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April business- record lows

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I've been in business for 37 years this November. Started with myself and 1 tech straight out of voed school. Business grew thru the years to 1.5M in sales with myself, 2 service advisers, 3 full service techs, and 2 tire techs. Had a pretty good run for the first 29 years but the last 8 have been rough. 2008 was the last normal year we had. At that point we had had a run of 15 straight years of 96-97% hours billed. Then the recession hit and things have never recovered. Every year our hours billed continued to drop. Last year we billed about 73% of our hours. It's all due to declining car count.

Two weeks ago that first employee came to me and said that he was retiring from this business to concentrate on a non auto business he was running at home. It was a bittersweet moment for me because being together everyday for 37 years he is like family to me, but on the other hand, I truly haven't needed 3 techs for the last few years. So it saved me from laying a tech off, something I promised myself I would never do.

Three years ago when we ended 2013 billing about 85% of our hours I thought it was the end of the world. However, at this point, 2013 seems like the good old days.

We have a beautiful shop, built in 2007. We have great online reviews. We are doing more marketing than ever before. I still have a great staff that averages 16 plus years of service here. We keep up to date with electronic inspections, etc. I'm here everyday fighting the good fight. Even at last year's numbers, I made money and had a positive cash flow.

But....what in the world is going on this spring. Talk about soft. We just had one of the worst months we ever had. Down 30% from last April. And it's not just me. EVERYONE I talk to here in NE Ohio is dead.. The foreign car shop we do alignments for is never slow because he specializes in German cars. He's slow so now he is working on domestics. A small shop across town had one small job yesterday and nothing on his schedule for the rest of the week. A customer that works for a steel company told me April was his worst month in 10 years. I truly believe we will find out that we are already in a new recession.

I guess I just want to hear from you guys that it's like this all over, misery loves company. Plus hearing it helps me to sleep at night. Sorry for the long rant.

Edited by tyrguy
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