Hi! I'm looking to open a new automotive repair shop and I could use some help assessing a specific opportunity from the experts here. To put this in perspective, I would be a new owner without prior repair shop experience, however, I understand repair work and have done almost all of my own work on my personal vehicles for nearly 30 years. The scope of work I have personally performed included transmissions swaps, suspension, brakes, ignition systems, fuel systems, computer diagnostics and so on. My formal training is in science and management and I've been in corporate positions for 20+ years. I also have experience running my own real estate rental business. I've always been interested in auto repair and I believe this business would be a very good fit for my aptitude, skills and experience. I would plan to operate as the business owner and bring in skilled staff to handle repairs and customer engagement under my leadership.
Here is the scenario I could use help with. I found a 10,000 sq. ft. building which is split up between 6 existing bays (3 front and 3 rear), office space and retail area. The section with the bays has about 5000 sq. ft. , about 1000 sq. ft. of office space and another 4,000 sq. ft. of retail area. The property has not been used for auto repair in a long time but could be converted back very quickly along with opportunity to do something interesting in the retail area. I have many potential ideas for the property. I am running into two primary challenges in evaluating the opportunity. The first is the competitive landscape and the second is how quickly I could ramp up the business along with how much business I would likely do from the location after ramp up.
The property is located on a main road with 20-40k total vehicles/day depending on the day of week. About a mile up the road, in a cluster, there are 6 name brand auto dealerships. On the same road, within just a few miles from the site, there are three tire shops, one local and two name brand, along with a Midas and another local 6 bay garage. Think of this as 5 competitors, each with 6 bays plus the new car dealers. There are a handful of smaller local shops with 1-2 bays locally as well. Also, there is a State DMV location, with inspection services in the same zone. The overall geographic area is in a town that contains a Wal-Mart, Lowes, BJ's and a Costco plus restaurants, etc.. These stores are all within 10 minutes from the potential new location. The next closest big retail areas are 30 minutes north or 40 minutes south of the target area described. The demographics of the area skew affluent and population density is moderate - this is not a big city - however people are drawn in from at least a 30 minute drive time radius due to the shopping and other resources.
I have a few ideas to differentiate my business from the rest in the area although on Google, it appears that most of the competing businesses have decent reviews overall. My shop would do all types of repairs including the heavier stuff and the bays are very tall so we could potentially accommodate trucks too.
So, my questions are:
Is this an opportunity worth considering given the competitive landscape? If I were to open a shop, how quickly should I expect business to ramp up? I am really looking for solid feedback from folks with deep experience in this industry to help me evaluate if this is a business proposition worthy of consideration at this location.
In may I quit my job of 9 years and purchased an auto repair shop. I was previously employed as a field mechanic for Cummins. At my shop we focus on general repair. It's been a whirlwind since I bought the place but i couldn't be happier to be here. I've included some pictures of the shop.
I'm Ricardo from Complete Auto Reports. You may have heard about the shop management software that we made at a shop in Linden NJ.
We've been really busy over the last year trying to refine the process at a shop through the software. We have come up with something we think that people can and will benefit from. We want to start with smaller auto repair facilities who are looking for something to transition out of paper and pen, as well as word documents and/or excel spreadsheets.
We've taken our software and made a free package that allows the following from any device with a updated and functional browser:
Take appointments from your customers Digital Vehicle Inspections - Included in every service request and sent to each customer if performed Workflow - Pending, Under Process, Awaiting Approval, Approval Completed, Work In Progress, Completed Ratings - Customers can communicate ratings directly to you Messages - You can communicate with customers through the platform Customer App - All service history available, can schedule appointments with the app, transfer vehicle records to new owners Sales Reports 100% mobile - Works on everything from your 5inch iPhone to your desktop.
You can presently upload all of your customer information: name, address, phone numbers, email.
Paid for versions offer parts ordering through PartsTech.com and Employeement modules that track employee time on jobs.
Are there members here who are interested in trying the free platform to see if it's a fit for their business? Anyone interested in the paid for versions, can also get 60 days of free use and discounted rates available from our SEMA promotions.
Our 3 plans can be broken down into these simple differences: Free: No inventory, no online parts ordering through PartsTech, only one photo/video per service request, one login, no employee management $50 per month (also have yearly options to save $): Includes online parts ordering through PartsTech and includes inventory, one login, no employee management $100 per month (also have yearly options to save $): includes everything with 5 logins to access the system. We often get asked, "What use can a bigger shop possibly get from the free plan?"
With the free plan, you can take appointments digitally from your customers and then upload a copy of their receipt from your existing system to their profile in CAR. Reducing paper waste and creating a digital record for your customer to always have. You can also use the free plan to send your customers a video or photo of the services you are performing, complete with billing the customer through the free plan at the end of the service. These are all features that you pay for with add on systems, they are all available for free with us as you learn to adapt to smarter, more efficient technology.
The data you enter is yours, we do not have any agreements presently to share it with anyone and we certainly will never be sharing any personally identifying information with anyone. Majority of the data we are interested in is to build better features to serve you better.
Should you ever decide you no longer want to use our platform, your account will be available to you for free for one year at minimum. In addition to that, we can and will provide you a complete data dump of all of your records within 72 hours of the request. These companies that make it impossible to recover YOUR data is the reason for our open policy. We want everyone to change their practices and we're leading by example.
If you decide to cancel your subscription for any reason, all of your data can and will be exported and delivered to you via a USB stick you provide or through email in the way of an Excel file(s). Additionally, you can access ALL OF YOUR information on our server for one year without any interference from anyone at CAR. Most of you may not know, but I actually own a shop and if it's one thing I can not stand behind, it's these companies getting access to all of our information for secretive reasons or keeping us from having the very data that belongs to us in the first place. You will never encounter this experience with us.
I am looking to open up my new shop within 3 months and honestly feel a little in over my head, I’ve spent days reading on here and while it’s awesome I feel I need something more formal. The main 2 things I’ve found has been the RLO training course or the Ron Ipach fast lane training program. Has anyone one taken either of these courses or have a different one to recommend?
By Joe Marconi
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool.
The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult. And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019
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By Mail Shark
Before approving your next database mailing, run down this checklist to ensure all of these steps have been taken to validate the quality and accuracy of your mailing.
Utilize the National Change of Address Service (NCOA)
Every year, millions of Americans move, and this undoubtedly includes some of the customers in your database. This can be a problem when you pull your database to use for sending out a direct mail campaign, as you may have customers that have moved and no longer live at the recorded address.
If these customers have moved outside of your trade area, and you were to send a direct mail piece to them, you would essentially be wasting your marketing dollars by sending direct mail to customers that are simply no longer there.
The good news is, there is a simple solution. You can have your direct mail partner run your database against the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) service. The cost of doing so is very minimal and worth the small additional cost to ensure the quality and accuracy of your database.
NCOA is a database maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, and includes all of the individuals and companies who have completed a form to change their address in the previous four years.
Here are a few things you will find out by running your list through the NCOA process is:
Addressee has moved, and a new address could not be provided. New address information is provided. The recipient moved without providing a forwarding address to the USPS. From here, these previous customers that have moved can easily be removed from future mailings.
Remove Your Customers From New Acquisition Mailings
Most shop owners who are using direct mail to target their database of current customers are also sending out new customer acquisition mailers to target new prospects, either by carrier route or by specific make, model, fuel type, etc.
In doing so, it’s important that you request your direct mail partner to remove these current customers from your new customer acquisition mailers. It’s a waste of money to send your customers a new customer acquisition mailer when you are already targeting them by sending them a retention or lapsed customer mailer. It will also send your current/lapsed customers the wrong message. Your marketing and message to new customers should not be the same that it is to current or lapsed customers.
This is also an easy fix, simply request that your direct mail partner suppress your customer database from your new customer acquisition mailers. The only caveat in doing so, is for general auto shops that are removing their database of customers from their carrier route mailing—there are guidelines that must be met for carrier route mailings in order to receive the maximum discounted postage rate. These guidelines are as follows:
Your mail must be sorted in walk sequence. This is the exact order that the postal carrier walks/drives on their carrier routes. In addition, your mailing must follow the 90/75 rule. The 90/75 rule stipulates that you must mail to at least 90 percent of the total residential addresses, or at least 75 percent of the total combined number of residential and business addresses in each carrier route. Since you, as an auto shop owner will never want to mail to businesses, this means that you must mail to 90 percent of the total addresses in a carrier route to maintain the lowest postage rate.
If your mailer falls below the 90 percent guideline, there are three different levels of postage that your mailer can potentially fall into. Each level represents an additional cost of per piece postage above and beyond the standard rates.
Additional Saturation Mail Postage Rates (*As of 1/1/2019)
High density plus: Mail at least 300 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .01 per piece).
High density: Mail at least 125 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be.019 per piece).
Basic: Mail at least 10 pieces in walk sequence order (additional postage would be .104 per piece).
Make Use of the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS)
In addition to running your database through the NCOA process, it’s important to ensure your direct mail partner is also certifying your database mailing list through the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). This process will standardize your mailing file, verify that each and every address in your mailing file is valid and complete, as well as update any addresses that have been changed and/or has become outdated.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
By Mail Shark
I hear a lot of auto repair shop owners say they don't want to offer a cheap oil change coupon on their direct mail marketing. They feel the cheap oil change coupon brings in the wrong clientele, and they don't want to devalue their brand and position themselves as the cheap oil change shop.
As a quick note, the concept behind the cheap oil change offer is that it is a loss leader and utilized to entice new customers. The key is getting new customers through the door, which the cheap oil change can be extremely effective at doing. Once you get them in your shop and you do a great job for them, you can build a great rapport with them and win them over as a loyal customer.
All that said, you will always know your business better than any marketing company. Therefore, we certainly can't argue with the fact that you would not like to use this strategy if in fact you have already executed a cheap oil change coupon campaign and it did bring in the wrong clientele.
However, having an oil change coupon as part of your shop's direct mail marketing strategy is critical. Here are a few reasons why.
An oil change is something that every non-electric vehicle owner will need at some point in time. Consequently, I would venture to say that most vehicle owners are familiar with what an oil change is more so than any other maintenance service. Compare that to a timing belt replacement coupon or a serpentine belt replacement, each of which the average consumer may not be familiar. When you have a coupon that is familiar and relevant to everyone that you are targeting, you have a much higher chance of increasing redemption rates.
Therefore, for those shop owners that are afraid of attracting the wrong clientele or devaluing their brand with a low-price point oil change, the simple fix is to increase your oil change price point to a number that you are comfortable with and that is still a value from a consumer perspective. An alternate option would be to offer a specific $ off discount that you are comfortable with — for example, $10 off any conventional oil change & 15 off any full synthetic.
My next recommendation, if you are a general auto repair shop, which is a non-negotiable one, in my opinion, is to structure your oil change coupon to offer both a conventional and full synthetic oil change offer. All too often, shop owners only offer a conventional oil change coupon. A conventional oil change coupon is fine. However, it will never appeal or be applicable to owners of vehicles that require full synthetic oil. There is no reason to limit your offer to only appeal to a specific set of vehicles. It's crucial you cast a wider net and appeal to as many vehicle owners as possible. The simple and quick solution is to offer both options.
PRO TIP: if you are concerned about coupons bringing in the wrong clientele, think again. Even the wealthiest consumers use coupons.
Here is a snippet from our blog post entitled "WHY YOU SHOULD BE SENDING DIRECT MAIL COUPONS:
It might seem surprising, but wealthy people love saving money with coupons. In fact, households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more are twice as likely to use coupons than households earning less than $35,000 a year.
Wealthy customers may be able to afford your most expensive products and services, but that doesn't mean they don't want a good deal. The majority of them are cautious about spending money and rarely make frivolous, unnecessary purchases. Rather than viewing your business as cheap, they'll appreciate your coupons and the opportunity to save money,
You can check out the entire blog post here.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
Oil Change Coupon Example.pdf
I was looking for some input into advertising. I have really not done any the last 25 years. We are rebranding or should I say changing directions a little. Going back to tires, brakes ,alignment and maintence. When I did it last other than the phone book we did a little newspaper. I think those have basically gone. So many options out there, I just do not want to throw a bunch of money away on the wrong advertising. Any help would surely be appreciated. Sincerely David
By Mail Shark
If you haven’t considered or utilized direct mail postcard magnets to attract new customers, now is the time to reevaluate this medium.
Over the past 9 years, I have seen first-hand how effective direct mailing a postcard magnet can be for new customer acquisition as well as customer retention. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), who is quite a credible source, also reported in their DMA Statistical Fact Book that “A postcard with a magnet attached is read at least 51.9% more often than a traditional postcard.” With that said, I cannot speak to how this study was conducted, but this directly correlates to my real-world experience mailing millions of postcard magnets for our clients over the years.
Why is now the right time to mail a postcard magnet?
Postcard magnets are effective all year round. However, now is the perfect time to capitalize on the recently released NFL schedules, which will give you a great opportunity to beat your competitors. You’ll be the first company to get your region’s favorite team schedules on the fridge of your prospective customers.
Another reason postcard magnets are so effective is this simple fact. Your target prospects may not have a broken car or need your services the exact day that you target them. Therefore, it is imperative that you are top of mind when a need arises and that’s exactly what postcard magnets accomplish. Consumers get them and intuitively put them on their fridge, keeping your brand constantly visible in their home.
There are a number of companies that offer this product so get quotes & compare services. Again, it’s the perfect is the perfect time to execute this product.
I have attached a few samples to give you a better idea of what the product can look like.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
By Mail Shark
There’s an old adage in marketing: “features tell and benefits sell.” This is critical to keep in mind when you’re promoting your auto repair shop. If your prospective customers don’t understand the features your shop offers, how they’ll benefit from these features, and why they should consider your shop for their next repair or maintenance service, you may lose them to your competition.
The main constraint you’ll encounter when emphasizing benefits on your direct mail is usually space. There are a lot of important elements an effective direct mail advertisement should contain, all of which are fighting for valuable space. Furthermore, putting too much information on an ad can make it cluttered and hard to read, which could diminish your return. A great solution to this problem is to provide a clear, concise, and organized list of your shop’s features that can easily be scanned by your prospects.
Depending on the available space, there are two ways you can do this. If you have limited space, you can simply list your benefits out in a bulleted list. If you have extra space, you can list them out in conjunction with an icon to help illustrate the benefit and call additional attention to them.
Here’s a starting point to help you develop and build a list of your shop’s features and benefits.
-Are your technicians ASE certified?
-Do you offer a warranty on your work?
-Do you offer a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee?
-Do you offer any financing options?
-Do you offer any amenities in your waiting room?
-Do you offer any type of shuttle service or loaner car service?
-Do you offer same day service on most repairs?
-Do you offer early drop-off and/or after-hours pick-up?
-Do you offer roadside assistance?
-Do you offer online appointment scheduling?
-Are all repairs approved by your customer before any work is done?
Pro Tip: Make sure you give your list of benefits a header. Something like: “Why Choose XYZ Auto” or “Our Benefits For You.” or “10 Reasons to Choose XYZ”
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]