Is your business down 40 or 50% like many on this forum? If so, I have an idea to help a bit now, but especially in the future. And even help the impression of our industry.
You probably have more time available to spend with your customers. It’s the perfect time to build or cement a great relationship, to create that illusive trust with your customer, that’s mentioned in just about every trade magazine, but they never tell you how. May I suggest “The How” that I’ve been using for years? This will be handy now and in the future when this is over.
Learn more about your customers. Become “friends.” Talk about everything: the lousy situation we’re in, ask about their job, their kids, their past vacation, their future vacations, their weekend jaunts. Exchange good news. Exchange not-so-good news. Listen. Talk about what comes up.
I treat our customers like friends, like former high school friends. And these friends know we have to make a profit (EVERYBODY knows that!)
For me, it’s a given that we’re going to take care of their car. If they tell me their dad just went into the hospital or nursing home, we’re done talking about their car. I ask, “How’s dad?”
But still do your (digital) inspections. And write down everything, even the stuff that can wait six to nine months. This may affect the service writer or shop’s approval percentage, but so what! Your percentage will be lower, but you will do more work on the car this way. (Notice that I didn’t say you would sell more work. I don’t “sell.”) No decision now on the future stuff, it can wait.
If their car came in with a problem, this is what will fix it (there’s no selling: this is the solution). I point out the other thing that needs attention now. There will be some explanation, but no selling: it needs it. No decision for the customer, actually. Their car needs it.
Next I say, “Here are the things that can wait six to nine months, but I want you to be aware so there are fewer surprises.” No selling, no decisions on their part. Plus, I’m the trustworthy guy who’s telling them they don’t need everything now.
“Now let’s come up with a plan for these other things I found about your car.” I’m explaining, not selling. “You can do these now or in two or three months.” NOBODY wants to come back in two or three months so they are leaning in that direction, but no pressure from you. They will probably ask; “What would you do?” I say, “If you hate bringing your car in, do it now.” (this is where you would bring in a little value, benefits and safety) Again, not selling, suggesting; letting them make the decision. Notice that the first two issues didn’t involve them making a dreaded decision: It needs this, doesn’t need that.
If your inspection has 5 things, they will do 2 to 4. If the inspection has 8 things, they will do 3 to 5 – with no selling. You are their friend, you are advising. List everything!
Now think about that phone call. There is only a little selling value or benefits: maybe some safety. So there’s no pressure on you, no bad news. You are the car detective, reading the cars clues and helping your friend thru this.
When you take care of the customer in this fashion, you come from a place of trust, like taking care of a high school friend.
You will be happier because that call back won’t be stressful, you will have more work, and they are more likely to refer your trustworthy, easy-to-work-with shop, which means even more work.
Has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your auto shop business? If it hasn't yet, it has the potential to do so soon. Please share what you are currently doing, how your business is impacted, what plans you have in place, etc.
Some things to consider:
Do you have a plan in place should you or one of your employees become ill? With school, event, and business closures, how will this affect your shop? Are you sending anything to your customers in terms of sharing your plans around keeping your customer and employees healthy and doing your part in your community? Many small and large businesses have been sending email communications to their customers. Are you marketing to your customers in terms of not delaying car repair, should there be a need to temporarily close? Are your parts suppliers sharing their plans, should the pandemic affect supply chains? Are you stocking up on business and shop necessities? Please share your experience in this topic and stay healthy!
In the media:
The coronavirus and its growing tally of sick and dead victims around the world have been roiling financial markets, prompting countless hand-washing reminders and ruining more than a few vacations, and that’s before anyone knows exactly how widespread the effect will be on the automotive industry, including your local repair shop. Source
“By mid-March, the shortage of supplies will be felt and members are projecting they’ll experience disruption through May or June,” even if operations in China soon get back to normal, said Stacey Miller, senior director of communications at the Auto Care Association, a trade group representing 150,000 auto aftermarket and service businesses. Source
By Joe Marconi
I have been contacted by many shop owners about the decision to close or not. In most cases across the nation, Auto Repair Professionals are considered essential workers. Which means that we can stay open for business. However, even though we are essential, I personally will not demand my employees to come to work. If business fails because of this virus, it will fail in the short term. We will all eventually find a way to come back and rebuild our businesses.
Things are changing by the hour, and that makes our decisions as leaders even more difficult. I don’t want to get sucked into panic, but I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the fact that we are in uncharted territories and that we are all learning from this crisis together.
The decision to close your business is yours. There is no wrong or right decision here. The safety and well-being of our families are our number one concern. If it makes it any easier, make your next decisions from the heart, not from a business standpoint. Be strong, be a leader, and know that we will get though this.
When the dust begins to settle, we will have learned a lot about business and even more about who we are are as a culture and a society.
I cannot tell you what I am doing tomorrow. I plan on having a meeting with my staff, and a decision will be made to stay open, cut staff, cut hours or perhaps another scenario will surface. I will keep you updated and try to bring a little sanity to everyone during these crazy times.
You are all leaders; you are automotive shop owners. You are the toughest of the toughest. I know you and I will prevail through these troubling times and I look forward to the future when we can all look back and say…”We may it through, and we’re better off for it.”
A bit of a clickbait title, but not inaccurate. The shop is doing amazing, and I haven't been here but a few hours here and there since last June. Prior to that I had been the shuttle driver and not much else. I sold the shop to my manager, something that has been in the works for over 3 years. Spending the next couple days at the shop getting a few things settled (vendor accounts, recurring payments, etc) before the final handover on Saturday. I'm retired now at 55, and I won't have to work another day. My wife and I are moving onto our boat and we're going to sail around the world a few times.
The moral of the story is that you CAN get there. You don't have to be particularly bright, I'm certainly not. You don't even have to be an amazing manager. There are thousands of shop owners who are better managers than I am.
You do have to work hard. Way harder than the average guy, and a lot of guys work pretty hard.
You do have to be smart about your business. Don't spend money you don't have yet. Cash in the bank fixes a world of sins, make sure you have plenty.
You do have to take calculated risks. Business ownership is not for the meek. You'll have to take risks that the average guy would never dream of. Be fearless, but DO THE MATH before you jump.
You do have to fully understand your financials. If you can't read a P&L and be able to see there's a problem that needs further investigation, you better learn how. Same with your KPI's.
You do have to do great marketing, and lots of it. There are guys out there who claim they don't need to do any marketing and are swamped. Maybe there are, but I'm not one of them. Odds are you aren't either. Get busy marketing.
And you do have to get good business coaching and listen to what they say. You could be stupid like me and wait 12 years before you finally get a business coach and start making money, but why would you want to do that? Get one now. If they don't pay for themselves many times over, odds are you didn't do the work to go with the advice.
By Joe Marconi
My Thoughts on the Coronavirus and Business
In my 40 years in business, I have lived through many economic downturns. From the stock market crash of the late 1980’s, the housing bust of 1990’s, the tragic event of 911 and the great recession of 2008. This is different. The fears and the realities of the coronavirus has affected us all. And some areas of the country have been hit harder than others. In all other situations, I fought like hell to make a difference and beat the circumstances. Again, this is different.
I am not an alarmist, not a defeatist and I do not get sucked into the sensationalism of the press. Just today, I heard a sports announcer on a talk radio show advise her listeners to stay at home, don’t go to work, don’t go to the movies, don’t go out of the house and isolate yourself from other people. Is this rational? I can’t do that.
I am an automotive shop owner. What I do matters to my family and the community. I…WE….need to be there to ensure that the doctors, nurses, police, public officials and everyone else has their transportation ready to perform. Stay home? Us? Is that an option?
But again…this is different. This afternoon, I was getting ready to go to Church; 4:00pm Mass, when my wife got an alert that Church as been canceled. Wait; let me say this again real slow…Church… has…. been…canceled.
Fear has a way of eating at the fabric of our rational being. I fully understand the reality of what is happening. This virus will take people’s lives. But, do we run away in the face of a threat? Is this who we are? What do we do? Close our businesses for a few weeks? A month or two? How many of us can afford that? We all know the answer to that question.
As automotive shop owners, technicians, service advisors and all the other valuable employees of this great profession, we need to take the proper precautions. Do all you can to protect yourself and your family. If you decide to continue to operate your shop during this challenging time, have a meeting with all your employees. Take the proper steps to protect yourself, your employees and your customers.
Business may get ugly for some. My company has taken a 40% drop in business the past three weeks, directly contributed to the coronavirus outbreak.
I write this to tell you how I feel; not to decide for anyone what to do. I will not force my employees to do anything they feel would put themselves or their families in harm’s way. For me, I intend to fight. I will take care of myself, take care of my family. But there are too many people depending on what I do, and way too may years behind me to hunker down and wait this out.
Stay safe, stay healthy. Take this situation serious. But please don’t give up. We will prevail and we will get through this together. We are the hardest working, most resilient, toughest people on the planet.
Let’s show the world and this virus who we are!
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By Ron Ipach
I want to talk about collecting the right information from every one of your customers while they’re in your shop. What do I mean by that? When we’re talking about marketing, it’s important that we collect all the current information that we have on our customers so that we can continue to market to them. Marketing to your current customers, it’s like picking the low-hanging fruit. It’s the easiest group of people to get back into your shop, so we want to make sure that we collect all the data that we can from our customers while they’re sitting right there in our shop.
Obviously, what you want to do it get their correct name. Make sure their name is spelled correctly. Have that in you database.
Then, also, we want their mailing address. Everybody’s got a place they’re living. They’re not living in their car, chances are. So we want to make sure that we get their home address so that we can mail something to them.
The next thing on the list is we want to make sure we get their e-mail address. We want to make sure that we’re getting the right e-mail address. Not the e-mail address the junk e-mail that a lot of people, including me, I have a junk e-mail address that I give to everybody because I don’t want them to contact me. We want to make sure that we get their actual e-mail address. The one that they actually do check. It’s very important you do that.
You May Also Like: Putting An Auto Repair Ad In The Yellow Pages Then, the next thing that I want to make sure that you get is the two phone numbers that they have. One is their home phone number. Some people don’t have home phones anymore. I happen to still have a home phone number. If they don’t have their home phone number, certainly, they have a cell phone. You want to make sure that you’re collecting that data as well.
What you’re going to be able to do with all this, if you have a home address, you can send them a piece of mail. If you have an e-mail address, the good e-mail address, you can send them an e-mail. If you have their home phone number, not only can you pick up the phone to call them, I call it dialing for dollars when you’re on your slow days to see if you can get some of them to your shop, but you can also do something. It’s a technology called the voice broadcast where you record a message, and it blasts it out to everybody’s home phone number and leaves a message just like you would’ve left a message on their voicemail by calling their home if you called them one by one. This is different, where you just record it one time and it blasts it out to everybody. Then, if you get their cell phone number, you can send them a text message, and 99% of text messages get read, and 95% of them get read within the first five minutes. So it’s a very valuable way to be able to market to them.
You May Also Like: What's New In The Automotive Repair Industry? But none of this is going to work for you if you don’t have the accurate data in your database. So here’s a suggestion that you start right now, today, with the very next customer that walks through the door and you start collecting that data. Think of it like when you went to the doctor’s office the last time. What they did is they handed you that clipboard and said, “We’re updating our records. Please fill all this out.” You can protest all you want, but they’re going to make you fill those forms out every single time you go in. Why? They have insurance forms that they need to fill out, and they got to make sure everything’s accurate. You, you need to market to them. You got to run your business off of this data. So require that they fill out each and every one of those lines. Their name, their e-mail address, their phone number, their cell phone number. You want to make sure that you collect all that data so that you can market to them.
Just assume that they’re going to give you that data and no questions asked. If you just ask for an e-mail address, now there’s a dialogue that kind of goes back and forth. If you simply hand them a form that says “We need all this information for our database, for our records,” they will go ahead and fill that out. Make sure that you get that done.
You also, at the bottom of that form, you want to have like a little disclaimer that by singing below, and you want to make sure they sign it, by signing below, you are allowing Ron’s Auto Repair to contact them by mail, by phone, or any other electronic means necessary. You want to have that little catch-all, cover-your-butt legalese on there so that when they sign it, they literally have given you permission to market to them using all of those means.It all starts with good information if you want to be able to market to your current customers. Your current customers are your best source of income, and we’ll cover that on other videos like this. You got to make sure that you have the data first so that you can market to them in the future.
note: Be sure to watch the replay of my Live Webinar
By Joe Marconi
No matter what the year has been, this is the half way point for the year and time to review your business plan for 2016. This is also the time when you review all your 2016 goals, both personal and business. Assess where you are and make the adjustments needed to achieve those goals. Dont worry about the last six months if it did not live up to your expectations. Make the needed course corrections to maintain your focus and make sure you align those corrections to what you need to achieve your objectives. Lastly, remain positive, know the numbers of your company and create strategies that are in line with your goals.
By Joe Marconi
October starts the year’s fourth and final quarter. A time where shops begin to reflect back on the year and look toward the next year. For many of us, it’s been a wild roller coaster ride, for others not so bad. That’s business, and we all know that there will always be good days and bad days.
The key thing to remember as leaders of your business, is to always be looking to the future. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on it. Become more proactive. Try different things and don’t be afraid to fail. Through failure are valuable lessons.
Set your sights high and remember to begin planning now for 2016. Don’t wait until the end of the year, or even worse the start of 2016. The earlier you begin to dissect and analyze the current year, the better position you will be to improve your chances of a more successful future.
By Joe Marconi
2014: Time for Review, Time to Move Forward
It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I guess my father was right when he said the older you get, the faster time goes by. If you haven’t done it already, you need to reflect on the past year. What were your accomplishments? Did you achieve your goals? Complete your review and plan to move forward.
Did you complete your2014 business plan? If you didn’t, you should do it ASAP. And it must be written down. A plan is not a plan unless is written down. If it’s in your head, it’s nothing more than a dream. It’s a known fact that those with clearly written goals and a clearly written plan are much more successful.
That’s does not mean you will always achieve those goals. But the odds are far greater when you have a plan and goals with deadlines. And please remember; a plan is a live document. You must review it often, tweak it as needed and modify it when needed. Please include life needs too, don’t make your plan all about business.
We all want to move forward in our life. But, just like taking a road trip, mapping out the way makes it a whole lot easier.