When we started our shop we didn’t have the internet to guide us as much as we have it today. Resources were not as readily available. Today, we Google everything! In 2002, we laid across our bed with a post-it note and wrote down what our expenses would be to start a business. I am not joking. We left out a lot of important things, too.
So if you’re considering starting your own automotive repair shop, I know you’ll love reading these tips from shop owners. It just so happens that I’ve compiled this list of thoughts from female shop owners. No matter whether you are a man or a woman you will find these thoughts helpful. I’m in a private Facebook group of women shop owners who have become a close-knit bunch of women encouraging and helping one another through the ups and downs of shop ownership.
Some are shop owners by marriage, some by trade and some just by choice otherwise. Read this on your quest for knowledge. Take a tip, or two or more.
I asked: “As a shop owner, what would be your #1 piece of advice to share with someone opening their shop for the first time?” Their thoughtful replies are below.
Judith Zimmerman Walter, AAM
My biggest piece was the following quote I ran into many years ago.."I do not need to be macho to make it in a male dominated industry. I just need a good awareness of myself, a real tough skin and a sense of humor" I also learned from a trainer many years ago that it is how I present myself. There is so much more to that but, it is hard to explain in a post. Respect is earned not commanded.
Seek out advice from your peers or a coach. Attending Women In Auto Care and subsequently Joining a SMART Group with Bill Greeno as our "Coach" and other shop owners from around the country as a "Master Mind" has been a game changer for us. There are many different groups and coaches. Find one that suits your style and needs. You can usually test drive before you join. Women In Auto Care will hold it's next conference in Detroit, MI this summer.
My biggest piece of advice would have to be don’t think you are alone! There are so many ways to gain knowledge and so many people out there willing to help. If you are a woman and like most of us we came to this because of our husbands....ask questions. Learn from the techs, take classes that parts vendors offer, join Facebook groups and mentoring programs. Every class or program I have ever gone to I can assure you I have learned at the very least one great thing to take back to my own shop!!!
I would say double the starting capital that you think you will need. Put together a basic procedures manual from the start. Research the type of people that live in your area and make sure they have the type of vehicle you want to work on and the money to be able to afford the work.
Have procedures and processes written and signed by all employees including ownership so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing. It can be tweaked as you go.
Link up with other women who lift you up. Stick firm to your beliefs in customer service and define your mission as a company and be sure you’re following that mission. Don’t be afraid to change and try new things!
BeBrave and willing to be a bit uncomfortable. Lead with confidence into the change and support everyone’s journey. Get buy in through the change and stand strong when things get tough. The other side of it is amazing. Be willing to do it differently than you did before. You can’t keep going down the same road and expect something different. Learn the word pivot and embrace it! 🙌🏻❤️😉
Take a tight hold of the challenges that will cross your path. Take charge and don't give up! Find a mentor/coach/friend in the industry and don't just ask for guidance....follow the path that they set for you!. Enjoy the ride.....it's an amazing industry with lots of opportunities to grow, thrive and succeed!
#1. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel - get educated so you make good decisions before you spend all the money and time starting your own business.
Where to get educated:
Go to Industry management classes:
- Vision High Tech Training
- ASA Chapter conferences
- AASP Chapter conferences
Industry training programs like:
- AMi (is a degree program for shop management)
- Listen to Remarkable Results Podcast
Read Shop management publications (that are free)
- Ratchet and Wrench
- Shop Owner
My #1 piece of advice to a new shop owner is don’t go it alone. You can get caught up in the day to day. Allow yourself time to plan. Tactics without strategy create habits and routines that don’t serve you or your business. Gain control of your business so it doesn’t control you with an open mind to grow personally and professionally. Seek advice from others who have done it to become the best you can be.
Without a doubt one very common piece of advice is to connect with other shop owners. Whether that is through a professional organization, coaching program or training just do it. We found it to be a critical piece of our shop ownership and believe you will, too.
Looking to find a professional organization or resources for shop owners? Here’s just a few to get you started:
I am so grateful to these women for contributing to this article because we know the power of connections, education and being a resource to others.
Do you have anything to add? We’d love to hear from you!