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My Role as Columnist with Ratchet + Wrench

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I announced a few months back that I have accepted a position as a columnist with Ratchet + Wrench, a publication dedicated to shop management and other shop business issues. This has been a great experience so far, since my goal has always been to help the industry in any way I can.


Below is a link to my article in the Feb 2014 edition. If you are not getting R+W, please do. I am sure you will enjoy it.


And, please look for future articles.



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Love this. Had a customer this past Saturday that gave me fits. After he authorized some diag work ($380 to be exact) for us to remove the intake manifold off his 650i to investigate an engine noise, the next day he had a huge problem with the charges. We had discussed and he even acknowledged he gave the OK to do the work even with no guarantee of the problem being found. We talked to him the whole step of the way but because he was now out $380 on something he agreed to do he didn't want to pay. Long story short he says to me, "I understand that you have to charge a diagnostic fee. I also understand that if you find the problem, the diagnostic fee should be waived." WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!! This is after 30 minutes on the phone with the gentleman trying to make him understand any and every which way. Just one of those you can't help, ended up charging him a $100 service fee and sent the car on its way. Can't wait til he calls back wanting help again but by then the car will probably have imploded.

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Great article. All NON automotive repair shop owners need to read this article so they can understand why there is a charge for diagnostic work. Project M Spec, we have run across those type of customers at our shop as well. It seems as though some dealerships charge in this manner where if you agree to do the work with the dealership they waive the diagnostic fee. When customers hear this they think all shops are suppose to operate in this manner.......

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Firstly, a truly awesome article, Joe, and just the kind of material that we find pertinent to our own situation. Looking forward to many more and thank you so much for sharing your own hard earned knowledge, experience and skills. We admire you for your dedication to not only the growth of the industry, but also, that the next generation taking on this unique, profitable, yet extremely difficult industry, have the tools and mentoring to survive and thrive well into the future.


Secondly, I absolutely love R+W. It is my favorite read. We (the entire family, all in this crazy business) read it from cover to cover and keep the back issues for reference. If only there were a publication like it dedicated to shop owners and managers back when my husband and I went from working in, to managing and owning the family business in 1982. Though there had already been 52 years of experience before us, from his grandfather and father,by then the economy and demographics had already started to change.


Around 2005, when we finally decided to expanded,once again we found ourselves facing a new economic climate. With the opening of our second store, we finally had access to the information and knowledge from people who truly knew and understood this business. In late 2008 the new shop opened for business and the articles from R+W and ASO have made a real difference toward success and moving on to the next goal for another store.


So, thanks again to Joe and to all the people here who make access to knowledge, information and resources possible!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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