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
Today is the first day of summer, and we are still dealing with the dreaded COVID-19. However, there are positive indicators that business will be better than expected this summer. People will be taking more road trips, will avoid airplanes, trains and Ubers and will take to the roads in record numbers.
Gear up for a great summer and look for opportunity with each vehicle visit. Perform those multipoints as if your business depends on it….why?....Because it does!
We have a lot to be thankful for. Keep positive, be a leader and thrive!
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.
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 Joe Marconi
“Why are we discussing these issues when the people who need it the most are not here? We’re not reinventing the wheel. We get it. But the ones who don’t get it need to be here, too!”
Those were the words spoken by one of my service advisors during a recent meeting. We were discussing quality issues and ways to improve overall production, which, we determined, would improve sales and profit. I listened as Tommy (not his real name) continued for a few minutes. I could hear the frustration in his voice, so I let him speak until I felt he expressed all his feelings to the group.
I am a firm believer in holding regular meetings. And, while there are times when the group gives me feedback, rarely does anyone voice their opinion with such passion and intensity the way Tommy did that day. Drawing on experience, I thanked him for his openness and honesty. I also asked him if we could continue this discussion in the morning in private. He agreed.
The next morning, I paged Tommy and asked him to come to my office. I thanked him again for his openness and asked him to elaborate more on what he said the night before. Tommy hesitated at first, but slowly began to tell me his frustrations. It really boiled down to the level of commitment from a few techs. Tommy spoke in length about what he would like to change in the shop, and again repeated that we’re not reinventing the wheel. His words were clear and on point, “Joe, we all know what to do. We all know our goals. And we all know when we perform to the level we are supposed to. So, I just don’t understand why all of us can meet those expectations.”
Tommy’s insight into the work environment and the dynamics of people’s behavior was perhaps deeper than he even realized. When people within an organization feel that some of their coworkers are not pulling their weight, animosity begins to set in. Essentially, your top employees want to make sure that everyone is committed to the company’s success and doing their very best for the greater good of the team.
We also need to remember that people look at things from their own perspective. And their perspective becomes their reality. The key thing is to keep the lines of communication open, learn from each other and try to view different situations from the viewpoint of others.
After nearly 30 minutes of discussion, it was time to give Tommy my input on how I viewed the situation. I let him know that, while not everyone will be in total agreement with how he views these concerns, he has made a giant step forward at letting me know the issues we have in the shop. I then asked Tommy, “Out of our 16 employees, how many people in your opinion, without giving me any names, do not live up to the expectations of the company?” Tommy thought for a moment and replied, “Well, when I think about it, just a few. Two, maybe three.” Here was my opportunity to bring logic into a very emotional discussion. “So, what you are telling me is that the majority of your coworkers do live up to the company’s expectations and do a quality job?” Tommy replied, “Yes, I didn’t see it that way.” I let Tommy know that I would take his ideas and implement them into my strategy to improve the work environment. He appreciated the fact that I listened to his concerns.
Here’s the bottom line. When a person speaks up like Tommy did—listen to them. Don’t shut them down. They are expressing more than their frustrations over a few of their coworkers. They are giving you real-life, from the trenches information. And although it may be from their perspective, their viewpoint can give you valuable information that will help you and your company improve. Even a few people not pulling their weight can be enough to affect morale. And others may be feeling the same way.
What you don’t want are “yes” people who merely agree with you because you’re the boss. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, welcome feedback and criticism from your key people. We also need to listen more and speak less. And most of all, we need to understand that the solutions to our problems don’t always have to come from us. Sometimes, an employee’s outburst is just what we need to put things in the right perspective.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on January 1st, 2020
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