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Ok, so I've asked questions before about operating as a one man shop. My train of thought has been changing lately as I realize that managing a business really has very little to do with whatever that business does and more with marketing, sales and human resources. Basicly, if your going to hire a tech, you'll have to write service for that tech. Might as well hire more techs then and an actual service writer to do the day to day work. Then I could concentrate on managing and marketing the business as well as some specialized work in the shop.

 

So, on the other end of the spectrum, I'd like to hear experiences from those that have started shops from scratch with multiple employees and larger facilities. I'm not talking an all ready existing company that was purchased with employees and existing customer base, but literaly started from scratch. What were your experiences in finding shop space, hiring employees, and how long did it take to get a decent customer base that the shop could pay its own way? It must be difficult to attract good employees to a startup that may not be around for long and has no past history.

 

Kevo

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Wow, what a question. And, great post!

 

This entails so many aspects of business. As with Frank (Xrac), I too started a business from scratch. This was 34 years ago. The first ten years were a blur as I tried to do everything myself. I did have two mechanics, but most of the work was done by me, or I thought so. What happened eventually is that I failed. You cannot be everywhere and be everyone in your company.

 

So, I learned that in order to grow the business I had to step away from the bays, step away from the service counter, find and hire the right people, build the systems and then manage those systems through a process of check and balances.

 

Once I understood this formula, the business grew and it continues to grow. I am not saying it is easy. In fact, being in business can be a financial roller coaster. As Frank (Xrac) stated, and I agree 100%, we all need guidance in areas of business management.

 

Finding the location is key, but more important is finding the right people and understanding that you are the shop owner, and the more you understand business, the better.

 

Oh, one last thing. When it comes to marketing and branding. Don't be a cookie cutter repair shop. Dare to be different and establish your brand identity. We may all do the same thing (repairs and service), but who we are and why we are in business cannot be copied.

 

I hope this helps.

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I've been at this for well over 30 years. I've seen large shops fail as well as small one man shops come and go. It takes a business plan that fits YOU. If a big shop is your goal then that's where you should focus your efforts. Hire right, fire right. Have the right advertising and the right equipment. Train everyone, which might include in house classes, going to conventions, to even having a known automotive teacher (one of the guys or gals at these conventions) come to your place.

 

I always figured that you have to know twice as much about your job and your business than you'll ever actually use on a daily basis. That goes with the techs too.

 

You'll find your niche. It's out there.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I started a new franchise with no experience, no customer base, no employees, no building, and no background in automotives. We bought the property, built the building, bought all the equipment, all the inventory, and hired all the employees and all with BORROWED MONEY . I had guidance and training from the franchisor but nothing great. It took us about 5 years to get established and we are now 15 years into the project. We haven't done bad in that I have earned a living but it has been much harder than I imagined. I would be in better shape if I had had better business guidance. I probably could have made more money pursuing some other interests that I have. You need to have guidance from someone who is successful and knows what they are doing. You must have a good POS system with good financial control. I do not think we would have survived and finally succeeded if we hadn't had literally the best location in our town.

Its been awhile since I've been able to respond, but did you have issue when you were initially hiring people? I guess with a franchise it would be a bit easier, but I think it would be hard to quit a known paying job to work at a startup with no history if I was in the employees shoes.

 

Kevo

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I guess I should maybe post up a few more thoughts on what I'm thinking business wise.

 

Looking at shops in the area, no one caters to trucks. I happen to like trucks and think a shop that caters to them would do well. We have a lot of trucks in this area, a lot of ranches too. We have big trucks, small trucks, work trucks, play trucks, fleet trucks and a ton of suvs, and I obviously wouldn't shy away from working on cars either. I'm also thinking that carrying some accessories and selling them couldn't hurt either. Maybe carrying some commonly used stuff like tie down straps and towing junk and then just being able to get the rest. I'm heavily into rock crawling so carrying offroad parts is a must, although I probably wouldn't stock that much.

 

The backbone of the business would always be repair as that's the most common need, but with the business going it would open some doors for my other passions in life. I'd just have to watch the financial impact of those passions.

 

Now my problem. I was a general automotive mechanic. I understand cars and trucks with gas engines, but I have no experience with diesel trucks other than changing oil on them. In my area, you can't have a shop that works on trucks that doesn't know anything about diesels. I would need to hire someone for that. Its possible I could get along for awhile on my own, but I'm not sure thats a great idea if I'm just starting out and trying to make a name for myself.

 

Kevo

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Kevo, we did exactly this. Opened 3mos ago from nothing to 3 amazing techs and a phenomenal service adviser. I'm probably not the best guy to ask on this, but we did break even our first month, if that counts for anything.

 

Take look at our website and feel free to shoot me a PM anytime. www.ANTHEMAUTO.com

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Breaking even the first month is a very large achievement. You have a beautiful facility. Very modern and attractive. Thanks for the tour today. I love the amount of space that you have and the location. I predict a bright future.

 

Thank you for your kind words, Frank. It was great to see you.

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Thats awesome you broke even the first month! Hopefully the following months were even better!

 

That is an amazing transformation on that repair facility!

 

I'll ask you also, did you have issues hiring techs?

 

Kevo

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