By Joe Marconi
The year was 1980 - the year I founded my company. And, like many new business owners, I didn’t have a clear understanding of what was needed to grow a successful business. I thought that success would be determined by my technical skills and my willingness to wear the many hats of the typical shop owner. It wasn’t until I began to let go of trying to do everything that I realized that success is not just dependent on what I do, but by the collective work accomplished by the team. I eventually discovered that I was not the center of my universe. After a few years in business, I began the transition from simply owning a job to becoming a businessman. And, while technology has reshaped our industry throughout the years—and will continue to do so—there is one constant that will never change: success in business rests largely on the people you have assembled around you.
By the late '80s it was obvious that I was doing way too much. I looked at each role I had my hands on: shop foreman, service advisor, shuttle driver, bookkeeper to lot attendant. And, as long as I’m confessing all this to you, I need to disclose that I was also the shop’s maintenance person; making repairs to the bay doors, the slop sink and equipment. You name it, I did it. I was literally too busy to be successful.
In order to lead my company, I had to first clearly define my responsibilities. These are working on the business, recruiting and hiring the best employees, becoming a leader of people and making sure that my business was successful. I also needed to fulfill the obligation I had to my employees. I realized that this required a deep understanding that putting people first is the best strategy for success. This was difficult at first because it requires working on things that have no immediate impact on the business. Unlike working in the trenches and having your hands on everything, working as a businessperson means that you need to spend time building for the future. The things that are most important to your success in business are the things that have a payoff down the road.
I also clearly defined the duties I should not be doing and assigned those tasks to others. This is a critical step for any shop owner. Warren Buffett says that in order to be successful in whatever you do, it’s crucial to focus on the things that generates the greatest return and that you can’t do it all, and that means sometimes you have to say, “no.”
By the late '90s it became clear that the most valuable role I played in my business was that of coach. All the best marketing plans and the best business strategies mean nothing without a team of great people around you all pushing in the right direction. And that takes a strong leader. Not just a boss, but a leader. Leaders inspire people. Leaders get others to reach down deep inside themselves and perform at their best because they are aligned with the leader’s vision.
Leaders inspire others through praise and recognition for the work they do. When people feel their work matters, they have a purpose. People are motivated by the heart, not the wallet. That’s not to say earning a decent wage isn’t important. But a focus on money alone is not a strategy for success. Focus on people first and profit will follow.
Spend time with your employees. Get to know them as people, not just the role they have in your company. Find out what their dreams and goals are. And then find a way for others to achieve what they want out of life. People cannot be motivated until they realize that what they do every day helps them to achieve what they want in their personal life.
There are other people in our business world that we must never forget. And that’s our customers. If you were to ask me, who is more important, my employees or my customers? I would answer, “They are equally important.” You cannot have a successful business without the right employees and the right customers.
One last bit of advice I can give you is to focus on your success, no one else’s. Be very clear about the pathways you take and never forget about the obligation you have to others. Build a company culture of teamwork, quality and integrity. Focus on what’s in the best interest of the customer and the people around you. Put people first, and everything else will fall into place.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on February 4th, 2020
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By Joe Marconi
Not every shop pays flat rate; for many reasons. So, many techs are on hourly pay. There is nothing wrong with hourly pay, as long as you have an incentive program in place that promotes high production levels to avoid complacency. For hourly paid employees I strongly urge you to have a pay plan that rewards production levels on a sliding scale.
As a business coach, I have seen too many times shops with low production levels and high tech payroll due to overtime pay. Overtime pay must not be used to get the jobs done with no regard to labor production. Limit overtime and create a strategy that increases production and rewards techs with production bonuses. By the way, there are many ways to incentivize techs, it's not all about money.
Overtime without high levels of production will eat into profits and if not controlled, with kill your business.
If your shop is an hourly paid shop, what incentives do you have in place to maintain production levels?
By Mail Shark
Here’s a marketing idea I wanted to share with everyone. Auto shop owners and marketers are focused on targeting the local residential community. But what about all of the businesses that employ people who work in the area but don’t live in the area? These employees are all great prospects for auto repair services. The challenge is effectively targeting and reaching them.
One idea is to create a flyer that doubles as a break room poster. The poster should have a use case explicitly telling the business owner what you want them to do with your poster. Let them know they simply need to hang it in their break room to share the savings with their colleagues and employees.
We recommend clipless coupons or specials, which increase the lifespan of the poster and keep it intact for longer than it would if employees were tearing coupons off. Employees will simply take a picture of the coupon they want to use and show it to you upon redemption. Tear-off coupons destroy posters and ultimately result in them being thrown away as soon as the coupons, offers, or specials are torn off.
Using break room posters requires some legwork on the part of shop owners, since you’ll need to visit the businesses you want to target. However, the actual cost of the printed flyers is minimal. Let’s say you want to print 100 of them. At around $1 per piece, your total investment is $100 (give or take) depending on who does your printing.
There really is no downside to giving break room posters a shot. Put a call tracking number on your poster to keep track of anyone who comes in to redeem your coupons to track ROI. There are plenty of companies that can print cheap flyers, so call around. Attached is an example of a popular layout that Mail Shark has been supplying shops with.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
Example BreakRoom Poster.pdf
With A/C season fast approaching, just curious about what everyone is offering in terms of pricing, how you buy your refrigerant, do you offer free checks, and do you market A/C service in your area? What equipment like robinair lets say, do you use?
The best advertising comes in the form of referrals, which are usually free but don’t happen overnight.
Advertising is perhaps the most confusing part of owning any business, not just an auto repair business. Advertising is, to take your marketing materials and broadcast them in mediums where you anticipate your target audience. The internet has drastically changed advertising as most understand it. We used to think of advertising as the “yellow pages” and newspapers. However today, the yellow pages comes in many different forms these days. All of which promise you the world and few of which will deliver.
We recommend taking a broad approach to advertising to test what will draw in the most amount of new business to you. When thinking about how to advertise for your business, below are some suggestions to consider. First, establish a yearly/monthly budget, then to execute a plan. The most important part of your plan is to follow through on asking your new customers how they found you, that way you know what advertising is working.
Our advertising model assumes you have a few things in place, as we also discussed in Part 2: website with contact module, Google Business Page, and a Facebook Business Page.
We are firm believers that Google’s vast grasp on search is what makes it the king of advertising for now. Most people start their searches on Google, and if you’re not on Google maps and your website hasn’t been crawled by Google… you may not exist. We can argue this until the cows come home, but the truth is they hold a grasp on nearly 80% of all search in the US. Picture 10 people searching for “auto repair in my town”, nearly 8 of them are using Google. It’s much easier and fruitful to advertise to 8 out of 10 than 2 out of 10.
We are going to assume you have a $250 budget, the starter plan would be something like this:
Google Business Page – Free Facebook Business Page - Free Adwords Campaign through your Google Business Administration Page – Budget Dependent - $100 per month recommended Local Paper Advertising – Prices Vary – Assuming $100 per month This leaves you with $50 left over. Personally, we recommend a service called Yext, however we are unsure of their price these days as they have gone into a "Demo mode". This means they likely introduce you to the price after you’ve demo’d their product. For a one location auto repair business, we believe their estimated price may be over $600 a year, which kind of busts the budget a bit. But once you see how much time their platform can save you… you may reconsider.
Yext does a few great things that stand out:
They broadcast your correct business information to well over 100 directory systems, including Google and Facebook. They also allow you to make business updates from their platform and broadcast it to all the directories in the network. They manage your inbound reviews from your customers on all those platforms and immediately inform you when you receive them. They allow you to broadcast messages of specials you may want to promote. They link your business website from 100 different directories, instantly giving your business credibility online. The most underrated thing they do… is save you time from trying to log into 100 different directories and fix errors, omissions, and broadcast them all at the push of a button. Can you imagine the time it takes to create 100 different accounts and to regularly check and manage them? We did, so we tested Yext at our founder’s facility and have been a subscriber for well over 5 years now. This article originally published in CAR's News Section
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