As past shop owners we remember what it was like to feel like we were all alone. On an island. That was, of course, before we joined professional organizations with opportunities to network and hear from other shop owners.
Having others going through the same pain, struggles and issues we were — helped us feel like we had someone on our side. Someone else who understood or had already been there before and could offer helpful advice, encouragement or, yes, sometimes even someone to look us straight in the face and tell us what we needed to hear.
So, we’ve asked some of the top influencers in the independent automotive repair industry to imagine having only a moment to share their #1 top tip with today's automotive repair shop owner. We got some really helpful responses. Some short and impactful while others are a little more detailed yet equally powerful.
Today's owner must learn how to become a CEO which keeps him or her at the 10,000 foot level to oversee the entire business. While viewing the business at that level one of the most critical numbers to understand today, and how it works, is the shop's average cost per billed hour. Once this number is clearly understood then the connection with the shops site efficiency number has far more relevance and net income development can truly take place.
Pay attention to your Gross Profit!
When I look over the catalog of podcast episodes that number over 500, I recall the many strategies that have been shared by the automotive service professional. They include 'Put Your People First', 'Culture Rules', 'Processes are Critical and Win Wars', and 'Run Toward Technology', just to name a few. Yet one of the most common similarities of the top shop operators is they currently have or had in the past engaged with a business coach or consultant. Most have said that once they realized that they didn't know what they didn't know it was easy to say yes to a business coach.
My number one top tip for auto repair shop owners in 2019 is to respond to online inquiries with speed.
Gone are the days when a phone call or email message are the primary ways our clients want to reach us. Many prefer text messages. For those that don't have your cell number, they will try to reach you through Facebook Messenger, by commenting on your Facebook business page, asking for a quote via a Yelp message, or asking a publicly viewed question on Google My Business.
How quickly you respond to those online inquiries can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. The longer you wait to respond, the lower your chances of winning over a new customer or delighting an existing customer. In 2019, the average business gets back to online inquiries within 44 hours. If you wait that long to get back to a client, you risk them finding someone else who responded more quickly.
When you make it a priority to respond quickly to all leads that come into your shop -- regardless if they are online leads, a phone call, or a person standing in front of you -- that speedy response will most certainly help your bottom line.
My #1 top tip is one that everyone has heard, but it is still needed. Hire people that are better than you so you can work on the business instead of in the business. This includes not micro-managing your team.
As shop owners in today's marketplace, we need to be the change our industry needs to build value and worth with consumers and our employees. Be willing to be uncomfortable and lead with confidence into the change.
Let your team be a part of the solution. Stretch your leadership skill set (accept you aren't everything you need to be yet) and challenge yourself to learn to do it differently. Understand you can't keep going down the same road and expect something different. Be BRAVE, learn the word pivot and embrace it!
Hire more Women! Only 26 percent of the workforce in the automotive industry, including manufacturing, are roles held by women. With this in mind, what is your strategy to attract, hire and retain women? Having more women on staff in all positions including leadership roles will result in higher profits overall, give your business a strategic market advantage and increase your overall employee retention. Working towards gender-parity will also result in attracting, selling and retaining more women customers.
The road that small business owners travel is never a straight one. Every day can take us on a different track with its own set of curves, peaks and valleys. Having the mental make up to keep your focus and attention to the long term goals takes persistence and discipline. One certainly compliments the other and at times they are co-dependent. Throw in a little humility and you have the recipe for success.
One Quick Tip that I would give shop owners, is to have them re-evaluate how they look at their marketing budget and spend. I suggest that shop owners look at their marketing spend as an investment in future revenue and not just as an expense. If you think about marketing, it’s the only effort that will actually generate cash for your business.
As a matter of fact, everything else you spend money on is just an expense that marketing has to pay for. For example, if you buy a new piece of equipment, hire a new tech, revamp your shops interior, etc. — none of these efforts will actually generate any cash for your business and are really just expenses that your marketing has to pay for.
Because marketing is so critical to the success of a business, it’s crucial that you thoroughly investigate all of the options available and utilize and execute as many methods of advertising that your shop can afford. In today’s ultra-competitive market, you have to target prospective customers from more than one angle.
Finally, like any important investment you would consider making, take your time and vet your vendors thoroughly. Once deployed, test your marketing campaigns, track their results, tweak them, and repeat for best results.
Know your “why?” It’s not a great idea to go into business simply to make money. If you can’t articulate why you want to do it, you may not have the passion to sustain it.
Be brutally honest with yourself about your weaknesses. If you’re not good at self- assessment, ask your spouse or someone you trust.
If you don’t have a mentor, find one. But don’t waste your time or theirs if you are not going to listen to their advice.
Remember that many people can repair cars but the best operators create relationships.
I wish that in our early years of being a shop owner that we’d had tips and encouragement like this. No matter where you are in business, your shop can benefit from one or more of these tips. These folks have been around a while and have certainly experienced what it is like to be in a shop. They understand and we appreciate the help they’ve offered!
Do you have a tip you’d add to this? We’d love to know. Contact us!