By Joe Marconi
We, automotive shop owners of America, must take the opportunity of a lifetime and turn it into a bunch of success stories. What opportunity? Look around you. The world is in turmoil. COVID-19, social unrest, uncertainty about the presidential election, the economy, how are we going to get out kids back to school, on and on and on.
While the world is spiraling out of control, we have the power to make big changes to our auto repair shops. And it can all be positive!
First, the average age of a car in the U.S. is about 12 years old, attaining well over 200k on the clock.
Second, Uber, taxis and limo companies are suffering. Guess why?
Third, the motoring public in the foreseeable future will be traveling by car, taking road trips like they have never did before.
Fourth, the roads are packed with motor vehicles, as more and more people prefer their own car as their primary means of transportation.
Fifth, as the cars get older and older, more of them will be out of factory warranty.
Sixth, independent auto repair shops have a vast amount of training, resources and replacement parts.
Seventh, the overwhelming majority of cars being build and sold today are still internal combustion engine powered cars. If you factor in the expected average age of car these days, we can safely bet that those gas engine cars being sold today will still be on the road in 2033 and beyond!
Eight, You need more? That's not enough!
Get your plan in place. Get your prices in line with making a profit. Don't give anything away anymore (I am mostly referring to checking, testing, diags of any sort!) Offer world class customer service. Be a leader of your employees. Show the world what you are made of!
By Joe Marconi
For many of us, it's been a wild ride the past few months. We had to take care of everything, making tough decisions, dealing with banks and the SBA and running the shop from the trenches. But, with things looking better each day, it’s time that we get back into the role of building and operating the company.
For many, the COVID-19 crisis is far from over. However, the sooner we begin to adjust and build for the future, the better off we will be.
Shop Owners are among the hardest working people on the planet. We find ways to get through the most difficult situations. I have no doubt that the lesson’s learned from this crisis will make us stronger and more successful.
I currently employ a mechanic and friend who has been with me for about 20 years. He was formerly a transmission rebuilder, but we have switched to mostly reman units and have no need for a rebuilder. His pay has remained the same despite his value declining. I am currently paying him roughly $100,000 a year. The problem i'm having is that his skill set is not near that pay level anymore. He does light diagnostic and basic managerial work, but I am not confident enough for him to run the shop for more than an hour. With the current state of the industry our numbers have gone down a bit over the last two years. While still being profitable, I can't help but think about the extra income that would be available by terminating this employee, I just dont know how to do it. Any advice on how to do this? I like him as a person and have known him a very long time, but I feel his is paid about twice as much as he is worth. Any help wouldbe greatly appreciated.
By Joe Marconi
Shop owners, you have a little less than two months before the end of the year. And that means it's time to start thinkning about your Tax Planning for 2019. Don't procrastinate on this. Meet with accountant. Review the year, review profit. Consider things such as major equipmenet purchases and other major investments you made in 2019. Look at bottom line profit and determine if you set aside enough cash to pay your taxes come April 15, 2020.
One thing, Cash is King, So, before you purhase any major equipment before the end of the year, listen to your accoutant, not the Tool Sales-person. In many cases, it's better to pay some tax and hold on to cash for a rainy day.
A little planning now will save you big time in 2020, and also help you sleep better!
By Joe Marconi
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool.
The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult. And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019
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Similar Tagged Content
Has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your auto shop business? If it hasn't yet, it has the potential to do so soon. Please share what you are currently doing, how your business is impacted, what plans you have in place, etc.
Some things to consider:
Do you have a plan in place should you or one of your employees become ill? With school, event, and business closures, how will this affect your shop? Are you sending anything to your customers in terms of sharing your plans around keeping your customer and employees healthy and doing your part in your community? Many small and large businesses have been sending email communications to their customers. Are you marketing to your customers in terms of not delaying car repair, should there be a need to temporarily close? Are your parts suppliers sharing their plans, should the pandemic affect supply chains? Are you stocking up on business and shop necessities? Please share your experience in this topic and stay healthy!
In the media:
The coronavirus and its growing tally of sick and dead victims around the world have been roiling financial markets, prompting countless hand-washing reminders and ruining more than a few vacations, and that’s before anyone knows exactly how widespread the effect will be on the automotive industry, including your local repair shop. Source
“By mid-March, the shortage of supplies will be felt and members are projecting they’ll experience disruption through May or June,” even if operations in China soon get back to normal, said Stacey Miller, senior director of communications at the Auto Care Association, a trade group representing 150,000 auto aftermarket and service businesses. Source
By Joe Marconi
I will never forget the day I met Carlos. It was 13 years ago at a small business conference in New York City. The conference drew business owners from all types of industries throughout the greater New York area. Carlos was sitting next to me at orientation. The day was lined up with guest speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. By the third networking break, Carlos and I were hitting it off. We traded war stories, discussed business challenges and brainstormed new ideas. Carlos owns two Italian restaurants, one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. His first restaurant was founded in 1986 when he was 27 years old. I finally asked Carlos, “What’s your background? Did you go school to become a chef? Did your family own a restaurant? Do you enjoy cooking?” Carlos turned to me, smiled, and said, “Joe, I am going to let you in on a little-known secret: I have never cooked a meal in my life.”
Unlike Carlos and his business venture, most auto repair businesses are started by technicians and use their technical skills to run their companies. I was one of them. I spent years honing my technical skills from the time I graduated high school in 1973 to my first day in business, Oct. 1, 1980. I worked hard at becoming the absolute best automotive technician I could possibly become. I also spent another decade after starting my business improving those skills. That is, until one day I realized that while I may have used my technical skills to start and initially build my business, it wasn’t enough.
In the first 10 years, I grew my business primarily with my hands, my strength and my determination. At the end of that decade, I hit a wall. Thankfully, that wall knocked some sense into me. My business was largely dependent on my abilities and what I could produce. After analyzing my business and realizing that it had plateaued for a number of years, I had to make a tough choice. It was time to put down the tools. I had to learn a different set of skills—the skills of running a company. This proved to be the right choice for me.
I’m not saying I regret what I did in those early years. I didn’t know any other way. I loved the auto industry and I loved working on cars. However, when the day came that I decided to become a business owner, my life changed. And, my awareness of how to build and run a business should have changed with it.
There are shop owners that were never technicians, and do quite well. It’s argued that they have an advantage over technician-turned-shop-owners. A technician’s brain is wired to look at the problem at hand, create a solution and move on. An entrepreneur looks at business from a different perspective: always looking to the future, at growth and what other greater things can be accomplished.
I remember many years ago meeting a very successful shop owner from the west coast at a trade show. We were both standing at a booth that displayed emissions-related products. I picked up a sensor, turned to this shop owner and asked what he thought of the new air fuel ratio sensors. He replied, “I wouldn’t know an oxygen sensor from a spark plug.” I kept silent. This shop owner was, and still is, well known in the industry—and very successful.
Here’s the bottom line: As a business owner, the skills of repairing cars have little to do with the skills needed for long-term business success. For many of you with a technical background, you may have come to the same conclusion. If you have not come to this realization, please take a long hard look at your life and your business. While you may love to be in the bays, your place it a helm of the ship. Use those technical skills, but understand that those skills may have gotten you this far, but they won’t get your business to where it needs to be. It will be your business skills and people skills that builds a sustainable company that continues to grow and becomes a source of enrichment for you, your family, your employees and their families.
Carlos and I still keep in contact with each other and he still owns and operates his restaurants. Carlos called me the other day and told me that he actually had the opportunity recently to work in the kitchen at one of his restaurants. Perhaps even entrepreneurs can cross over into the world of technicians. I’m betting it did a world of good for Carlos.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on November 1st, 2018
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By Ron Ipach
December spells the end of 2018, and hopefully you're wrapping up what was a fantastic year for your auto repair shop and business.
Now… it’s time to start thinking about how to make 2019 an EVEN BETTER year. (Heck, let’s go ahead and plan on making it your best year ever! Right?)
By attending for this special Live Online Webinar, you're going to get the proven 4-step process that will practically GUARANTEE 2019 to be a blow-out success for you.
With these four steps, you’ll be able to…
👉 ==> DOUBLE your take-home pay (Yes, that’s not a misprint. I’ll show you how.)
👉 ==> Magnetically attract more (and even better!) customers to your shop
👉 ==> Easily sell your services at higher prices than your competitors
👉 ==> Find, hire, and keep that elusive tech you’ve been searching for
👉 ==> Put the fun back into running your shop!
If you're interested... there is absolutely ZERO cost to attend this training.
All you'll need is 45 minutes of your day set aside in order to watch this webinar live.
For the dates, times, and registration details, CLICK HERE
By Joe Marconi
Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels.
I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?