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Everything posted by flacvabeach

  1. The Virginia Inspection process is summarized here, The irony of this thing is that last year we fought and won a battle to have the inspection fee raised from $16 to $20 signed off by the same governor who proposed eliminating the program this year. $20 is pretty meager compensation for a job that takes the tech about 40 minutes per car. Then the service writer has to compile the digital inspection, prepare an estimate and then spend "quality time" with the vehicle's owner. No question it brings in vehicles and gives us a chance to make them lifelong customers. It also makes for a busy first and last week of the month. We can do them by appointment now which makes it a lot less hectic.
  2. The Virginia legislature ended its 2020 session last night, wisely voting to keep the annual inspection program. It was touch and go throughout the session with a lot of sentiment for getting rid of the program, a compromise proposal for inspecting every two years and a final vote to leave the program as-is . The Virginia Automotive Association is entirely responsible for saving this program which benefits every citizen living in and passing through Virginia. New proposals will come up next year to eliminate inspections and the battle will begin again.
  3. Thanks for the input, particularly about TX. VAA is using the UT study in our defense effort. Mark
  4. Virginia's Governor in his 2020 budget proposal has included elimination of the state's vehicle safety inspection program. In addition, a state legislator has introduced a bill doing the same. I serve on the board of the Virginia Automotive Association, a group of over 200 independent shops who have banded together to lobby in the interests of our industry. VAA has ponied up a a $25000 increase in the lobbying budget to fight the move. As a shop owner, I have mixed emotions on the subject, but if I were gambling I would bet that the program will go away. On one hand, it's kind of nice that the state's motorists are forced to bring their cars to a shop once a year, giving us an opportunity to make them life-long customers. Also, it has created a cadre of technicians in the state who have been vetted and background checked by the state police. On the other hand, there are a litany of negatives inluding customer resentment, anger when their vehicle fails, uneven management by the state police who oversee the program due to limited resources. Some shops are "by the book" while others are "sticker mills" who will pass anything. Unfortunately, VAA and others have been unable to produce hard statistics that show that the program .makes a difference in highway safety. The big studies I have found blame driver error for the majority of accidents. What is ironic is that just this year VAA won a long battle to get the inspection fee raised from 16 to 20 dollars. The legislature convenes in January to enact laws that will take effect in June. I would like to hear how other Virginia shop owners feel and I would like to hear from other states that have witnessed termination of these programs. Mark Anderton
  5. We have two shops, the larger of which has a three-car bay that has two large window units in the wall. During our current heat wave (90-plus temp and 90-plus humidity) they have kept the work space relatively comfortable. One drawback - the guys set the units to 60 degrees, thinking the lower they set it, the better it will cool. Well, on a hot day they can't bring the bay down to less than about 80, but at night or on the weekend they turn the place into an icebox. We don't work weekends, so I'm not sure what that costs me. It's a training issue. We are all competing for a diminishing pool of talented people to work on cars and AC is a way to help bring them in, as is the five day work week. Our other shop is an old (circa 1964) Shell gas station with three bays which is not air conditioned. July has been tough on my guys who work there, but we are looking at ways to cool things off. Swamp fans DO NOT WORK in a high humidity environment like Tidewater Virginia, so AC is the only practical answer. You don't need to maintain 72 degrees like a typical office building. You just need to knock the temp and humidity down to bearable levels. The bay doors go up and down continuously, anyway, so there is little hope of maintaining a stable temperature. I watch the talented, loyal guys working out in my service station and just hope they will hang in there until I come up with a practical, affordable solution.
  6. flacvabeach


  7. Virginia's Governor Northam signed a bill into law that increases the fee shops can charge for the annual safety inspection from $16 to $20. This was made possible through a lot of hard work and lobbying by the Virginia Automotive Association. You can learn more about VAA at vaauto.org. Done properly, Virginia's inspection process takes about 45 minutes per car, so shops are still running a deficit, but it's a long-awaited improvement.
  8. The VAA convention is being held April 12-14 at The Main in Norfolk Virginia. This is always a great show and includes great speakers, great food, and a big automotive trade show. Everyone is welcome - you don't have to be a member to join in the fun. Visit vaauto.org for details and registration. Join VAA and you get one free registration to the show! 2019 Convention Brochure.pdf
  9. We have used the RAP for about a year and it has eliminated our issues with flash capabilities. The scheduling has not been a problem and they have been pretty accommodating about doing multiple modules when it's necessary. We don't do a bunch of euro, so we haven't hit the wall there yet.
  10. Apart from the VAA's political activism on behalf of our industry, there is also a powerful social aspect to VAA membership. Every year we hold a convention attended by about 400 folks from independent repair shops and vendors all over Virginia. In April of 2015 the convention will once again be held at the Homestead, an amazing resort that is one of our state's treasures. The convention provides an opportunity to obtain training, and inspiration from industry experts and fellow shop owners (and amazing food). There is also a trade show that, in itself, is an amazing social and informational affair. If you join now, your membership is covered through 2018. New members receive two free convention registrations and if, at the end of 2018, you don't feel your membership was of any benefit, VAA will refund your membership fee. CLICK HERE to join. Shop not in Virginia? You are still welcome to attend the convention, enjoy the beautiful Homestead, and find out how a successful statewide industry alliance functions.
  11. Autovitals Workflow lets us see exactly how our techs are loaded and what the real-time status is on each job. We have a touchscreen display in each shop that lets managers pull up the RO on any job in the shop. You can also pull up all of the photos techs have taken during the digital visual inspection.
  12. I have WP sites for some of my business ventures and can attest to the fact that they can be hacked. Do some homework and pay attention to security. One of my sites was hacked and a bunch of tacky soft porn web pages were attached to my site that made Google blacklist the site. I basically had to rebuild the site from scratch to solve the problem. WP's ease of use is the same thing that makes it vulnerable.
  13. Absolutely. Even though I caused myself and others some stress with my business ad-ventures, I don't regret any of it. Did the same thing with my used car lot, really putting a strain on my nerves and my wallet, but now I'm on pretty firm footing. That's the last one, though. No. Really, I mean it.
  14. I'm almost embarrassed to reply to this. When my shop became moderately successful with lots of help from family and ATI, I had an opportunity to take over a failed shop - just the facility - no staff or equipment. They had even removed the air fittings when they left. It was a lease on a back street with no through traffic, but a nice five bay with office space. It took three years, a bunch of debt and hard work, but now that shop is neck and neck with shop one. I really had no plan going in, but that's how I roll and I don't recommend it. I am lucky to have a family who supports, no, puts up with my reckless approach and makes the most of it. Wait until the numbers at your first shop scream at you that it is time to expand.
  15. You turn it on through your dashboard one month at a time. Last time I looked, I think it was $30/month.
  16. Our experience with Vonage over our Verizon FIOS network has been great. One outage earlier this year when there was a denial of service attack that made national news. We just started using their call recording function to monitor the quality of our employees' phone "presence." You can turn it on and off on a monthly basis. It's always an eye-opener.
  17. We just went through Virginia's process to take title to a beater Honda that we were stuck with. Just signed the title over to a junior tech with a new family. Feels god.
  18. Strongly advise you get professionals involved. It's a legal document with tentacles into wage/hour, EEO, ADA. In Virginia, membership in the Virginia Automotive Association gets you free counseling from SESCO. ATI offers the same as I'm sure a number of organizations do. SESCO will give you a framework to bulid your manual on, or they will do it for you. I used their framework and I'm sure it doubled the size of the document I had developed. SESCO is also a great ally in wage/hour disputes, disputed terminations, etc.
  19. We used to have a sign in the front window that said "We fix $19.95 oil changes." We recently decided to switch our bulk oil to full synthetic and offer that in a $79.95 oil change as our standard.
  20. Virginia toyed with this last year, but it didn't get through the legislature.
  21. After trying Alldata and NAPA Tracs years ago, we settled on RO Writer and added on Autovitals for workflow, DVI, website, CRM. We went the other way - from repair got into car sales and found the same situation - lots of DMS packages and how do you know which is best? We are using Comsoft MonyMaker because it is recommended by the Virginia Independent Auto Dealers Association. It's kind of old school but has good functional coverage and great support.
  22. A very important facet of this is that your pay plan should insure that you are paying your techs overtime at the appropriate rate. If you get caught in a wage/hour dispute, the burden is on you to show that you met the overtime requirement. A good pay matrix will take care of this automatically.
  23. Hourly doesn't provide any performance incentive. I don't think we have expended as much time and effort on any other subject. Working with our coach, we developed pay matrices for techs and SAs that enable us to meet our margin goals and reward them for performance. It's one off those things that illustrates that you can't be an expert on every facet of shop management and you need to get expert help.
  24. Last week our business network was hit with a ransomware attack. One of our company officers was looking at resumes for prospective employees and opened an attachment on an email response from a Craigslist ad. The attachment was in.zip format and as soon as it opened she knew something was wrong. Within minutes, critical files on the computer were encrypted and unusable. In addition, files on other computers that were shared on the network were also encrypted. The computer screen was filled with instructions on how to pay a $1000 ransom to buy the decryption software that would return everything to normal. The payment method is in bitcoin through untraceable networks so the jerks at the other end are completely anonymous and untraceable as well. The ransom attack targets specific file types that such as .doc, .pdf, Excel files and graphics files. Why graphics files? People don’t want to lose family pictures and will pay to get them back. What do you do? You and your “IT guy” can’t crack the encryption, so you are faced with either paying the ransom or finding a way to live without them… UNLESS you have a backup. Do you? We use Carbonite on our critical data and it may turn out to be a blessing. Immediately after the attack, we found out that the machine in question had not been backing up for the past 45 days! Why? We’re still not sure, but it’s not a total disaster because we want to get back a lot of the old files. We also learned that as soon as you find out you’ve been hit, you need to freeze your backup, otherwise Carbonite starts backing up the encrypted files. Also, immediately power down the infected machine and disconnect it from your local network before powering it back up again. My biggest fear was losing our Quickbooks files, but to my surprise the attack didn’t include them. But it did get our Excel day reports for the gas station and C-store and it destroyed the data in our car lot’s dealer management system, mostly PDF files. Fortunately that machine had a current backup in Carbonite. Thanks to our backups, I was able to make the decision not to pay the ransom, but I have now spent four days cleaning machines, attempting to take the machine that was attacked back to ground zero, updating files with old backups. I’m not done yet and will spend at least part of tomorrow working with the dealer management system people to get the car lot up and running again. Monday night and everything is working again if your are willing to accept the loss of some data, and, believe me, I am. I sit here thinking that it could happen again tomorrow and I haven’t really prepared my defense, but I willl be working on that, believe me.

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