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Everything posted by JimO

  1. I have always tried to hire staff members that are knowledgeable for the work that we routinely do and share my same values and principles. General internal medical doctors send patients to specialists when their patients illness or symptom exceeds their knowledge base or experience level. The sign of a good doctor is that he/she sends you to a specialist when needed as opposed to trying to solve a problem without the proper background, training and or equipment. Can I possibly afford to hire a staff and set up a shop that could profitably repair any problem on any vehicle? The answer is that I could try but I could not accomplish this profitably. Recognize you shops ability and comfort level and NEVER allow your pride stand in the way of sending a job to the dealer. In general I think that too many shop owners feel that sending a customer to the dealer for a repair is the same as losing a customer. I know from experience that a trip to the dealer for an odd or complex repair increase our customers allegiance to us. Let the dealer keep the vehicle for ten days, charge the owner $2,000 for the repair only to have the owner return the vehicle multiple times because the problem is not fixed. Let that frustration and expense be associated with the dealer as opposed to me. Lastly, run a clean, well organized shop which maximizes productivity.
  2. Joe managed to capture an accurate description of our lives in a few sentences. I bet everyone read his words and thought “Wow...that’s me....that’s my life”. Given that should we really wonder why our trade struggles to find qualified employees?
  3. As if getting Covid is not enough you also have to try your best to finish all of the “in progress” jobs and contend with being down for an unknown amount of time. Running a small business has it’s rewards but I bet right now you wish you could just go home and get paid for hibernating under the covers like the majority of the population has done. I wish you and your tech a quick recovery.
  4. Joe is correct that Covid-19 has affected everyone to some degree. Our gas volume is still off by 30-40% which is both a concern and hardship but repairs have been good so I feel very fortunate. There are a handful of varied businesses that have prospered during Covid such us drug chains, Urgent Care facilities, testing labs etc. Sadly there are so many businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters, hair/nail salons, catering halls, fitness centers, hotels/motels ..... that have closed up permanently. A shopping mall near me has a severe failure rate with 40-50% of the stores shuttered for good. A Hilton in my backyard closed permanently. Huge corporate office buildings in my area still lay dormant with all employees working from home. The overall business climate is still very poor in our are and concerns me. To answer Joe’s question as to what lessons I have learned - Adapt to change as quick as possible, do not financially over extend yourself, realize and react to untapped opportunities, increase and improve communication with customers and employees and be thankful to be able to come to work every morning because too many people are unable to do that.
  5. Can’t agree more. I have pointed out tires that are clearly worn out and the owners often respond by telling me “It’s a leased car and I am returning it in a few months”. I then tell them that they have two choices - replace the tires or park the vehicle and stop using it. During the depths of the Covid quarantine we noticed a sharp increase of rodent infestation in vehicles directly caused by vehicles being dormant for weeks/months. Great picture! Really depicts the importance of regular maintenance.
  6. I do not want to divide our group by introducing a social/political topic but the recent situation that occurred during a Goodyear training session is interesting. I assume most of you are aware but for those that are not this is the condensed version: During an employee training session a Goodyear employee utilized a slide presentation indicating that BLM and LGBT shirts/pins/hats are acceptable while at work but All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, MAGA and other politically affiliated slogans or materials are unacceptable while at work. Another employee took a picture of this training slide, released it to the press and ultimately President Trump retaliated with this Tweet - Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES - They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less! (This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!) Again I do not want to divide us but I am wondering if any of you have been faced with a customer who declined a Goodyear tire purchase because of the above information. In my shop this past Friday a husband and wife came in requesting four new tires with “Anything but Goodyear” as their only requirement. I asked if this restriction was based on a past poor experience with Goodyear tires and they quickly referred to the training slide incident outlined above as being the reason. What have you experienced in your shops? NOTE - The the husband and wife mentioned above did purchase four Cooper tires from me on Friday for those that are curious.
  7. Any plan to pay a worker more money to stay home than what they normally would earn for working is a plan destined for unintended consequences and grossly unfair to everyone who goes to work every day. The excuse for wanting to stay home is fear of contracting Covid and there are certainly workers who have underlying heath conditions that predispose them to a poorer outcome should they contract it. How can anyone justify rewarding people who decide to stay home? If you fail to go to work for a justified reason you should receive benefits that are based on your current earnings (which the government has access to). Assuming you are afraid but otherwise healthy the benefit should be reduced for the following reasons: Since you are staying home you have no gas, tolls or bridge expenses. If you are staying home you have no child care expenses. Entertainment expenses should be zero since you are afraid to go to work you should also be afraid to expose yourself to what little entertainment we now have. Cell phones, cable tv (in particular all premium channels) are not essential and should be cancelled. Steaks, shrimp and lobster needs to be quickly replaced with rice, hot dogs and beans. The landscaper, window cleaner, painter etc. needs to be cancelled since you are home and have more than enough time to complete those tasks yourself.
  8. I have been using Bay-Master for years and I have been very happy. They have made many changes and improvements over the years as our needs have changed. Ability to email estimates and invoices, send canned text messages and mass text messages are a few of the features that help me daily. They always listen and respond to input from the end users (us in the field) which I think is one of their strongest attributes. There may be a shop management system out there that will allow me to write up invoices while tracking my caloric intake and graph the two over time but do I need that? I need a system that allows me to run my business efficiently without having to become a computer programmer or a full time data entry person and Bay-Master has fulfilled all my needs and more.
  9. I have no plans to install shields. Since Covid hit our area I changed our normal operating procedures to include writing up most work orders on the phone when our customers call as opposed to their arrival. Writing up before arrival minimizes the need of shields. After the phone write up a “canned” text is sent repeating verbal instructions given earlier for proper drop off procedures and also confirms date and time of appointment. I have found that when I follow the above steps very few appointments are forgotten or cancelled which is a hidden benefit. Upon completion of work a “canned” text is sent indicating cost of total invoice and that payment can be made by calling us with credit card information. Almost everyone calls in credit card payment and many request invoices to be emailed as opposed to hard copies which again reduces the need for shielding. The above steps work great to abide by our new Covid restrictions but I miss the face to face interaction with my customers. For that reason I try to briefly see customers outside during drop off or pick-up to retain a small portion of that personal touch. This adds some time to a busy day but a quick greeting or thank you (from an appropriate social distance) goes a long way. Utilizing my shop management programs ability to send canned text messages and email invoices allowed me to transition into the above “minimal contact” operating procedures quickly and efficiently.
  10. When anyone disrespects an employee it is time to step in and stop the abuse. You did the right thing and I am sure your employee and other staff members appreciate your response.
  11. I share Joe’s concern and believe that we will still continue to feel the economic turmoil that Covid has caused. To many variables in play right now with so many marginalized businesses that have tried to hang on but seem to be slowly dropping off and closing. I accept the fact that in many cases Covid did not directly cause the failure but in most cases it was the tipping point.
  12. I have three bays and three techs. For years we have scheduled using a desk blotter that has vertical columns for each day of the week. I write down the customers name and brief description or acronyms of the work needed such as OFL, ROTI for oil/filter/lube and rotate tires. If the job requires known parts to be ordered in before arrival then I write up the job using my shop management system, order the parts, print a work order, record the customer’s name on the blotter in the appropriate column and write “TIR” indicated a worker order or “ticket” is started already and in the rack. Other than that it is all gut feeling, experience and the ability to say “No” when your instinct tells you that taking on a prospective job that was not scheduled is a “bridge too far” based on current work load. Good communication with the customer concerning delays is a must. When the crap hits the fan and you know the vehicle won’t be finished call the owner right away and keep them informed. Waiting until the end of the day never helps that type of situation. Since Covid I have been sending canned text reminders for scheduled work the day before or the morning of using my shop management program which has helped to eliminate “no shows”. The canned reminder also contains instructions for a safe, minimal exposure drop off during Covid so it serves two purposes.
  13. We have been trailing NY by 1-2 weeks with everything concerning the pandemic and our indoor malls still remain closed at this time. Stores that are accessible from the street have recently reopened which does make me feel like we are getting back to normal as Joe indicated. My location is surrounded by corporate offices which also remain closed. I have been told that when they do get a green light to open that most will only allow 10% of employees to return per month. Most or all have also announced that it is ok to not return to the office and continue working from home. We may not see 50% occupancy at the corporate offices until December or later which is a concern.
  14. I think the responses to your post will mainly be predicated on the location of the shop. Areas not hit as hard as others will naturally have more relaxed standards. I am in NJ and the entire state is still shut down except for essential businesses. Every business that is allowed to be open has signs posted indicating face mask required. I have to agree with bantar’s post that most customers wear the masks incorrectly and they will partially or fully remove the masks when talking. Odd how people nationwide feel the need to remove the mask during the time when it is really required. I need to constantly remind people to “mask up” so in most cases I just ask them to step outside. I removed all waiting room chairs back in March and I have no place for customers to wait. Nobody wants to wait, everyone is still scared and on heightened alert. Occasionally during quick jobs some customers take a walk over to a strip mall behind us but every store is closed and they get depressed looking at shuttered stores.
  15. I have sent out three mass text messages using BayMaster which is my shop management system. Worked great, targeted all my customers and kept them informed that I am open and willing to help. Definite positive results and the cost is negligible. I am in New Jersey and it seems everyone has a friend or relative that Covid has taken. For that reason I do not send a marketing message since I have no way of knowing what the recipient is going through during these difficult times. Instead I send out messages indicating that we are available to help our customers even for non-automotive needs.
  16. Again - The topic was “What kind of alignment equipment do you own?” I am interested in remaining in the alignment business but I am not interested in becoming an ADAS specialist since I do not have the required space to accomplish that. I have read that Autel and Hunter have forged an alliance so I would expect Hunter’s ADAS coverage to only improve in the future when this alliance becomes productive. I have always respected Hunter and their new relationship with Autel certainly improves my perception of Autel. I am sure this is something that Snap-On must be paying attention to. You mention your ADAS experience which is commendable, to stay within the topic and out of curiosity what kind of alignment equipment do you own?
  17. “One really has nothing to do with the other”? I must disagree, the ability to calibrate ADAS after performing an alignment on most new vehicles is a requirement, they go hand in hand. The topic of discussion is “What kind of alignment equipment do you have”. I answered that question in my post explaining that what I currently have is old and needs replacement and I included my reasoning for delaying the upgrade. If I do an alignment and the vehicle requires an ADAS calibration post alignment and I purchased equipment with no ADAS capability then shame on me for poor investigation before purchase. Two years ago Hunter offered new equipment with limited ADAS capability and since then their coverage has improved considerably. I am trying my best to prepare my ship and upgrade to a platform that gives me acceptable coverage to minimize my potential inability to perform an alignment due to poor ADAS coverage. I fully understand that if I want to specialize in ADAS calibration that I would require much more equipment than an alignment machine but again, that was not the topic, I just want to be able to perform an accurate alignment on most vehicles.
  18. I have a gas station with repairs and we are normally open 6am - 10pm Monday thru Saturday and 8am-8pm Sunday so we very rarely need to accommodate a customer for a pick up earlier or later than our operational hours. We have, on occasion, locked the vehicle and left the key in a hidden spot that was reviewed and approved by the owner and that has always worked out fine.
  19. I have basically operated as newport5 illustrated and it has worked very well for me. I happen to be in a busy, affluent area which helps quite a bit. High pressure sales turn me off so I have never been a proponent and fortunately have never had to go that route. All jobs take longer since Covid-19 so I can’t say that I have any extra time. Business is off 50% but I am non-stop 12 hours a day with no time to spare. Reduced staff, additional Covid protocols such as: disinfect shop, office and bathrooms numerous times during the day, install disposable seat and steering wheel covers on every vehicle, sanitize keys and common touch points, accepting credit card payments by phone, emailing invoices plus leaving hard copies in vehicle, washing my hands constantly and the list goes on and on and chews up all of my time. Great tips newport5.
  20. Repairs are down 50-55% but techs coming to work are down 50% so that has been self regulating and to a greater degree acceptable and appreciated considering the circumstances. Gas volume is down 70% due to reduced traffic and reduced operating hours. My gas island staff is reduced down to one full time and two part time workers so trying to remain open 16 hours every day is impossible. If I had enough staffing to be open normal hours I would expect our gas volume to increase about 15-20 points. I am in Bergen County, New Jersey and the death toll for my county exceeds statewide rates for 38 states in the country. I can certainly understand why states like Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and so many other states want to get back to work but that does not seem to be the case here. My customers tell me that they are tired of sheltering in place but fear overpowers boredom. I expect to see New York and New Jersey both lag behind the rest of the country concerning bouncing back. Every day is a precious gift and every week that passes brings improvements which renews our faith along with new challenges that continue to test us. We will succeed, maybe not on the same time table as the rest of the country but we will get there.
  21. Main Street Auto - What a great outreach to the community and at the same time a fitting reward for those who have done so much. Good job!
  22. I am in NJ and close to New York City. Our area was hit hard and although nothing is definite I assume we will be following NY and stay restricted until the middle of May. I have a gas station with gas, diesel and repair work. The gas/diesel volume has been terrible with just a slight rise this past week. Everyone is getting stir crazy and the great American pastime of taking a drive is all we have. With the weather warming all of the landscapers are out in force needing gas and diesel. Other than that we have seen very little change.
  23. Your ad looks great Frank, I hope it brings in some customers and as a bonus it shines some much needed light on the gratitude that is due to all the workers who have kept the country going. I agree with Joe that now is not the time for hard sales. I send mass text messages using my SMS but I try to choose my wording carefully. “Cheer up, things will improve” is the wrong message considering the loss of life we are experiencing here in Bergen County, New Jersey. Unfortunately Covid-19 has taken several of my customers and many customers have lost extended family members. A local nursing home had 33 deaths last week and a veterans home a few towns away lost 37 hero's. Besides the severe loss of life there are also many people dealing with the permanent loss of their jobs. This is surely a terrible time and as Joe said I think a great message is just informing the public that we are here to help.
  24. Great news Frank! I hope that it arrived early enough to see you through this very difficult time.
  25. To Frank - I feel so bad that you and so many other people are being faced with such difficult decisions. This is certainly not a good time in our country and I hope that you receive your much needed stimulus money as soon as possible. To Joe - Your comments to Frank are written from your heart and in a way that is surely helping us all. We all need encouragement, we all need to hear that what is happening is beyond our control and we all need to know that if we need to let go that it is OK. I applaud your efforts and ability to communicate your thoughts in a way that is so helpful to everyone. Thank you.

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