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Some Repair Shops slow, others busy. What gives?

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Great Tire Deal

I agree - pretty strange... Been in business 24 years and we our best ever May and June, the worst July in three years (since we moved!), a record August and September and we are on track for a record October! July had people going home early - no particular change in marketing or ANYTHING. Just SLOW... And WEIRD!

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Same. April was our best month EVER and we moved to the other side of town in the middle of the month into a new shop that was still under construction and we didn't look open. How the hell do you have record sales when you don't even look open for business? May, June, And July weren't far behind and then sales were cut in half for August and September...


Totally agree with what Joe said. Stay positive and continue to look for ways to improve. Building and keeping a financial cushion can make these ups and downs a little easier to ride out

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I run my own internet marketing. This helps because if I zee the pile of cars running low I can jump on and throw out two or three short run ads for the weekend.


Make sure your not falling into the trap of turning people away when it picks up a bit. When you get busy or swamped that is the most important time to keep bringing in new cars and doing full inspections so the techs keep that constant flow.

Edited by Handson
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We're down in Brownsville, TX. we're in south Texas border with Mexico and it has been a rare year for us, since our shop is a 3yr old.

We have been growing and still have a 7% sales increase yr. to date but from late august till now, our monthly sales have been decreasing.

We're doing less than last yr. ....and as Joe said keeping positive is the best way.

It's slow but this give us the time to convert one of our bays into an state inspection station. this keep us busy and at the same time allow us to continue to provide services


wow, and I thought it was just us

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We were very similar for that period. Our sales were down about 30k for a month as well, but for us it was April. If April had just been equal to 2015, we would have been up as well. Currently, Our sales are down about 10% for the year. But considering one of my techs retired in April and I've elected to try and make it work with only the 2 service techs remaining and 2 tire techs I don't feel too bad.

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Joe, you make a good point. But the vast majority of shop owners I talk to are trying to figure out what that 'silver' bullet is to build car count... while they haven't done a stitch of marketing or promotion for years.


Marketing and building a shop is a journey... not a destination. There are simple, cost effective things that can be done weekly... and they must be done regularly... that result in success. There isn't a single shot campaign that gets (profitable) results.


Hope this helps!

Matthew Lee

"The Car Count Fixer"

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Many many years ago i voiced my concern that business at my shop is slow and other shops seem to have a lot of work.

Her response to me was -" Dont worry about what is happening in other peoples shops, worry about your own".

That words i took to hart and still apply that today in business today.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My shop is up 2% from last year despite having 24 more repair bays open up within two miles of my shop (CarX and Midas), a Big O' Tire re-open after being closed and having outlived a damaged reputation, and a very nice quick lube store inside a mile of my shop.


We're still missing opportunities on shocks/struts and other maintenance sales. The business is out there folks. It's finding the right people in your shop and finding the right attitude to make it happen. It's a constant battle to get staff and yourself ready to promote what is needed on customer's cars. You can't be afraid to do what is best for their cars, their time, and their safety. If we only fix what's broken we will not grow without a lot of luck.


I'd rather work hard than depend on luck.

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Well, after reading this thread, I feel compelled to reply. First of all, what I say may not apply to all shops but here in south central PA, some shops hardly have enough business to pay bills awhile others are swamped with work. One shop said to me recently that they are a month behind. We have been extremely busy for most of this year. Personally, I do not agree it has anything at all to do with politics. Rather, many customers are weary of shops that do less than sup par work. The slow shops here in this area are characterized by (1) not keeping up with technology (2) no current diagnostic tools or service information (3) persons working there that are filthy dirty, smoking, cussing and swearing at the job and the customer, hate the job, girly pictures on the walls, and the list could go on. Also, within the last year, there has been several good shops that have gone out of business. Our shop has benifited from this. Another thing, we get alot of business from other shops that only want to do the easy in easy out jobs. They turn away the electronic work, the diesel work, engine changes and drivetrain work. Then complain they are slow. Another thing I hear is customers complimenting to us about the upbeat happy atmosphere here. What I am getting at is that customers are weary of going to shops where they are seen as a bother and a pest. Here, we enjoy our work, my men want to be here doing what we are doing. We have alot of fun doing what we do and do not mind at all that the customer sees us this way. Due to having good service information and many diagnostic electronic tools including scan tools, lab scope, DVOM and the list goes on, we can be current and not be scared of developing technology. Another thing I see, our customers are comfortable with the relationship we have with them. We chat with them and are a part of their lives. We enjoy meeting our customers at Walmart or wherever we might be. And, I must say, we get compliments on our morals. We do not allow swearing, cussing, girly pictures, smoking, and drugs. We are intensely religious and our customers greatly appreciate that. They know they can trust us and we can trust them. So, in this Thanksgiving season, I am very grateful to my Maker for all we have. Great business, good customers and good vendors.

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Last week we went over our all time gross sales by 1.7%, and I still have a month on the year to go.


This should be cause for celebration, no? Well, it isn't. Profit has long ago stagnated.


I have mined my data, and did tremendous changes to the business, profit was helped but it required me to completely rethink and relearn about what I think I knew about this business.


In March I spent $20k on a EDDM campaign that NOT A SINGLE LEAD CAME THROUGH.


I will be generous and share this with you for my lessons learned:


1. Profile your customers.


We added fields to the customer database to fine tune the customer profile, for example, we now estimate the customer's age, number of children in the household, either if they rent or own their house, etc.


This helps us to better model their free cash flow and disposable income, then we compare this data to their car data points and see if we can better sell them what their car needs to be in top shape.


2. Advertise only where your best customer's attention is.


Once you have defined your best customer's profile and tested it, look toward where they spend their time and attention. One of the most curious and successful campaigns was for us to partnered with Chinese and Italian fast food places to get our message delivered, we picked up their bagging and menu printing supplies cost which carried our message to a very large industrial and commercial park area. The revenue cost is less than $3 per $100, I cannot be happier with that ROI.


3, Facebook, although more expensive than other mediums, we targeted people that needed their car to be compliant with emission regulations. This has been quite profitable, but the quality of customer has not been the best.


4. I have been able to draw many new customers from the dealer network. Profitable business, but not highly lucrative, on the plus side, less rust and more predictable turn around service which cost us less $ to deliver the service.


Many of my competitors have been closing, this has had a good impact on our performance. I am hopeful with the new administration we will have better incentives coming down the legislative pipe.

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Very well said Martin. We have the same standards here at my shop. My wife always tells me "you know every one around here" when we are out due to the many people that always stop us to say hello. My tech's are always singing out in the shop and when they don't the customers ask why. A good clean friendly environment makes everyone smile, looks good and is safer. We are up 9% over last year and have always grown every year for the 17 years we have been here. I do really think one of the best things a shop can do is how they treat a customer when something goes wrong or the dreaded "Come Back". If we have a return problem we drop everything right away and help that customers problem right away! They have top priority now over any other job in the shop. We let that know that too. I have found how you fix a screw up say's so much more about your integrity then anything else. Customers will brag you up more if you treat them right. By far.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We have been very busy the past few weeks. Make sure you are addressing customer concerns & beyond.

27 point check on every car with constant tech training as to what you expect, this is next weeks work & I have proven it over & again. When checks do not get done we are slow.

I tell my guys there are $100.00 dollar bills under the wipers, you just have to grab them! We sell between I would say $75.00 to $3000.00 & up on almost every car,

you need to present all issues to the customer & explain to them.


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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      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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