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Turning in to a more Focused Shop


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Hey all!

 

My shop has been open for almost 3 years now. As all of you will know, the first couple of years are some of the hardest. Thankfully, we've made it and now we're starting to slowly make some money.

 

Now we have an established customer base with mostly the type of customers that I would like. But now, I'm thinking of becoming a more focused shop. Focused more on servicing and repairing Japanese vehicles.

 

So my question is this: What is the best way to start making this change? Changing our website, putting it in our newsletters, marketing campaigns? Have any of you done this before?

 

Thank you in advance! Any and all input is greatly appreciated.

 

 

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I started my business out this way. I was a Honda Tech and decided I wanted to work on just Japanese cars. I quickly found that I was losing a bunch of work and customers because how many customer truly drive just one brand of car or stay with one brand of car. For me I found it really limited me. You would really need to know the makeup of the cars in your area.

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I think you have to dive into your numbers and see if your numbers would support this. What is the makeup of your current business? What percent of current cars would fit into your new profile? I would also research the area to find out how many registered owners are there. What tooling would you need to purchase to be world class in that area of expertise?

 

I would love to work on nothing but Japanese, but I'm in Texas and a Ford F150 is the number one make we work on.

Working on one line (Asian) surely simplifies some things. I know several shops that do specialize and do well. None of them started out that way. We have great relationships with them and occasionally when we have a challenge we call them. We get a number of referrals from them also so it works well in our area.

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I read somewhere that one of the best ways to "have your cake and eat it too" is:

Don't turn away any "non-preferred" brands (unless you're too busy doing "preferred" work or you aren't up to the task, like diagnosing without proper scan tools etc)

BUT have only the "preferred" brand vehicles out front of your shop.

Park all the off brand vehicles around the back or on the side, and have only the preferred makes of vehicles where the passing vehicles can see them.

 

The reality is, turning away profitable work is just bad business. You can however, start training your prospective customers about the types of vehicles you would prefer to work on.

Always take care of your current good customers, even if they have non-preferred brands. It costs way more to gain a new customer then to keep a current one.

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i agree your limiting your customers. For example, i have 2 cars, a chevrolet pickup and a toyota camry. So, i can go to shop A with just my camry, and have to go to shop B for the chevrolet. But Shop B says that they can service the camry too, so, now i dont really care to go to Shop A as it only services one of my cars. Now at B i can have all my service records in one place, i can build a relationship with them easier and so on......

 

thats my 2 cents and how it would play out for me.

 

hope this helps

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I have owned my present shop and location for 10 years, and service all makes. When I previously was in the automotive machine shop business (30 years), we serviced and machined engine components from quite a variety of engines. We covered boring and honing motorcycle and outboard blocks as well as reconditioning Cummins truck engine blocks and components, on up to V-12 and V-16 Stationary (Quarries, scrap yards, generators, etc.) engines. Of course we took care of all the "Grocery Getter" engines, and did auto racing and inboard marine engines, too.

 

I have found that I enjoy servicing different makes, enjoy writing invoices small, large, and extra large, and that I hate like hell to tell someone that we "don't do that." I will offer to you shop owners that I won't take on "Just any job" if I think it's going to be a "Problem" job, but to me "Variety is the Spice of Life!!"

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I own a shop that works exclusively on Toyota, Lexus, and Scion. It has been great, business has grown steadily for 2 years. Most of my customers come to me because another shop that 'works on everything' usually can't fix whatever problem they are having or have screwed up their car and now don't know who to trust. So they come to the specialist. Once we fix what the other shop screwed up or couldn't diagnose, we've usually earned their business and they don't take their Toyota/Lexus anywhere else. Also, I am in a 100K+ population city with no Lexus dealer, so the Lexus owners don't have much of a choice besides me or a 2 hour drive.

 

All that being said, I had my website design people add Honda & Acura today. Why? The volume just doesn't seem to be there for Toyota and Lexus alone. Like I said before, the business is still growing as more people hear about us, but if I want to reach the sales goals I have in mind, one line of cars won't cut it. Adding Honda/Acura will still allow me maintain the 'specialist' name/niche, but adds more volume. It also lessens the blow on additional tools I'll need to add. I also think it makes it a little easier on the staff, since they see the same cars/problems every week... My female service advisor with no service history can almost diagnose cars before she hands me the ticket on them since we see repeat problems over and over again.

 

I think it's really in how you market your shop. I made sure to get every certification possible before I left the dealership so I could hang it on the wall in the waiting area. I also use the factory scan tools, allowing me to do EVERYTHING to the car (keys, reflash, etc). Having the 'specialist' name, the 6 certificates with my name hanging on the wall, plus the certs of other staff, and advertising 'factory scan tool' allows me to charge a higher labor rate than most other independents and few people price shop me (They already expect to pay a premium at the 'specialist')

 

Hope this helps somewhat. In short, I think it makes sense to specialize in something, just don't narrow your market too much.

 

 

 

Also, the back of the shop is a great hiding place to break the rules. We've done an oil change on a 2015 supercharged Jag and have a customer with a mazda who spends over $500 every visit... Yet we're still the Toyota and Lexus Specialists

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Here is my 2c as a "specialty" shop (Only German)...

 

The pros are...

 

  • You can focus on specific car makes and get really good at them which in theory cut down diag times and repair times which makes you more $$$.
  • You can focus on specialty tools, equipment and training which you normally couldn't afford to with general repair.
  • You can charge more for your specialized service. I believe this to be true to whatever specialty you have as long as you are marketing your service as a "premium" service liken to going to the dealer.
  • Attract specialty techs with specialty training and keep them happy. When techs don't have to worry about some beat up old dog vehicle from a undesirable brand coming through the door they feel much better... or they become spoiled in which that may become a con!

Cons...

 

  • Your market has to be able to support your specialty. You can't expect to get the car count you want in a small town.
  • Your MARKETING must be SPOT ON. If you know what you are doing, there are tons of the right customers with the right cars for you to work on.
  • Your reputation must be maintained well. You are not a generalist anymore that picks up a high car count off the street. You want like minded customers driving the cars you want to work on.

 

 

I read an article in Ratchet and Wrench about a guy with a subaru shop up in Alaska. I believe he has since branched out to 2 shops, the first one grossing 2-3 mil a year. Subarus in Alaska? That is a smart man.

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I thought about specializing but the potential loss of business has prevented me from doing so. What I do is park Mercedes and bmw's out front next to the road, and blend in the other makes next to the shop. When people drive by they immediately see that we work on European cars. Its the best of both worlds for us as there's not enough European cars to keep us busy in my area. If I park old rusted junk out front it attracts old junk.

 

Word of mouth also drives business that we are interested in. I'm too expensive for a certain segment of the population, so that narrows down the work we do. In essence we specialize in customers that can afford professional service.

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Thank you all so much for the great suggestions. I will be doing what most of you suggest, which is parking "preferred brands" out front while still continuing to work on everything. For the time being, that will probably be the best solution.

 

Looking into the numbers, about 3/8 of my customers vehicles are domestic where as the others are Asian (very few European as I tend to shy away from them.) So for the time being, all of my calculations tell me to stay the way I am.

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I too was a Honda tech at an independent shop for a decade. Went on my own and found out I could not survive on just Honda work alone. I'm working on everything....and successfully too! Just had our best month ever this past July. My wife has now left her day job to work with me and we are looking to move out of our one bay operation. Exciting times.

 

I have made investments in tooling, but honestly, I can't remember a vehicle I have not been able to service and repair correctly. A really good J2534 pass through device gives you access to OEM diagnostic tooling...that's huge!

 

We do it all, except major body work. We have alignments and state inspections done at another shop for us. We like to be the YES shop. I do enjoy the challenge of getting to know other makes. Currently an ASE master tech, but foresee myself transitioning out from under the hood within the next couple of years.

 

AJ

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  • 2 weeks later...

Through the years I've turned wrenches on everything from weed eaters and chainsaws to class 8 trucks and cat D10 dozers. I have a shop in a small northern Minnesota town that works on anything that fits through the doors, doesn't float, and isn't made in China. We are near several recreational lakes, so I constantly have people needing work on boats. I usually offer to drill holes in the boat, shove it in the lake and sink all their problems. Seriously though, if I could find a competent boat tech, I'd probably add that to the mix. Seems something I work on is always in demand, so being versatile has kept me steady even when other shops in the area were dead.

 

Sent from my DROID RAZR HD using Tapatalk

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         0 comments
      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 begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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