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.
By Joe Marconi
I thought this article from Ratchet and Wrench was an interesting perspective. Let me know what you think? Joe Marconi
Is It Time to Raise Your Labor Rates?
May 27, 2022 Nolan O'Hara No Comments With increasing costs and rising inflation, many shop owners realize it may be time to raise their labor rates. But it’s always a battle.
There are several factors to consider, including customer satisfaction. Every shop owner needs to keep their pulse on the industry and make sure they're running an effective business, but when do you know, and what steps should you take when you’re considering raising your labor rates?
Andy Massoll, founder and CEO of The Detroit Garage, has been working in the auto industry for over 20 years. His father opened their first store, Curt’s Service Center, which Massoll still operates as part of The Detroit Garage auto family.
Massoll understands the battle shop owners go through when considering raising their labor rates. He also knows there’s a misconception in the industry that gets a lot of shop owners into trouble: the difference between a door rate and an effective labor rate.
It’s difficult to run a shop, and it’s certainly not easy to find and keep professional technicians. It’s vital to know your numbers. Massoll bases his labor rates on his effective labor rate, analyzing his wages and costs.
Massoll says understanding your effective labor rate is critical and provides a better insight into your true costs, including the costs of obtaining and keeping your skilled labor.
“If I can’t obtain or retain (professional) talent … that is when, clearly, I need to pay more,” Massoll says.
Shops need to control rates to balance customer expectations and run the business.
Massoll keeps a close eye on his shops’ productivity. That means understanding how many billable hours your shop is producing and comparing the number of hours worked.
Understanding where your productivity is at is crucial in determining raising your labor rates.
“You can’t begin to make an educated guess on what (the) labor rate you should charge is until you truly know your labor costs,” Massoll says. “And it’s hard to know your labor costs if you don’t understand and know your labor proficiency or productivity.”
Close supervision is key, but you don’t need to write it all out on a whiteboard. Massoll uses a software program to make sure he has a keen understanding of his shops’ productivity. Their goal at The Detroit Garage is to always be at 100 percent productivity overall. That helps Massoll understand when it’s the right time to raise his rates.
Additionally, Massoll is on top of his numbers. He spends time in the weeds, analyzing his total number of labor hours and the labor dollars they sell per store over a month, comparing that to his employees’ wages, and understanding the true costs of his business.
Massoll knows when it’s the right time to raise those rates because he’s spent the time analyzing his numbers, working to keep on top of a gross profit goal of 70 percent to 72 percent on labor.
Eventually, there comes a time when it’s necessary to increase those rates, and Massoll has done so fairly recently.
Economic factors are also important to consider—factors like rising parts costs and inflation. As inflation soared to around 7 percent in 2021, Massoll gave all his employees a 7 percent pay rate increase to counter that economic influence. Because of that, he increased his labor rates.
With prices going up everywhere, Massoll’s biggest piece of advice for other shop owners is to charge appropriately for your work.
He says too many shop owners think of the decision emotionally, wanting to help their customers. Massoll acknowledges it needs to be a factual and calculated decision.
Massoll notes that he once had a long-term customer come in, who, when he paid for his bill, asked, “That’s it? That seems too cheap.”
Massoll explained to him that he was a good customer, and Massoll wanted to take care of him. The customer told him, “If you don’t charge me appropriately and be profitable in your business, and you go out of business, how does that help me the next time I need your service?”
That’s a lesson that’s stuck with Massoll through the years.
“This industry is full of very good people; our business is in helping people. People have car problems, and we help them,” Massoll says. “But we do that for a monetary exchange. And too many business owners run their business with their heart, and when it comes to business, you have to be profitable.”
By Mike DelaCruz
A topic that I’ve become more and more interested in is the future of our industry, specifically when it comes to Technicians. I returned from the Spring Leadership Days in Orlando by Auto Care Association with an entirely new outlook, continuously reminding myself: What can I do to help strengthen our future?
As I scroll through my Facebook feed, reading through various forums and private group comments, I constantly hear about the Technician shortage and have been over the past few years.
Does that raise any concern that we’re still talking about this after several years?
As I read through the comments in hopes to find solutions, regrettably the majority of the comments are not solutions to the problem. So, my hope is to find a solution and identify what action I can personally take to help strengthen our future and do my part. I don’t want to spend anymore time talking about what we already know (tech shortage), and watch our industry reduce to rubble in the years ahead. Not on my watch… and I know a lot of you are with me! Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Let’s not wait!
As I visit shops around the country, which is my favorite thing to do, I notice a common pattern in the workflow. Nearly 70% of the shops that I have visited in the past year have empty bays. For example, a shop in the Bay Area I visited recently had 8 bays, but 4 were empty. They had 2 Technicians, who both told me they’re extremely busy and this has become the “norm” until they hire more Technicians.
Of course, the owners have “tried everything”, but what does that mean? Have they really tried “everything”, or are they looking for a band-aid to fix the short-term problem and not thinking about a long-term solution and preparing for the future?
Shops are busy right now and business is booming for most. So even though they have the Tech shortage issue on their minds, it’s less of a priority right now because they’re busy! It reminds me of what one of my favorite industry coaches (and friend) told me one time about “Panic Marketing”. Business slows down, then we expect our marketing company to step up some SEO or Ads and get cars in today, when in reality you have to plan out your marketing 6-months or a year in advance.
So what do we do when we have empty bays and a Tech shortage? Many will simply place an Ad on Indeed, cross their fingers and hope for immediate applicants! That quick-fix strategy will never work. But what will?
There are shops out there with effective strategies that actually work well. Look at what they’re doing and get some ideas. Joe Marconi has some awesome tips on hiring great people. Having worked directly with Joe, I’ve seen the success firsthand.
But for me personally, I’m more interested in the long-term and getting the “younger generation” interested in our trade. I think this will help shape our future. But how do we do this? Someone once told me, if every shop ran an Apprenticeship program, this would help solve the problem.
Is that the silver bullet? If not, what is?