Last issue, we discussed long-term problems that are occurring on both sides of the automobile. These include customer apathy, the higher complexity and lower service requirements of today’s cars, and the fact that cars, customers, and employees have changed, but too many repair shop owners and managers have not.
So, how do you fix the business? It starts with you! Look at your business through critical eyes. Better yet, hire someone to be very honest with you about it all! Grow in knowledge with fresh ideas and a strong will to try new things. Read books and take classes at the local adult school or community college. Attend the local chamber of commerce and service clubs, find someone successful, and pick their brain.
Clean out the attic in your brain and accept new and different thoughts. Look at your business differently, advertise, join community events, and make your business the automotive hot spot! Solve problems for customers, educate them, and establish your business as the authority on car repair. Very important: become a leader of your business and lead by example.
Write down your vision of where your business should be one year from now; five years; 10 years, and include an exit plan. Describe what the perfect staff is. Decide your goals for the year (and make them ones that are reachable… challenging, but reachable). Determine yearly, monthly, and daily sales goals, monthly car count, average repair order goals, and gross profit goals. Your true aim should be handling fewer cars at a higher average ticket. Determine what needs to change to reach these plans. Do you have the correct staff, and in the correct positions? Do you have the correct customers? (That is a tough one because of our personal attachment with some, but it must be done and without emotion.)
Financial foundation: Understand what the important numbers are in your business. Confirm that your hourly rate is correct for your overhead. Measure everything. Think of the numbers as the score of the game of business (you must keep score to know who’s winning). Confirm that you have the information to make good decisions. Update your technology to manage your business; embrace the management software that allows you to manage your business with the least amount of time invested.
Employees: Establish goals for every position. For the service advisor, that means daily sales goals, gross profit goals, and average repair order goals. For techs, production goals and hours billed to the customers. Develop job descriptions for each position - even for owner - and share your expectations with each employee, including full-shop goals. Educate your employees about the business; share some of the numbers and make sure they understand why you need the goals met. Each position should have a minimum number of training hours per quarter (if you’re not learning, you’re going backwards!).
Marketing: Market in three phases, including for service reminders and recommended work, to keep your name in front of current customers, and to attract new customers (customers leave for lots of reasons, so the task of attracting new customers must be forever ongoing).
Customers: Study the demographics of your customer. Can you upgrade - newer cars, higher average income, etc.? Determine what your customer really wants from you. Remember that true customer service is not what you think is needed, but rather what the customer desires.
Win your battle through change - it’s the only way, but will keep you motivated! Act like it’s your first day in business. Many businesses failed to evolve through change and are gone forever. Good luck