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Hi, a friend of mine was working as a one man garage until a recent workplace accident. I had been trying to help to organise the shop better so he wasn't dealing with constant interruptions (with little success).

 

The accident was caused by trying to do too much at once resulting in working on a car in an unsafe manner.

 

I've talked to a number of one man garages recently and it seems they all struggle in a similar fashion.

 

So, my question is this.... How best to run a one man business. There seems to be little interest in joining forces with another one man setup.

 

So, how/when to make appointments, schedule work, order parts, get paid etc

 

I'm looking at Google docs to see if there's any way to put an appointment calender into action.

 

Not even sure what are the real problems faced by a one man shop...Can anyone point me in the right direction?

 

Thanks

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Hi, Vinny!

 

Running a one man shop was the hardest thing for me to do! It's insane the discipline and organization you must follow to stay sane and successful.

 

Here is the secret to success, and it's so simple you will dismiss it out of hand because it is so simple to be true.

 

It's all about your way of thinking, change how you look at things and think about them.

 

1. Fear of losing out. You don't have to take all the work all the time.

Customers are looking for a reliable, trustworthy mechanic. Be honest, let them know you are a one man shop, and hold them to a higher standard, don't let them muck with your time. If they are no shows, drop them as clients.

 

2. Plan your Budget, know your dashboard numbers by heart and hit your targets.

If you know you have to sell $2,500 a week in revenue, stick to it, if you have to stay late do it, then slack off. In the opposite side, if you make your numbers within a few days, don't waste your time shaming around, instead clean the shop, pickup the phone and sell, market, teach a clinic, etc.

 

3. The number one time sink will be the phone, learn to be brief and courteous. LEARN TO SAY NO!

All kinds of people will come to try to sell you stuff, do yourself a favor, be polite and learn to say no. It helps them and you by keeping your time on YOUR schedule.

 

4. Hire professional help, use the best program to track your business.

You accountant/bookkeeper will help you save money and grow your business, excellent accountants can help you make wise decisions on how to grow your money and business by investing wisely.

 

5. As soon as you can, hire the best help you can afford, they paid themselves and make you money.

Good help is never an expense, they pay for themselves my knowing exactly how to do the job right.

 

6. CHARGE WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR! Know the difference between markup vs margin. YOU NEED TO MAKE A PROFIT TO STAY IN BUSINESS! Turning wrenches just for the sake of turning wrenches is no fun as a business owner, besides your kids need to be properly fed, clothed, and raised. If you can't make a profit, leave the business and get hired as a tech. else wise you hurt yourself and other by driving prices down.

 

...

Edited by HarrytheCarGeek
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Thanks for the quick reply. In my paying job I have done some work with lean manufacturing so I appreciate it when you point out the "simple" things. it's often the simple things that are done wrong or inefficient.

 

The phone is something I had noticed. Most calls are for customer making appointments, Parts houses looking for orders or even customer looking to see if their car is ready. so I'm looking at maybe an online enquiry form. Give the vehicle details, required work if known and which day preference. Also looking at just picking a preferred parts house and emailing the vehicle details and parts required.

 

Trying to convince my friend to let all calls go to the answering machine :-)

 

The accident was caused when he lifted a car that was already on a lift. axle stands were under the car but not correctly placed. Phone rang so he answered it, went back to work on the car without putting the axle stands in fully so the trolly jack was supporting the car. Jack slipped, car came down but luckily got caught on one axle stand. Minor injuries sustained but was very lucky escape.

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Thanks for the quick reply. In my paying job I have done some work with lean manufacturing so I appreciate it when you point out the "simple" things. it's often the simple things that are done wrong or inefficient.

 

The phone is something I had noticed. Most calls are for customer making appointments, Parts houses looking for orders or even customer looking to see if their car is ready. so I'm looking at maybe an online enquiry form. Give the vehicle details, required work if known and which day preference. Also looking at just picking a preferred parts house and emailing the vehicle details and parts required.

 

Trying to convince my friend to let all calls go to the answering machine :-)

 

The accident was caused when he lifted a car that was already on a lift. axle stands were under the car but not correctly placed. Phone rang so he answered it, went back to work on the car without putting the axle stands in fully so the trolly jack was supporting the car. Jack slipped, car came down but luckily got caught on one axle stand. Minor injuries sustained but was very lucky escape.

 

See, this is a catch-22, the phone is your greatest sales tool. You need to speak to your customer and qualify him, bring him in and sell him. On the other hand, this is why it is important to learn to say no, so you don't trash your schedule and instead spend your time on calls that bring in the revenue.

 

Here, I will give you another great tip. Set a time when you take sales calls and give them a minute to do their sales pitch. For example, Tuesdays or Thursdays 8:30 to 11:00 am. So when they call you, ask them, "is this a sales call?" If they keep rambling on, tell them the times you take sales call, and keep to it. If they are professionals they will call you when you are taking sales calls. My best supplier relationships have been made this way.

 

Regarding the accident, lucky your friend didn't get seriously injured, but this close call should serve as a warning to stay alert in the shop area. I am really pedantic about safety in the shop.

Edited by HarrytheCarGeek
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Great post, guys! I am also a struggling one man show. I have Mitchell1, quickbooks online and work from home. There are numerous times when I let the phone go to voicemail, but I cal them back the moment I have the opportunity. I have a small but loyal customer base, and they already know the drill. The new customers I get are quickly educated on being flexible with the time frame to get the car serviced properly. I have found that most people are quick to understand if you don't answer their call on the first ring. They know that quality work takes time, and I will take the same care and attention to detail with their vehicle once it enters my bay. On the other hand, I have had to fire customers for being unreasonable or time killers, and I don't sweat that loss one minute! The best advice I can give (besides the previous advice listed above from the other contributors), is to take a few moments every morning to prioritize your goals for the day, make time for sales calls, and don't allow people to redirect your attention if possible.

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Harry, Thank you very much for the tip about scheduling phone calls. This turned out to be the thing that broke the "I'm not changing a thing" ice 😁 it has worked so well that I now have an opening to start working on your other suggestions. I'm working my way through all the posts on the forum to see if there is anything else I can use!

 

Really appreciate you sharing your insight!

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Great post, guys! I am also a struggling one man show.

Can i pick your brains a little?

Do you ever wish you weren't a one man show? What gives you the biggest headache that is caused by being on your own? is there anything that you might be able to share with another on man setup in your area, like accounts, etc? If you previously worked in a dealership or with others, what do you miss?

Thanks for your comments

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      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.
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      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.
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