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I have never met a shop owner who didn’t have the desire to be successful. People go into business with dreams of changing the world and to make a positive influence in the industry to which they have dedicated their lives. They’re devoted, sacrifice time away from family and, at times, drive themselves to exhaustion—all in an effort to become the best they can be and make their mark. However, all too often, something happens along the way and the business begins to suffer. While shops owners may start their business with passion and vision, they tend to create a world in which everything revolves around them. When the business is small, the owner pays careful attention to every detail. Every car is repaired with the highest degree of excellence. Quality time is spent with each customer and a bond is created, which gets stronger and stronger as the years pass. As the business begins to grow, the owner realizes that the amount of work to be accomplished each day is overwhelming and hires more employees. Everyone is working, but not necessarily with the same culture the owner has. They do their job, but they are not really aligned with the goals and vision of the owner. The shop owner continues to work on his or her skills, learning everything that is needed to run a successful business. After a number of years, the shop owner becomes skilled at running a shop and proficient in nearly every aspect of business, except one: the area of people. And that is when the downward slide begins. The owner recognizes that, in spite of the dedication to excellence, things are not right. The shop owner has established the goals of the company and put everything in place. Everything is attainable. But it’s not working. Frustration sets in, and it’s not long before the owner begins to complain about the lack of performance and drive from the employees, which is the perceived root of the problem. Well, the root of the problem is the owner. We all know that running a business is not a walk in the park, but if your business is struggling, you, personally, are struggling. If your people are not performing the way they should, then you are not performing the way you should. Granted, there are employees that are a problem, and if that’s the case, they need to go. But even superstar employees will turn sour under poor leadership. There are endless issues and problems you encounter each and every day, and some of those problems are out of your control. But, excluding a cataclysmic event, you can trace most of your problems back to you. You are the shop owner, you are the leader. The strength of your business begins and ends with you. Given two equally talented ball teams, the difference between winning and losing is usually leadership. Employees need to know you care about them. The people you employ have vision and goals, too. Not the same as yours, but real nonetheless. One of your jobs, as leader, is to align their goals with yours. We throw this leadership term around a lot these days, and for good reason. It’s the most powerful skill you have in terms of getting the results for which you are looking. The horrible truth is there are too many bosses and not enough leaders. Anyone can be a boss. Bosses order people around. And people will follow, but not for the long term. A leader motivates others by understanding what drives the individual. A leader gives credit to others, never seeking gain at the expense of others. Next time you walk through your shop, pay attention to the mood of your employees. Are your employees laughing and talking to each other? You know, having a little fun at work. Do your employees look to engage in conversation with you, or are their heads buried under the hood of a car as you pass them by? Even worse, does everyone stop talking when you are around? These are signs that your employees are not engaged, which means they are not aligned with the goals and vision of the business, and you are not aligned with theirs. A leader finds out what’s important to others, and works to help them achieve it. Aligning the goals of the individual with the goals of the company will achieve great things. When employees are respected as people, they become motivated and perform at their best; not because they are told to, but because they want to. This is the highest form of team spirit and becomes your driving force toward success. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2018
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Roughly a month ago, I went to lunch with a good friend of mine. He works for the YMCA, so we discussed what the YMCA does to attract new members. A few years ago, my friend and his team realized that while they were good at attracting new members each year, they had little to no retention. It was a constant battle to bring in new members to fill the void of lost members. The YMCA realized that it’s easier and less expensive to keep existing members, than to go out and find new ones. They created a new marketing strategy with a focus on keeping existing members. The plan was simple: create an amazing experience for their members and offer new programs to these existing members. The plan worked. Member retention improved. What worked for the YMCA will also work for your business. Before you spend a dime on advertising, you need to understand one crucial component of your business; the customer experience. Without a great customer experience that gives your existing customers a compelling reason to return, you’re simply wasting your money on advertising. Advertising is often aimed at new-customer acquisition. There is nothing wrong with this. Every business loses clientele each year for a number of reasons, and we need to get our name out to our community about who we are and what we do in order to attract new consumers. But, to rely on new customer acquisition alone without a plan to keep existing customers is not a strategy for long-term, sustained growth. Every marketing plan starts with looking at your entire operation and how it relates to the customer experience. Are you doing all you can to create an amazing experience that builds solid relationships? If not, you will be in the same position the YMCA was: using advertising to fill the void of lost customers. While there are many aspects of the customer experience, let’s focus today on the four essential areas: The customer write-up, the sales process, the car delivery and the follow-up. Each of these touch points must be executed with one thing in mind: create an experience so amazing that the customer will have a compelling reason to return your shop again. Customer write-up starts the process. It’s where you begin the relationship or continue to preserve it. It must be performed as if you are welcoming a guest into your home. The sales process must communicate value and benefits to the customer. This gives the customer peace of mind, reduces anxiety and buyer’s remorse. The car delivery is your chance to leave a lasting positive impression of you and your company. It should not be a transaction, but instead the opportunity to resell the job, you and your company. The car delivery should not be rushed. Take the time to review the invoice, ask the customer if they have any questions. Let every customer know how important they are and how much you value his or her confidence and trust in you and your company. The follow-up continues the customer experience. This is where you reach out to the customer with a phone call, email, or thank-you card. It helps with customer retention by making another positive impression in the mind of the customer. Getting back to car delivery: Make sure you review all future service recommendations and let the customer know that they will receive a service reminder. But don’t rely on a postcard or email alone to bring back customers. Think about this: If you had a bad experience at a restaurant, no offer or ad is going to get you back there—only an amazing experience will. The same holds true for your business. By the way, an amazing customer experience is created by the people in your company. Sure, you need to have a clean, well kept facility with nice amenities. But it’s the people in your company that make the difference. Billion dollar stadiums don’t win championships—it’s the quality of the players on the field that win championships. Everyone in your company is part of your marketing plan. A simple smile and hello from a technician when a customer walks past the bays can do more for your business than any ad can. Let me leave you with this thought: Customers will not remember the mass airflow sensor you installed or the exhaust leak you repaired. But they will remember their experience. A positive experience is lasting in the mind of the consumer. It’s the most powerful marketing tool you have—and it’s virtually free. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 1st, 2018
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Is it just me? or does it seem that lately there are a lot of businesses being started that insert themselves into the flow of existing transactions only to harvest your profits and lesson the margins of those doing the work and accepting responsibility (us). I am referring to technology companies: Repair Pal, Openbay, CarFix and now Blockchain to mention a few. It is frustrating to me after having built a business (brick and mortar), purchased equipment, hired employees, provide training, accepted full responsibility and risk, supported my community only to have a startup backed by money hungry venture capitalists attempt to erode our profit margin. I find the statements from co-founder Vladimir Lupenko of Blockchain in this months Ratchet & Wrench extremely arrogant: "The repair industry is huge, and people always get cheated" "We use reputable and undisputable technical data to set the market and price rate". Vladimir goes on to say "Based on our contractual agreement , the repair shop will have to provide the service at the price we have calculated". As good shop owners, protective of our future, we best rally against this technology, this Wolf in sheep's clothing. My research of these companies leads me to believe that no good will come from their involvement in our businesses. We, as independent shop owners, are operating in an industry some see as ripe for consolidation and this technology is just one of the signs. I ask that anyone reading this post refuse to participate. The involvement of these companies is not a 'quick fix' for a shop needing car count. Their intention is to drive down your prices, recruit price shopping customers only and mine your data base for their benefit. If our industry sees their existence as a threat and together, refuse to become a member of their organization, they will disappear. Without shops to refer to they lose all value to the consumer and will not be able to return a profit to their investors. To read the complete article, follow this link: https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/5504-how-blockchain-technology-could-affect-your-shop To support this research here is a seperate article from this months Ratchet & Wrench magazine discussing how to price your services for long term health and growth: https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/4841-how-to-price-to-gain-customer-loyalty?utm_medium=email&utm_source=utm_code
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So we are looking at moving our shop to a really nice shop here in town that has some amenities that we are very excited about but I got to talking with the landlord about the past few shops that had been in there and he told me that he didn't think this location could sustain a $70-80 labor rate. He thought that was probably why the last shop didn't stay busy enough to keep the doors open. I have always thought that while location can be a great plus that it really truly depends on how you package things and how well you do with marketing and advertising. Ive always seen that good customers will travel a little bit just to come to a shop they like. What do you all think? How much value should I put in what the landlord was saying? How much does location truly have to do with a shops success? How far will customers travel to come to a good quality shop they love?
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Long story short, been in business about 2 years and started mobile. Current location for about a year, just opened up a second location about 3 weeks ago- HUGE step for me. In my area, auto shop locations are REALLY REALLY RARE. There'll be months before a single shop will pop up for lease. Well.. I was looking for auto equipment on craigslist and stumbled upon a listing of a shop moving and selling all his lifts. Found the location on loopnet- 5 bays, previous business extremely successful, great location, great price too.... 1st location hit record sales this past week, 2nd new location held its own (divided by week, came out on top after expenses). I got both stores running self sufficiently. I am pretty much maxed out and I hate taking out loans but I have a line of credit available. Am I crazy to want to do this?
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By Elon Block
There are some interesting statistics about the industry, in this article:
What do you think the challenges and opportunities are for you and your business?
By Elon Block
In case you hadn't heard, here's something you need to be aware of...
AAA is making some changes, in the way they are doing business.
Within the last few years, AAA has decided to build their own company-owned facilities.
Here is a link, with an example of search results, drivers will see when they type in a zip code:
Pay special attention to the search results marked (AAA Owned Facility).
The facilities are impressive and are gaining traction:
As you can see, their slogan is, "Auto Repair From A Name You Trust".
This is genius marketing, on their part...
Because customers equate the AAA logo, as a shop they can trust.
The other major change they've made is...
The new requirements for the AAA certification renewal.
Many shop owners did not read the fine print or notice the changes to the agreement.
In other words, the fine print requires certified shops to give AAA access to the shop's customer database.
The biggest concern is if you give them access to your customer database and then, they open a AAA Owned Facility, in your backyard...
They now have a built-in customer base they can market to.
What that means to you is...
This a major conflict of interest because now, they have all of your customers' information, which they can use to actively market and essentially steal your customers.
So, this is something to be considered, in deciding to continue to be affiliated, as a AAA certified shop.
By Elon Block
New blog post on this very important topic here:
All major pricing changes like this one, affects everyone in the auto repair industry.
By Elon Block
New announcement from Michelin. Looks like they're getting into the online game with a new and
different approach to making it easy for the customer to do business with them. There are a number
of interesting things in the website's FAQ's that caught my eye.
Even if you're not a tire dealer, this move is a game-changer, What are your thoughts on this?
So I am still working on a business plan for a central Kansas startup shop and I am looking around and am thinking to myself, how on earth am I going to rise to the top and be better than every Joe Shmoe that knows how to turn a wrench and has a garage on that busy little corner lot.
Before I go any further in planning my business, I want to decide whether or not I can compete with all the different competition and I would really like everyone's input on this.
We have everything from the "best price in town but here is a Ziploc with some extra parts we didn't know what to do with" to the "would you like a refill on that shade grown Columbian imported coffee?" shop in town.
Where can I fit in? How do i build my own niche to make money and gain market share? What can I do to compete or rise above the rest? How can I stand out from the rest and nudge my way in to gain some share in the auto repair industry?
I am planning for a slightly higher end shop, I don't want to be the lowest price shop in town for sure but I also don't quite want to be the most expensive. I want to charge a little more for a quality job, great customer service and a few extras like maybe pickup and dropoff services or free coffee and cable in the waiting area. How can I make sure I can succeed in an already saturated and very competitive market?