and the numbers of small business owners that are using Xero is increasing. Compare several and pick the one that is both robust and flexible.
According to the 2015 edition of the Business News Daily’s Buyer’s Guide here are the features you should look for:
Client/Vendor Contact Management
Billing and Recurring Payments Automation
Quote and Estimate Creation
Integration with Programs Such as Point-Of-Sale Software, Credit Card
Processing, and Google Apps
2. Budgeting Tools
Creating a budget is the cornerstone of your shop’s financial success. Staying on task within your budget is equally as important. If your accounting software has this feature, you may already have the proper tool to create that budget. If your preference is a tool dedicated to this task, a recommendation is PlanGuru.
3. Payroll Management System
Payroll management can occupy so much of your time and mistakes are easy to make. Look for tools that streamline the payroll process and cut costly errors. A tool that integrates with your other tools is another feature to look for. Some tools like SurePayroll can calculate and pay payroll taxes. Simple. A couple of other tool suggestions are ZenPayroll and ADP. These combine payroll and HR functions in one.
4. Agile Billing
Speed and flexibility in your billing process means quicker cash flow back to you. With a tools like FreshBooks or Bill.com the billing process will be quicker and give your customers an easy experience. Improving the billing process will serve you and your customers better and shorten delays in receiving payments.
5. Financial Dashboard
The dashboard gives you a quick look at your shop’s financial health. See at a glance if your shop is thriving or surviving. Tools such as LivePlan or InDinero give you clear visuals and show you if you’re starting to go off course. Then you can take the actions to keep moving towards your financial destination.
6. Cash Flow Analysis
Your accounting software should have cash flow statement capability. As with the budgeting tools there are specialty tools for cash flow tracking. A couple of suggestions are Float or a simple spreadsheet. These give you patterns from the past to offer a forecast of your shop’s financial future.
7. Inventory Management
This is all about efficiency and tracking. From the purchase of parts and consumables to generating sales reports and low inventory alerts, this is a very valuable tool. A couple of cloud-based options are SOS Inventory and Scout’s top Shelf.
8. Expense Tracking
Those tiny expenses can quickly add up and may be hard to track. Using an expense report tool such as Expensify or Xpenditure makes this much easier. Track those meals, gas, and incidental expenses by scanning receipts and typing in cash expenses. Some tools have the capability to link to mobile devices helping to track these instantly..
9. Business Credit Card
A business credit card, when used properly has several benefits
Improve your shop’s credit history
Earn higher credit limits
Receive rewards and discounts
Manage employee cards (ease of tracking expenses)
Boosts employee morale due to convenience and trust
10. E-commerce Solutions
Imagine your customer paying for their oil change before the service is completed. They need a couple of quarts of oil to tie them over. It’s easy to buy them online from their trusted repair shop.
Many businesses have seen an increases in cash flow since the beginning of the pandemic by using E-commerce solutions. These are powerful and create revenue streams that you may not have thought of.
11. Three Rivers Bookkeeping
With my 5-years of experience, these are the tools I use:
Accounting software – QuickBooks
Payroll Management System – ADP
Agile Billing – bill.com
Financial Dashboard – LivePlan
I’m passionate about books and service to my clients. If you’d like to have a conversation about tools and why I selected the one’s above, contact me. I can also outline the services I provide and why adding me to your team may make perfect sense to you.
Saving you time and headaches is the value I bring to you, the Auto Repair Shop Owner.
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Hey guys looking for a little advise for people that have been in my situation. We are a smaller shop but really starting to transition to doing more volume in the past 2 years. Been in business for 10 years now and currently have 2 full time tech's and myself. I manage most of the office and service writing stuff and even occasionally help wrench in the back when required. Looking to hire a service advisor soon to help with the work load on the counter.
Currently we just use a a mix of excel spreadsheets for invoicing and customer history, as well as Google calendar. My questions is will I see a big benefit from moving to a all in one management program? Is it worth the monthly fee's for a smaller outfit like mine?
Should mention we are in the powersports arena (mostly boat repair with some other rec equipment) so some of the platforms out there are not 100% tailored to our industry with the ones that are not offering up everything you would get out of a automotive program. Thanks in advance for the help!
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
Keep Your Shop's Summer Momentum Going!
Elite's Supercharge Your Shop, a series of 4 live online courses for shop owners, starts Sept 14th!
Learn to master your shop's numbers, recruit the top techs & advisors, maximize employee productivity, fill up your bays with your ideal customers and more!
These live online courses will be taught by industry superstars Joe Marconi and Kevin Vaught, who have both experienced extraordinary success as shop owners, so everything you'll learn has been proven to generate extraordinary real world results!
You have the option to either enroll in the whole Supercharge Your Shop course series, or pick and choose the individual courses that will help your shop the most. Here's the course schedule:
Sept 14-15 - Mastering Your Shop's Numbers and Cost Control
Sept 16-17 - Hiring America's Top Techs & Advisors
Sept 21-22 - Maximizing Employee Morale, Productivity and Profits
Sept 23-24 - Filling Up Your Service Bays with the Ideal Customers
To enroll in the complete series of these 4 live online courses, just visit our Supercharge Your Shop Page to reserve one of our last openings!
By Joe Marconi
We, automotive shop owners of America, must take the opportunity of a lifetime and turn it into a bunch of success stories. What opportunity? Look around you. The world is in turmoil. COVID-19, social unrest, uncertainty about the presidential election, the economy, how are we going to get out kids back to school, on and on and on.
While the world is spiraling out of control, we have the power to make big changes to our auto repair shops. And it can all be positive!
First, the average age of a car in the U.S. is about 12 years old, attaining well over 200k on the clock.
Second, Uber, taxis and limo companies are suffering. Guess why?
Third, the motoring public in the foreseeable future will be traveling by car, taking road trips like they have never did before.
Fourth, the roads are packed with motor vehicles, as more and more people prefer their own car as their primary means of transportation.
Fifth, as the cars get older and older, more of them will be out of factory warranty.
Sixth, independent auto repair shops have a vast amount of training, resources and replacement parts.
Seventh, the overwhelming majority of cars being build and sold today are still internal combustion engine powered cars. If you factor in the expected average age of car these days, we can safely bet that those gas engine cars being sold today will still be on the road in 2033 and beyond!
Eight, You need more? That's not enough!
Get your plan in place. Get your prices in line with making a profit. Don't give anything away anymore (I am mostly referring to checking, testing, diags of any sort!) Offer world class customer service. Be a leader of your employees. Show the world what you are made of!
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By Joe Marconi
Most of you probably already know what I am about to say: The Service Advisor position is the most crucial position in the shop. I know, I know, what about the mechanical work done by the techs? Well, that's important too, of course.
For the most part, customers spend their hard-earned money and most of time don't really know or see what was done to their car. Let's face it, the customer can't see the water pump or T-belt. And most of the time, the customer does not feel any difference with the car as they drive out of your parking lot.
What the customer does see (or experience) is how she was treated. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Plus, great service advisors also motivate the technicians, because great advisors are also great leaders of people.
Think about this...Six months from now, your customer will not remember the fuel injection relay or the mass air sensor that was replaced....but she WILL remember how she was treated.
And trust me, that OE-quality fuel injection relay install by a certified A-level Master tech using Snap On tools and a Launch Scanner IS NOT the reason WHY your customers return to you....She returns because of the level of service your provide.
By Joe Marconi
A few years back, my service advisor, Tony, was trying to sell a customer a new battery. Let’s call this customer Ed Jones. Here’s how the conversation unfolded; “Mr. Jones, my technician completed our 21-point inspection on your vehicle and everything checks out fine. However, I do want to discuss the battery. Your battery was tested with our Midtronics digital battery diagnostic tool, which is a very accurate piece of equipment. Your battery is rated at 575 cold cranking amps, and your battery tested at 300. Would you like me to replace the battery today?” Ed Jones looked at Tony, and three seconds later said, “Thank you for the information. Let me think about it.”
I know Ed very well. The car we were servicing that day was his daughter’s car, who was home from college for the Christmas holiday. Ed’s daughter is in her first year at Plattsburgh University in upstate New York, which is about a five hour drive and near the Canadian border.
I could see the frustration on Tony’s face, so I gave him a little advice; “Tony, ask Mr. Jones who drives the car. After he answers you, ask him what the car is used for. Listen to his answers and then use that information to sell safety and peace of mind, not a battery.”
Five minutes later, Tony reported back to me excited and amazed; “Joe, great advice! He authorized the battery! I guess you knew he would buy the battery with the right questions?” I replied, “You were trying to sell Ed Jones a battery by pointing out the technical process we use to determine the health of the battery. What you need to do is reach the customer on an emotional level. The questions I recommended you ask made him realize that it’s the welfare of his daughter he was really buying, not a battery.”
Now, let’s clarify something. Tony didn’t say anything wrong with his sales presentation. But he got the process backwards. He was leading with logic. If you’re trying to sell something by using logic alone, you are going to struggle. People make buying decisions based on emotions. To make a sale, you need to connect with the part of the brain where emotions reside, and then back it up with logic.
Bombarding the customer first with facts and features tends to confuse the brain as it tries to make sense out what you are saying. That can be difficult because the technical information is usually not fully understood by the customer and the confusion usually results in the customer saying, “No.”
Let’s review the conversation when Tony asked the right questions; “Mr. Jones, who drives this car?” Ed replied, “My Daughter.” Tony continued, “And what does she use the car for?” Ed replied, “She uses it to go college at Plattsburgh. She’s home for the holidays and goes back to school on Monday.” At that point, Tony realized why I urged him to ask those questions, and continued with, “So, your daughter drives this car back to college, and leaves on Monday. She goes to Plattsburgh, which is near the Canadian border. Mr. Jones, it’s wintertime and that’s a long, lonely drive. Her battery tested weak and may fail without warning. For peace of mind and your daughter’s safety, wouldn’t it be in her best interest to replace the battery before she leaves?” Ed now makes the emotional decision, “Yes.”
Here’s the bottom line. First, know your customer. Build rapport during the write up process and find out all the details of why the car was brought in for service. Second, tone down the technical side of what you do. That’s not to say it’s not important. But, before you give the technical facts, reach your client on an emotional level. Ask questions to find out as much as you can about the customer, and then direct the conversation to the reasons why what you are trying to sell will benefit the well-being of the customer and/or the customer’s family.
Remember, decisions are easier to make when it has meaning to them or a family member. In Ed’s case, not replacing the battery would have been unsettling to him. Tony’s recommendation to replace the battery is perceived as the right decision because it promotes the safety and well-being of his daughter.
Humans are driven by feelings and make emotional decisions, then justify it with logic. Next time you are trying to sell anything to a customer, ask yourself, “Why should the customer buy what I am trying to sell?” The answer may surprise you.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on November 1st, 2019
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By Joe Marconi
We all have those customers that focus on price alone. And we all struggle with our persistent attempts at converting them into believers. Believers of the concept that, while we cannot totally dismiss price, it’s the value of the product or service the customer needs to consider when making a purchase. What’s funny about these customers is that each visit tends to start with a complaint about price, even before the car is looked at. We recently had a situation that started off on the wrong foot, with price being the issue; but ended up a win for us, and for the customer.
Charlie Challenge (not his real name) arrived at our shop and asked for an estimate on replacing the timing chain for his Nissan Altima. My service advisor responded with, “Mr. Challenge, that’s a big job. How do you know your car needs a timing chain?” Charlie replied back, “Another shop checked it out and they told me it does. Can you please give me a price?” My advisor continued with, “Well, before we do anything, we need to perform a few tests to make sure you really do need a timing chain.” Charlie emphatically replied back, “And how much is that going to cost? All you guys want is my money! I asked for one thing; a price on a timing chain and you just want to make more money on something I already know I need!”
It took a lot of composure, but my advisor calmly stated all the reasons why testing is the best way to go, emphasizing the fact that if we replace the chain and it’s not the problem, the money spent would be wasted. Charlie shook his head, threw the keys on the counter and authorized the testing.
I’ve known Charlie for a long time. He’s not a bad guy. But price is always the topic of discussion. He has told me in the past that I should take a look at what other shops charge, and be more competitive with my prices. I have told Charlie that I don’t, and never will, price my services by what other shops are charging. I have also told him to look beyond price and look at the value you get. Besides, all the quality shops that I know are pretty much the same when it comes to pricing.
During the write-up process, Charlie revealed to my service advisor that the check engine light had been on, and that’s why he took his car to the other shop. The other shop replaced a valve timing solenoid, but that didn’t fix the problem. He was then told that the next step was to replace the chain.
Later that morning, the car was dispatched to a technician. A multipoint inspection was performed, along with all the tests related to the check engine light; which was a timing error. After the MPI and the tests were completed, we found a few things wrong with Charlie’s car. His Altima needed an oil change service, a battery, rear brakes, an air filter, the cabin filter had a mouse nest in it and the car needed an intake timing control sensor, not a timing chain. This engine has two intake control solenoids. One was supposedly replaced by the other shop. So, did this car have two bad sensors? Or was the wrong sensor replaced by mistake?
When my service advisor called Charlie to tell him the good news, he was silent for a moment. He was shocked that the car didn’t need a timing chain. He authorized the solenoid replacement, the oil change and replacing the mouse-infested cabin filter. He declined the other work.
I purposely did the follow-up call with Charlie a few days later. He was happy to hear from me and told me that car hadn’t run this good in years. I had to needle him a bit, “So Charlie, are we really expensive? We saved you a ton of money by doing the tests first and not just replacing the chain.” He said, “Ok Joe, I get it, I really do this time.”
During our conversation, Charlie did confess that he didn’t go to another shop, but actually went to that all-knowing, all-powerful place on the internet known as Google. It was Charlie that replaced the solenoid, not realizing there were two, and not knowing how to properly test the system either.
When I asked Charlie why he didn’t let us replace the battery, air filter and the rear brakes, he replied, “Joe, come on, I can do that work myself, and besides, you guys are expensive.”
Sometimes you win the battle, but it’s hard to win the war with some customers.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2019
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