As we continue to face the most challenging economic times in recent history, your shop’s bottom line and return on investment are undoubtedly top of mind. And, while financial subjects are dry and usually at the bottom of a shop owner’s list of desirable activities, says Steve Louden, president of Louden Motorcar Services in Dallas, they typically are the number one reason for poor performance or failure.
Below, Louden shares insights into how to best manage various shop “assets” to make your business more successful. Louden advises that this management skill alone, many times, determines the difference between the highly successful shops and those that are just getting by or disappearing altogether. He is very in tune with the financial side of his business and his shop, which specializes in BMW, M-B, Porsche and MINI repairs, celebrated its 33rd anniversary last year.
Team Members. You will immediately notice that I did not say employees. That is because your people do not really work for you. They work for themselves as part of your team. Your team members are your most important assets and as long as their wants and needs are met, they will stay with you. And, money is not the most important reason for a team member to stay or leave. Other than the ability to perform the functions required, a sense of family, cooperation, skill sharing and integrity are very important in building a great team, which is a requirement for any successful business.
Technician Time. An automotive repair shop has only one commodity to sell, and that is time. How you manage the efficiency, productivity and quality of this asset will determine your ultimate success. A shop owner’s responsibility is to keep the shop full of profitable work through marketing, service selling, scheduling and parts procurement. Without a steady flow of customers, the rest of the business formula falls apart. Of course, parallel to selling time is selling parts. Selling is not a bad word and is only used to sell needed work. Productivity and efficiency are dependent on technician skill levels, scheduling, availability of parts, and, of course, selling the job.
Reputation. This will spread like wildfire, whether good or bad, especially in today’s Internet world. It’s estimated that a dissatisfied customer will tell six to 10 other people, while a satisfied customer will tell only one or two. So, the deck is stacked against us. The bottom line is, take care of your customers and they will take care of you. And, when you have a customer who you just cannot seem to satisfy, no matter what you do, diplomatically suggest he/she take their business elsewhere. Life is too short to deal with these people.
Facility. A new, specially designed facility is nice but, wherever you are, keep it clean, presentable and have a place for customers to wait, read and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee or cold drink. WiFi today is almost a necessity and well appreciated by customers. Keep your shop freshly painted, well lighted and clutter-free. Consider your shop area a “showroom” and be proud to give customers a tour.
Stay tuned for more of Louden’s advice on Managing Company Assets in the October issue’s Editor’s Notebook.