By Joe Marconi
It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since COVID-19 hit. And for many businesses, and repair shops, it's been a challenge. While many areas around the country have not seen a downturn, there are other areas that have been harshly impacted.
Areas such as mine have seen a decline in miles driven per customer of up to 50% or more. Just consider working from home, the drastic decline of going out to dine and other activities, a decrease in after-school activities, a decease in youth sports, buying online and every other action that has become the norm, and it adds up to a negative impact for so many shops.
NOW, you know ME. I always put a positive spin on everything. At this too shall pass. COVID-19 will be behind us and we need to prepare for great times ahead.
I urge everyone to focus on people: Your family, your employees, your customers, and the community.
With regard to your customers, they will remember you and their experience long after the water pump or mass air filter you replaced in their car.
If you are having a decline in sales, here a few tips: Establish your new goals, look at your expenses, reevaluate your breakeven, make sure your labor and part margins are in line. BUT, never forget that your most important strategy is the culture of your business.
Lastly, cherish every minute with family. This Crisis has brought Clarity. And let's never forget the things that money cannot buy.
If you want to become a successful independent auto repair shop, it’s essential that you have your sights on not only developing a long-term strategy for expanding your customer base but also pivoting in a way that has sustaining momentum.
The key to accomplishing this strategy is not by focusing on gigantic steps, but by achieving a steady stream of small efforts, which means using effective and trusted tools that are specifically designed for you as an auto repair shop owner. Fully utilizing your Google My Business (GMB) page is an efficient way to grow your business and we can tell you why you need to be using it to be competitive.
GMB is a free and completely verified online listing service that uses best practices for getting new customers in the door. Are you the type of business owner who uses an online marketing and branding strategy? If not, you should!
LEARN MORE about how to optimize your GMB page.
Judy Zimmerman Walter is co-owner with her uncles and the CFO of, this 57-year young service business. Zimmerman’s Automotive, Mechanicsburg, PA is a true blue ‘family enterprise’ with 12 out of a team of 29 team members that are ‘IN THE FAMILY’. Zimmerman’s is a top automotive repair facility along with a quick lube and a used car division.
Among her involvement: Women’s Board of the Car Care Council, AASP-PA Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, and the Auto Care Association. Listen to Judy’s other episodes HERE.
Joe Hanson owns Gordie’s Garage. Joe has attended Management Success, NAPA training, Lawrence Tech University and most recently he is a member of the RLO 20 Group 13. He has earned his ASE C1: Automobile Service Consultant Certification. Under his father’s leadership, he has seen what it really takes to make a business like this work. Listen to Joe’s Episodes HERE.
A special thanks to Judy Walter, John Klarkowski and Joe Hanson for their contribution to the aftermarket. Books Page HERE Listen to all Remarkable Results Radio, For The Record and Town Hall Academy episodes. Key Talking Points
Growing up in the family business and deciding to work in the family business
Judy’s Rule: You have to work 2 years somewhere else first, instead of expecting/assuming them to work in the family business
Finding your own way first then can always circle back to the family business later
“I’m here because I have to be here” mentality is a responsibility that will lead to resentment long term
Introduce to beginning stages- cleaning shop
Team concept and positive culture
Treat employees like family
Everyone’s treated the same
Family dynamics have to be separate
Failure is learning
Giving space- share your own mistakes but don’t try to intervene
“Quarterbacking” instead of forcing a certain way
Regretful or grateful
Heightened emotions with family
Not giving things time to work out, treating family members with disrespect
Experience trumps new ideas
Let your family members know your feelings- call them after work
Nurturing the following generation
Guidance and positive reinforcement, moral support
Put things in perspective about the journey
Recognize if you work well together or not well together
Recognize your communication style among family members
Family issues and business issues are checked at the door- no fighting in front of other employees
Keep it simple- find out/analyze whole story first then react after
Focus on celebrating it is a family business and working together
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This episode is brought to you by Shop Marketing Pros. Your guides are Kim and Brian Walker with a rich history as shop owners and industry veterans. When someone searches for a shop, who are they finding? Your competitors? It should be you! The good people over at Shop Marketing Pros know how to drive website traffic and make Google work for you! www.shopmarketingpros.com
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By Joe Marconi
When I look back at my 40-years as a shop owner, there is one thing that stands out among everything else: It’s the people we surround ourselves with that will have the biggest influence in determining our success. Think about it, even the greatest NFL coach will never win a Super Bowl without great players.
I have worked with a lot of employees through the years, including technicians at all skill levels, bookkeepers, service advisors, managers, and support staff. I can tell you with 100 percent conviction that the years that were the most successful were the ones that I had assembled the best teams. Now, I am not just defining success by profit alone. These were also the years that were the most fun, with less stress and the years that we made the biggest positive impact with our customers and the community.
Let’s talk about production first. Highly motivated, skilled technicians with the right attitude produce more. They also get paid more, and they should. The right team of techs will average higher labor hours. I learned many years ago, it’s not the hourly rate you pay a tech that matters, as much as the hourly labor dollars produced by that tech.
Next up are your service advisors. Here is where you can make or break your company. The service advisor is the face of the company. They represent you, your company and everything you do. The best brake job in the world means nothing if the service advisor doesn’t deliver a world-class experience that gives your customers a compelling reason to return.
The long-term damage from an incompetent service advisor is hard to recover from. For the most part, you don’t run a transactional business. Your company relies on strong relationships and a strong culture. There isn’t a big-box brand name over your bays. It’s your name. And that means service advisors need to go above and beyond to exceed your customer’s expectations. If not, you lose.
For the success of any repair shop, I put great emphasis and responsibility on the owner when it comes to employee management. All too often, a poorly run, failing shop is the fault of bad leadership. The shop owner’s ability to lead and motivate is crucial with building a winning team and successful business. However, I have also learned that sometimes we have the wrong people. And no matter what you do or how you try to motivate and lead, there are some people that just don’t “get it.” If it’s not in someone to begin with, nothing you do will change that person.
In today’s business world, you need a team of great players. You need to hire people that can produce quality jobs, with minimal comebacks, have the right attitude, self-motivated, willing to attend training and have the willingness to work in a united, team environment. You need to hire people that “get it.”
With regard to your customers, your business hinges more on the customer experience than it does on the equipment you have or the brand of parts you use. Of course, the parts you purchase matter. Of course, your alignment machine matters. But none of that is as important as what the customer sees. The customer sees and judges you on her overall experience. Which is how she was greeted at the service counter, how she was spoken to during the sales process, the car delivery, and the experience driving away with a smudge-free steering wheel.
Lastly, here’s something you need to accept as a business owner. There isn’t a process anyone can create that will make up for mishaps caused by employing the wrong people. You do need to have processes and policies in place. It’s how you build a smooth-running and efficient business. However, we don’t run a McDonalds or a Dunkin Donuts. We can’t make up for poor customer service with a process or with a point-of-sale computer terminal. The processes and policies you create will only work the way they were intended to when you have employees fully aligned with your culture and have the right attitude. You need to have the right people.
There are many components of business. The financials, choosing the right vendors, training, equipment, and advertising are among them. The two most important components of your business are your employees and your customers. However, you have great control over who you hire. And we all know, great employees create great customers. Assemble the right people around you and the rest will fall into place.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on August 5th, 2020
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It’s easy to hire someone and say ‘go run a few ads now and then.’ But that doesn’t cut it anymore. You need digital technology. One of the misconceptions about BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY products is that they’re hard to use, but if you can use a cell phone, you can use this.
Learn how technology can address and solve some of the issues that your shop faces as far as visibility, car count, and employee retention. Tim Cifelli, Chief Revenue Officer at BOLT ON, joins the Wrench Way podcast to talk through some of the most common challenges that shop owners face and what they can do about them while adding value.
Give it a listen at the link below: