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    • Article: Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency

      By Jim Murphy of Elite We continue to hear that it is important to be more efficient in our shops; more efficient at the front counter, more efficient techs, more efficient with our time in general.  What are we truly doing about it?  Expenses and costs keep increasing.  The collision industry has already learned that they cannot charge more because the insurance industry has capped their ability to do so. 6 to 7 hours per technician is not going to cut it any longer; the collision shops now need to get 10 to 12 hours per day per tech. How is mechanical repair going to survive?  Customers are beginning to reach the upper barrier of what we can charge. We need to improve proficiency by 50% without increasing the charges to the customer. How do we do that? We need to re-evaluate processes, people, equipment and technology. We then need to reassess and improve some more. The collision industry efficiencies were increased, now it is our turn! We need to reconfigure workspaces for the shop and customer service areas.  Analyze paper and people flows to minimize steps and remove the barriers that make your staff slow down or stop. We need to constantly review equipment, tools, technology and IT to speed up processes. We need to look for improvements in products to minimize comebacks, and most importantly, we need to continue to upgrade training. The best performing businesses have the highest quality people, the right people for the right positions.  Training plus experience equals a highly trained staff.  Make sure that you have a training plan in place for each employee. You want to source the right training at the right time for the right price. Don’t just accept whatever becomes available to you at the time and expect that this will be right for your staff. Do your homework and procure what each team member will need this year to become more efficient.  Your business is going to depend upon it! This article was brought to you by Jim Murphy. Jim the leader of Elite’s prestigious Pro Service,  a peer group made up of 90 of the most successful shop owners in North America. To learn more about the industry's top peer group, visit Elite's Pro Service page: https://www.eliteworldwide.com/20-group.html
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      By Elite Worldwide Inc., in AutoShopOwner Articles

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    • Article: Doctor's Orders - an actual letter from a dentist...

      Doctor's Orders   The field of automotive repair and body work has always  been plagued with a few unscrupulous individuals.  But, I  would say that every trade has their share of them as well.   I pride myself on doing the best that can be done for my  customers and I don't take kindly to anyone who thinks  this job is anything but a professional.  This is not a job  that can be mastered overnight; it takes years of experience  and understanding.     Even though I carry the title “ASE Master Technician” I  don't consider myself a “Master” of the automotive field.   I may have “mastered” the trade but not the technology that  continually changes.  That's an ongoing education which each  and every mechanic deals with.  But, with that said, there are  still some individuals that still look down upon the automotive  trade as some sort of second class job. Recently I received an  email from one of those type of individuals.     Several years ago I wrote an article titled, “Diagnostics Fee or Diagnostics Free” which was published in a variety of magazines.  The article was primarily about the issues of a diagnostic fee for testing and evaluating a vehicle.  A copy of one of the magazines was in a waiting room at a repair shop where this guy was getting his car to be repaired. He happens to be a dentist, which I consider as much a professional field as mine.  However, this guy... doesn't see it that way.  His email went something like this:    I read through your 'two cents' on engine diagnostics and I could not agree more.  However, I do have a bone to pick.  Charging for a diagnostic is fine but where do you draw the line?   I am a general dentist.  For a new patient I charge $39 for an exam (cleanings from a hygienist are $60).  I take roughly 25 minutes to complete an exam on a patient.  Some patients take longer as they have a more difficult case and sometimes they just have more questions.     I have spent 9 years in college, at a cost of over 200k, and roughly 600K on my practice (I have lots of fancy equipment too, even more expensive than the 'diagnostic computer') AND I am dealing with the actual health and well-being of mankind (screenings for head neck cancer, dental caries, oral path., etc., etc.)  If I used your kind of math I guess I should charge more in the neighborhood of $500 for an exam (my education alone was probably more than 20 times yours so the math is still WAY low).     But I don't charge that much.  A true professional would realize when a charge is ridiculous and when it is not.  A diagnostic charge from a mechanic should be in the neighborhood of $20. If you are charging in the near $100 range I would consider removing the self-titled "professional" from your website. Which I found funny that you brought it up anyway.   Your computer is a one-time purchase. You don't throw it away when you are done so quit trying to factor in the computer cost like it is a consumable.  A mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour.  A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead.     Actually, you just gave me an idea.  I am going to tell my patients I now have a "parts, labor, and supplies" fee.  That would be great.  Imagine the next time you come into my office and I say that my labor fee is over $500 an hour.  My patients would leave.  I can't believe a mechanic thinks charging $100 an hour or labor is reasonable when everything else is also marked up 300% PLUS!!!! ... It is laughable.     Anyway, I agree....but let’s get realistic.     This is a junk email and address, no need in trying to contact me with your response.      He agrees?  Realistically, I find that hard to believe.  These are the typical misguided perceptions that still linger in some peoples conceptions of the auto mechanic.  Apparently, according to this guy... I'm not worthy of calling myself a professional because I'm “just” a mechanic.   It's sad to say that there are still people out there that take this dim view of the automotive mechanic world.  It could be this guy is only retaliating from a previous experience with his car that didn't go right, or it could be he was at one of those “unprofessional” shops that tried to tackle a job they shouldn't have been taking on.  Maybe he thinks all mechanics alike, and not one of us is a true professional in our trade.     Obviously, after reading this, I have come to realize that all dentists are not alike.  I know my personal dentist respects my profession... and has a great amount of appreciation for my trade, just as much as I do for his skills and abilities.   Even though in the email he stated there was no need in a response, well, there is a way to respond.  Here it is.     Those years you spent in college almost equals my years of training... your investment into your field is acknowledged and is definitely a part of both our trades.  Mind you, the countless changes and improvements in the equipment and procedures in the auto industry (and dentistry as well) doesn't offset the cost of doing business in any shape or form.  You'd think it would, but, as fast as the auto manufacturers introduce new systems so does the equipment to diagnostic them change.   Honestly, I feel sorry for this guy.  He seems kind of bitter.  As a mechanic, I work on everything from the front bumper to the rear-end of the car.  This guy... using a car as the comparison... only works on the shiny grill that everyone first sees.   I mean really... he only has two models to work on and the last time I looked both models have the same 32 components to deal with. But, let's not reduce ourselves to his level of explaining the differences between the two professions. Oh wait… I already did.  My bad… I guess it’s a lot easier to be condescending than it is to pull teeth, huh, Doc.?   Sorry Mr. Dentist, I don't think I'll be following “Doctor's Orders” as you clearly state them in your email. I think this time you should take my advice and try to be more respectful to the guys and gals that keep your cherished ride on the road. There's no set fee for diagnostics, there's no 300% mark-up on parts, and there definitely isn't any magic one time purchased machine that will diagnose a car.   Maybe you should try to be a little more understanding and a bit more professional, because right now... you're not!    
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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

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    • Article: Challenges Of The Auto Repair Business

      As the auto industry moves on into the modern age, repair centers all around the country are experiencing pressure with the tech world and our world colliding. We are all trailing nationwide franchises and dealerships that have endless resources working at their disposal. For most smaller auto repair businesses there isn’t enough time, money, or energy to attempt to constantly and actively secure the new business. We’re mostly worried about attempting to maintain the existing business we have, which has newer cars and increasing demands. Most of our time is now spent adjusting to the learning curve of advanced vehicle systems. However, that’s just a shop problem. The front office of your shop has its own issues to contend with that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Make no mistake about it, our industry is in the middle of a revolution and with 3D printing knocking at the door… the amount of balls to juggle are going to be considerable and it's all just getting started. Today’s auto repair businesses need to worry about the following: Location – Securing a proper location and the authorization to conduct business there over the long term ensures survival. Tools – Without the proper tools, we just can’t work on today’s vehicles. Training – Without the proper training, we put ourselves and our customers at high risk. Employee Engagement – Keeping your employees as interested in your success as you are is critical to the elements that keep people returning and employees from leaving. Employee Advancement – Providing an environment where employees know they can grow with your business, whether financially or moving up within the organization, is the key to keeping and securing talent. Marketing – This is the most complicated element in today’s world. It involves a mix of a strong web presence, good advertising ethics, social media profile, and following up with customers. Advertising – Can be expensive and very confusing. The best method to start is to get your feet wet with small budgets that keep your name in front of your potential customers, constantly. Software – Without good software, it is difficult to run any business. Good software is and always has been subjective. Our experiences indicate that good software saves you time and builds trust with your customers. Most importantly, it should work for you and not against you. This article originally published in CAR's News Section
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      By CAR_AutoReports, in AutoShopOwner Articles

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    • Article: EGO vs. Abilities --- Sometimes your ego is your worst client

      EGO vs. Ability           For some reason, especially in the auto repair business,  there’s a tendency for the ego to overshadow the actual abilities  for a lot of mechanics. Sure, I can say my ego has stepped over  the line a time or two, but for the most part, the ever changing  industry usually keeps a person humble.             For some guys, there’s no stopping their ever-unchecked ego  from stepping out beyond their tool box. Especially, if they’ve  landed a position that is far above their abilities. Some of them  reach beyond the typical, “I know more than you do” level, to a  status where their ever-enlarging ego has no boundaries,  regardless if they are even qualified for such a position.            If you ever have wondered if you’re that type of person  or not, take this little survey and let’s see. Answer the following  questions as truthfully as possible. Answer each question – yes or no.    1.I know all there is to know about cars. 2.All the other mechanics are below my abilities. 3.Customers come to me because I’m the best there is.  4.Have you ever said to another mechanic, “Get out of my way, I’ll take care of this.” 5.I don’t need to take advanced classes, I should be teaching them.           If you answered any of these questions with anything other than ‘NO’, you probably need to check your EGO at the door.             It’s not hard to spot these egotistical mechanics though. We’ve all ran into one at some point in our careers. You know, that one guy that runs his mouth all the time, or walks by each service bay shouting louder than everyone else while making claims he could fix that problem faster than you can. That one guy who, when given some authoritative position, turns into a ‘mini-Hitler’. Or, the one who can’t seem to finish his own work, but at the same time, he’s awfully chummy with the boss. The kind that swings into action if the boss says ‘jump’, but never actually accomplishes a thing. Yes, we all know ‘that’ guy. Worse yet, is when these type of individuals break their ties to the tool box and move to other aspects of the auto repair industry. Like the front office.            When I was first starting out, I worked at a small local dealership as a helper. I wasn’t even what you might call an apprentice because I wasn’t assigned to a mechanic or strictly to the mechanic shop. I was more the guy who cleaned up the bays, held tools, and brought parts from the warehouse to the service bays. Everybody was great, and encouraged me to learn more and more. All but this one guy. It wasn’t long before it was universally known throughout the entire building that ‘this’ was our egotistical wrench head of the shop.            This guy had something to say about everything. You couldn’t even sweep a floor or roll up a hose without him saying something demeaning or repulsive. But, it only got worse. Apparently, his boisterous attitude made it all the way to the front office. But, being the ‘non-car-front-office-people’ that they were, and since this guy couldn’t stay in his own bay long enough to finish anything, they made the assumption he must be their gift from the wrench gods. Which, in turn, must mean he deserved a promotion to bigger and better things. They made him the shop super.            Now, his ‘little-Hitler’ mentality came out with a vengeance. Nobody was safe from the torrential down beating this guy dished out. Even with numerous complaints, the dealership head honchos still believed he walked on water. His greatest skill was not wrenching, or diagnosing, but getting rid of anyone that said anything against his ideas, or even remotely showed any signs of intelligence beyond his mental capacities. (Didn’t take much by the way)             It wasn’t long before his ever oppressive antics started to affect the quality of work and the number of customers that used the dealership service department. Soon, every tech that was left had had enough. They were all packing up their tool boxes and heading down the road. After a while, even the need to have some young kid sweeping floors and running parts back and forth wasn’t needed, because there were more empty bays than full ones now.            This egotistical maniac even thought he could teach the other mechanics and helpers something about the auto industry that apparently … only he understood. His method of instructing was appalling. It usually consisted of him shouting at the top of his lungs from the front of the room, while showing the aspects of some out of date process. He even had his own homemade jargon and squirrelly nicknames for these long forgotten components which only fit a cars that haven’t seen a service bays for decades. All the while, pointing a three foot long piece of dowel rod like if it were some sort of magic wand.            It was more like watching a circus clown trying to explain advanced quantum physics. His true attitude was even more apparent if you asked for help on something. Instead of helping, he would come over and take whatever it was you were working on and rip it completely back apart, then telling you that you did it wrong. Ya know, if you already ‘knew’ you did something wrong, how is starting over from the beginning ever going to help? Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you ‘still’ don’t have any clue what you’re doing.            But, as with a lot of these ego driven socket jockeys and little Hitler attitudes, it’s just a matter of time before upper management takes notice. However, for this dealership, it came bit too late. The place closed due to lack of work. Like ya didn’t see that coming.             So, why am I bringing this up? It’s not funny, it’s not technical… what gives? What’s the whole point of this story? It’s for you to consider the results of your actions when you’re talking with a customer or for that matter another mechanic. The fact that a customer or fellow mechanic doesn’t know what you know, is probably the very reason your customer or that mechanic was asking you for your advice.             You may find that technology is starting to pass you by because you’ve spent way too much time telling everybody that you know it all, instead of studying that very technology you claimed you knew. (You can only BS them for so long) Maybe, it’s time for you to eat a little humble pie and accept the fact that you need to advance your training just to be able to do what you thought you already knew how to do.            It’s easy to find yourself in this business thinking you’re above reproach. But, honestly, we all can learn a lot about the make-up of today’s cars and even more about helping other technicians and mechanics without going to the point of becoming the next little Hitler.            Years ago a mechanic’s job was all about turning bolts, twisting screws, and adjusting cables. Today, the stereotypical mechanic doesn’t really have a place in the service bay on a daily basis. Tomorrow’s tech is here today. That’s the guy or gal that is heavily involved with advanced electronics, data lines, and computer strategies, but they still need to turn those nuts and bolts just like before. Above all, the auto repair business is on the brink of being so sophisticated of a career choice that the shade tree adventurer will be hard to find.             Every mechanic needs to learn and understand today’s vehicles to be profitable and to be respected in the industry as well as with their clients. It may take a while to bring the world of automotive repair up a few notches from that old stereotypical mechanic we all knew. But, we could all start by showing a little more respect to others, as well as ourselves and especially to our fellow mechanics. 
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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

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      • 128 views
    • Article: Identifying the Problem with Your Shop

      I have never met a shop owner who didn’t have the desire to be successful. People go into business with dreams of changing the world and to make a positive influence in the industry to which they have dedicated their lives. They’re devoted, sacrifice time away from family and, at times, drive themselves to exhaustion—all in an effort to become the best they can be and make their mark. However, all too often, something happens along the way and the business begins to suffer. While shops owners may start their business with passion and vision, they tend to create a world in which everything revolves around them. When the business is small, the owner pays careful attention to every detail. Every car is repaired with the highest degree of excellence. Quality time is spent with each customer and a bond is created, which gets stronger and stronger as the years pass. As the business begins to grow, the owner realizes that the amount of work to be accomplished each day is overwhelming and hires more employees. Everyone is working, but not necessarily with the same culture the owner has. They do their job, but they are not really aligned with the goals and vision of the owner. The shop owner continues to work on his or her skills, learning everything that is needed to run a successful business. After a number of years, the shop owner becomes skilled at running a shop and proficient in nearly every aspect of business, except one: the area of people. And that is when the downward slide begins. The owner recognizes that, in spite of the dedication to excellence, things are not right. The shop owner has established the goals of the company and put everything in place. Everything is attainable. But it’s not working. Frustration sets in, and it’s not long before the owner begins to complain about the lack of performance and drive from the employees, which is the perceived root of the problem. Well, the root of the problem is the owner. We all know that running a business is not a walk in the park, but if your business is struggling, you, personally, are struggling. If your people are not performing the way they should, then you are not performing the way you should. Granted, there are employees that are a problem, and if that’s the case, they need to go. But even superstar employees will turn sour under poor leadership. There are endless issues and problems you encounter each and every day, and some of those problems are out of your control. But, excluding a cataclysmic event, you can trace most of your problems back to you. You are the shop owner, you are the leader. The strength of your business begins and ends with you. Given two equally talented ball teams, the difference between winning and losing is usually leadership. Employees need to know you care about them. The people you employ have vision and goals, too. Not the same as yours, but real nonetheless. One of your jobs, as leader, is to align their goals with yours. We throw this leadership term around a lot these days, and for good reason. It’s the most powerful skill you have in terms of getting the results for which you are looking. The horrible truth is there are too many bosses and not enough leaders. Anyone can be a boss. Bosses order people around. And people will follow, but not for the long term. A leader motivates others by understanding what drives the individual. A leader gives credit to others, never seeking gain at the expense of others. Next time you walk through your shop, pay attention to the mood of your employees. Are your employees laughing and talking to each other? You know, having a little fun at work. Do your employees look to engage in conversation with you, or are their heads buried under the hood of a car as you pass them by? Even worse, does everyone stop talking when you are around? These are signs that your employees are not engaged, which means they are not aligned with the goals and vision of the business, and you are not aligned with theirs. A leader finds out what’s important to others, and works to help them achieve it. Aligning the goals of the individual with the goals of the company will achieve great things. When employees are respected as people, they become motivated and perform at their best; not because they are told to, but because they want to. This is the highest form of team spirit and becomes your driving force toward success. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2018
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      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Articles

        
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