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Considering buying a shop

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First of all, hello to everyone. I just found this site and am glad I did. It has answered many questions, and of course, created new ones. I'd like to hear some feedback on my plans. Any input or advice is greatly appreciated.


I'm a management consultant, an entrepreneur, and have 20 years experience in technology and business strategy. I have a masters degree as well. As a result of all of this...I AM BURNED OUT! Make great money, but can't see myself doing it beyond 5 more years. I'm mechanically inclined (used to build and race cars). I'm considering buying a small auto repair shop as an investment. My plan is to be an "absentee owner", but handle all of the business sides of things (accounting, marketing, etc). This means I will depend on a shop manager to run the day-to-day shop operations.


My biggest concern is having the right people. Frankly, this scares the hell out of me. In my current job I have many smart and educated people working for me......yet I can't depend on them.


Is the thought of doing what I'm describing nuts? I have no desire to want to work "in" the business. In fact, I can't because I have a 50 hour per week job already. Is it realistic to find a dependable shop manager that can run things without me? What do I need to look for? How do you find, hire, and retain these guys?


I appreciate any advice you have.




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Joe and XRac,


Thanks for the feedback. I have not found a place yet, but I have befriended a local shop owner to get an inside view of the operation. From a business model perspective it's not much different than anything else - get profitable customers, control costs, keep enough cash to weather the down times, and have outstanding employees. That last part is what scares me and is what I have observed as a big problem in my friends shop.


In my earlier venture I made the mistake of expecting my employees to be as excited as I was about my company. I couldn't depend on anyone. I'm starting to think that doing something like this absentee will almost be impossible. I think I can put the systems and procedures in place to keep my thumb on the business remotely, but having a strong manager that I can trust and depend on will be the undoing of the entire operation. On the other side, though, I probably wouldn't be a very good manager as I have very high expectations and very low tolerance for B.S. and laziness, which appears to be a problem for all shop owners.


Any ideas on finding this key person?


Thanks again for your input,


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Sounds like a good idea, but i will tell you in this business you have to find quality people and retain them. This is not a business that you can hire people and expect them to produce quality work without your constant presence and quality control. Of all the guys i have hired over the years i would say it takes a year to turn a tech into someone you know and can trust to produce work at a quality level you would expect and can trust. I am in the diesel business so this may be a bit different we do mainly major repair and diagnosis, while i feel its rewarding you have to watch your guys to make sure you are getting accurate diagnosis on problems, no one wants a 3k bill and still have the same problem.


Like Joe said most of us came from the shop to the owner and its not easy, i would suggest finding that guy that is having some growing pains running his business due to he knows how to run the shop but struggles with running the business, that's your guy he already wants the place to be successful but is struggling with the business side. Buy him out and let him run the shop, I know there was i time when i would have gone for that. There are still days i would love to just go out in the shop and work on a truck and get left alone, those days are long gone as the owner.


Good luck.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      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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