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Finally opening the shop


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After years of work to get to this point, we are finally opening the doors to my new shop on Monday.   I did a small friends and family test on Friday.  We stubbed our toes on all procedures but the actual shop work.   It was horrible, but a great learning experience.  Most issues were procedural in nature, so this weekend was procedure repair.   We really weren't ready to open, but it needed to happen.   Still not ready on all fronts.  My website is built, but awaiting my detailed review to go online.  It'll happen in the next day or so.    We're still buying shop tools.   Many are in, but I wanted to let my staff be part of the tool choices.  (Yes, we're going to have to pare back some of their big wish list).

Hiring is still ongoing.  I had my 3 critical positions covered for a while now, but I still have more left to hire.

I chose Protractor as my SMS.  I'm mostly happy with this decision.  My biggest gripe is that the software is unforgiving of mistakes and new users make many mistakes.   I now need to learn how to undo my mistakes so that the accounting part remains accurate. 

Today, my entire computer network went down and it took us over 2 hours to get it back online.  Next on the list is to practice recovery procedures.

One of my major marketing spend items was to be on a busy corner.  It appears that this may indeed work out for us.   We serviced about 9 cars on Friday and turned away about 15 drive-up customers.   Have 1 appointment booked for tomorrow.   Wish me luck!  

 

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Awesome! I'm looking at switching over to Protractor from Mitchell, but my biggest hold up is having to learn a new system. The built in accounting feature is nice, but just like you said, any mistakes can really mess up your financials. All software is going to have a learning curve. I wish I would have started out with protractor though. 

Sounds like you're off to a good start though. Good luck!

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Awesome! I'm looking at switching over to Protractor from Mitchell, but my biggest hold up is having to learn a new system. The built in accounting feature is nice, but just like you said, any mistakes can really mess up your financials. All software is going to have a learning curve. I wish I would have started out with protractor though. 
Sounds like you're off to a good start though. Good luck!
They have a demo version that you can play with. Before I do anything complex, I test it in their demo database, then do it live. And, you can always call me. I'd be happy to help if I can. The little things tripping me up have solutions as they explained today. Now, I need to go test, then fix my inventory snafu's.

Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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We turned away cars for "their own good".  Believe me, my heart sank with each one.  Surprisingly, a fair number returned vs going somewhere else. The first day and a half was a planned soft opening to work out the bugs in the process.   The bugs in the process caused large time delays.   This would have made for unhappy customers.    I'm running a combo quick lube and repair operation.   We need the lube lanes moving quickly.  

With the holiday week, we were open about 5 days and serviced 63 cars with most being LOF and/or state inspection.  We repaired 3 cars, wrote up repair estimates on about 10 cars and have a few repairs booked for this coming week.   We could have easily handled much more repair, but the lube lanes were running almost at OUR capacity.   This is due to new guys, new procedures and new software and new customers (all require data entry vs repeats).   As well, we're not fully staffed yet.   At the moment, the goal is slow and correct, with rechecks.   We want fast and correct, but it needs to come naturally.

Here's one thing that surprised me.  I've already been mentioned on one of the neighborhood facebook pages.   One lady came in with two young children in tow and she had already heard that I have a playroom for the kids.  It has gotten more use than I really expected.  (She suggested adding coloring books, but I like my walls uncolored).

I've been personally greeting each person that arrives at some point in the process.  I remember one guy looking real nervous as I approached.   After greeting him and thanking him for coming, his eyes lit up and he seemed shocked to receive such a greeting.  I think he'll be coming back.   It's hard for me to get "office" work done and talk with everyone, but I can always borrow sleeping hours to catch up.  

Edited by bantar
Added one more paragraph.
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Any update as to how its going?  im currently in the works on opening my own shop and trying to learn as much as possible.  any words of wisdom after about 2 years?

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Well, I finally have a day off, so I now have time to respond to your inquiry. I've been working 7 days a week since we opened 1.5 years ago.  Now, truth be told, I don't need to be there everyday, but I'm building the business and more importantly, relationships... which is an in-person exercise.  In general, I feel good about our progress.  I'm on a first name basis with quite a few repeat customers.   

Note, my business is a combo quick lube and repair, so I see customers way more often than repair alone.  I've shunned the typical QL mentality of shoddy repair work by having unqualified laborers attempt repair.  We have very talented technicians on the repair side.  QL is a convenience / local business, while repair is a trust / destination business.   In other words, one would not drive miles out of the way for convenience, but would for quality / trustworthy repair. The QL part came up quick and it is a feeder for repair, but the repair is a sloooowww grind, climbing monthly.  My techs are on Flat Rate or Wall Time, whichever is higher (in other words, they are paid whether or not we are making money.  I'm in an investment period.  It is my job to get clients in the door.  Their pay should not be less on account of my lack of cars).

On marketing....  While I'm very visible on a street with 21,000 cars driving by daily (and 45,000 on the cross street), my biggest problem is getting people to KNOW that I'm there.  They come in daily and ask if I just opened?  I purchased a lot in a shopping center to be anchored by a small Walmart Neighborhood Market store, and as of today, they've not even started and may never build.  This was a big hit to my visibility plans.  My driveway is the driveway to the grocery store.   I send out ads to 45,000 households every 3 weeks, among other things, and still it takes time to build.

On personal morale...   I'll tell you that the most depressing moments of starting is when things are slow.  You have such little direct control of "making it happen".  You can only focus on doing your best while waiting for the seeds to sprout and eventually a crop to ripen.  I can deal with the stress of struggling to keep up when things are busy, but the stress of being idle is rough.

On admin work...   For the 1st 3-5 months after opening, I would pick up a piece of paper and not know what to do with it, then the next 3 months, I would at least know where to start, but doing was still a struggle.  I started with the mentality that I would deal with the complex issues when they appeared much later.  Much to my chagrin, the all appeared almost immediately.  Some were so bad, that it took me many weeks to formulate a solution.  About 1 year in, there are only a few gotchas that still cause me struggles.  You definitely need a CPA that knows the business to get you setup and organized.  Accounting mistakes just get worse and harder when ignored.

On Employees...  don't hire them.  They will just cause you trouble.  Well, partially kidding.  You need them, but choose wisely.  I have some great guys, but have had my share of challenges.  

On Cash Flow...  This is a business killer. A startup is a cash-sump.  It goes fast.  You have to make investments and spend cash to make money, yet you can't buy everything you need right away.  I'm still managing cash closely and starting to spend on nice-to-haves slowly.  My business still needs to grow another 40% to crawl out of the risk danger zone.  

On calamity...  I've had cars set on fire in my lot (employee cars).  I've had employees drive a customer car into the building.   I've had an employee break her nose and need a $40,000 surgery (thank goodness for worker's comp insurance).  I've had equipment break down while under warranty and also, the day after the warranty expired.  On most holiday's, my burglar alarm goes off and thus I go in (it went off just a few hours ago).   I've had employees get thrown in jail.  Employees end up in the hospital.  Employees cause me bad reviews and ex-employees give me 1 star reviews (and thankfully employees earning us good reviews too).  I've missed payroll deadlines twice.  Since most employees like being paid, the stress of doing this manually and figuring out how to do the accounting has made me very sensitive to these deadlines.  One month ago, we were hit by a huge hail storm that wiped out every car in the area not under cover.  The next day all of the cars disappeared, either totaled, or in the body shop. Our car count dropped immediately.  We are just now starting to recover from this.  

So, in summary, I'm both doing well (operations and sales) and poorly (sales vs expectations).  I'm starting to see a good growth on repair and measured growth on the QL.  In spite of it all, I'm enjoying the business and continuing to fight for success.  A startup is very hard... anchored by a need to build up enough clientele to pay the bills and then eventually a profit.    Because I'm clinically insane, I'm enjoying this.  🙂

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When you say "missed a payroll deadline" do you mean figuring out what each employee is owed, or actually filing the reports and paying the taxes. I've been there and one of the single best decisions I've made was to use a payroll service. Most are surprisingly inexpensive for the services they offer, versus your time savings. Most banks have a partnership with a service. I use Paychex. I pick the services I need there is no set service with a lot of things you don't need. You report your employees hours. commissions ETC. They issue a payroll journal letting you know how much money needs to be in account to cover payroll, verify everything and send you the checks for your employees. They file reports and pay taxes,(they escrow the money weekly) and maintain records for you. As my businesses have grown they have grown with me , and act like my HR dept.

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Definitely agree on using a payroll service.   I've used ADP from day 1 and have missed their deadlines for getting direct deposit to go thru twice!    To be clear, everyone was paid on time, but not thru direct deposit.   It would be double the nightmare if I had to do both recover from issuing a manual payroll and then dealing with the tax side.  I've also paid ex-employees instead of current employees with names that are very close (Kevin This and Kevin That) thru carelessness on my part.  Then you have to reverse the direct deposit and reissue the payroll and of course, using manual checks.   ADP has a manual paycheck calculator, so I just fill it in and tell them that I did it manually and they handle the rest.    The first time you mess up, you have to figure this out while under duress.  Stress is compounded!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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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.
      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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