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Need Some Quick Advice Please Read


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Hey Guys,

 

Here is the background to my question:

 

I just graduated college with a 4-year business degree and am looking to start an automotive repair shop in central Kansas in the near future. I have always enjoyed mechanic work on my own vehicles and my friends and family's as well but I have no formal training, education or experience in the field. I chose to start a mechanic shop because I want to get into a service industry and I like the business model for an auto repair shop. I have done a little bit of my own education in automotive technology but not near enough to feel completely comfortable doing full-on mechanic work.

 

My business plan is set up in a way where I will be hiring a master mechanic to do the complex automotive work and I will run the business/customer side of things as well as doing some minor repairs/services such as oil changes, tire rotations, etc.

 

Here is my question:

 

Do I absolutely need to go back to school for a whole 2 years for an auto tech degree to be successful in running the business? Has anyone else started from my same position? did it work or not?

 

Please just give me some general opinions and advice in this area.

 

Thanks

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Completely agree with XRAC, you need to experience working at a shop. Do you know what numbers you need to hit to be profitable? How will your mark up parts? How will you decide your labor rate? What warranty will you offer? Will you specialize in a specific car line or do general automotive repair? Will you charge shop supplies? What types of fluids should you stock? How much?

 

Just a few questions to help create food for thought.

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I totally agree with both of you. I am currently seeking employment as an automotive service writer to learn the business and customer side of things.

 

But what I guess I am more worried about is do I need more experience in the actual automotive technology side of things? Do I need to be able to diagnose problems over the phone for customer? Do I need to be able to cover for the mechanic at my shop someday when he is on vacation? Etc... How do I handle this side of the business model?

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First off I have to say that lesson one is NEVER try to diagnose anything over the phone. You will NEVER win. You only make money if the vehicle is at your shop. Over the phone, all you can do is guess and that never works and all you get is an angry customer because they swapped the part you told them COULD be the problem and it didn't help.

 

You don't need automotive training to run a shop but like many have said you do need experience in the field. If you are worried about coverage when your tech is out maybe you should look deep in your plan to see if you can have a lube tech on hand as well.

 

Business plans are great, but you have to make sure you are honest with yourself and account for all possible scenarios. Make sure the plan accounts for down markets and unforeseen occurrences. When I started, I put together a plan, then ran a scenario that revenue dropped by 20% to make sure that I still could remain profitable.

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First off I have to say that lesson one is NEVER try to diagnose anything over the phone. You will NEVER win. You only make money if the vehicle is at your shop. Over the phone, all you can do is guess and that never works and all you get is an angry customer because they swapped the part you told them COULD be the problem and it didn't help.

 

You don't need automotive training to run a shop but like many have said you do need experience in the field. If you are worried about coverage when your tech is out maybe you should look deep in your plan to see if you can have a lube tech on hand as well.

 

Business plans are great, but you have to make sure you are honest with yourself and account for all possible scenarios. Make sure the plan accounts for down markets and unforeseen occurrences. When I started, I put together a plan, then ran a scenario that revenue dropped by 20% to make sure that I still could remain profitable.

 

This is awesome advice, thanks so much. If I may dig just slightly deeper into your answer, how do you handle someone calling in for a diagnosis over the phone? just simply tell them "hey we try not to diagnose the problem over the phone but bring it on in and we will look at it?"

 

I do have a lube tech built into my plan so I do think that will help.

 

Great advice planning for all situations, thanks so much!

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When someone calls fishing for diagnostic over the phone I simply state that we would need to see the car to give them an answer. There are to many variables to diagnose over the phone. I also tell them they are better off bringing it in because then I can guarantee to them that what I tell them is needed will in fact fix the issue they are bringing it in for.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         3 comments
      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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