xtremely busy,” Tad says. “We have our wheel and alignment room with one alignment rack and two flat stalls. Finally, we have a large room with a flat stall where we work on large and heavy-duty trucks or we can fit three cars.”
While it may sound contrary to traditional business strategy, Mark says they also decided to plan for future growth by hiring additional techs ahead of time. It’s a gamble that has paid off for the successful shop.
“We over-staffed techs to accept a higher car count,” he says. “It sounds counterproductive to have more techs than needed, but we had a vision to make our $500,000 company a million-dollar company. So, we staff like one.
“We needed more techs available to accept the walk-ins from our mailers,” he continued. “Additional staffing has allowed us to be extremely productive and offer a speed of service that no shop around can touch.”
That vision paid off, as the shop finished 2013 at $1.1 million “the highest revenue we’ve ever seen,” Mark says.
At Mark’s Auto Service, it’s not just the four techs who are ASE-certified, but the office staff, including Tad, hold that designation as well. According to Mark, everyone should have an in-depth knowledge of the cars that will be serviced at the shop.
“Everyone has some designation of ASE certifications, with three who are Master-certified (including Mark),” Tad says. “There is only one general service employee who has none, but he has tests scheduled for early this year. All of us in the office are certified, even though none of us touch any cars. The goal is for every employee to be Master-certified by the end of the year.”
Finding and recruiting employees hasn’t been much of an issue for Mark’s Auto Service, a CARQUEST Tech-Net shop, with the tenure of one employee totaling 37 years and another 17 years. Still, others who left during a downturn in business are back. Tad attributes the longevity to strong, but fair, leadership.
“Every single employee will tell you Mark is one of the most generous bosses out there.” Tad says. “He can be demanding for results and speed of service, but he is more than accommodating when someone needs time off or has any number of special requests. My father always goes above and beyond for his employees.
And successes are celebrated by all, a practice that helps boost shop morale and keeps everyone striving toward the same goal of profitability.
“We had our second $100,000 month in May 2013,” Tad continues. “The last time we saw revenue that high was June 1995! We threw a shop party to celebrate, and now we take the entire shop out every time we hit $100,000, which has been almost every month since then. We also buy the shop lunch on Saturday for every week we hit $18,000 in revenue.”
That same appreciation is extended to the shop’s customer base, with attention paid to details regarding waiting room amenities and periodic updates of the building and grounds.
“Customers love our speed of service, with most repairs getting done same day,” Mark says. “They also like the comfortable waiting room, where we have free beverages like Starbucks coffee from our Keurig coffeemaker and Coke and Pepsi products. And, of course, we offer free WiFi and cable TV.”
Mark says they put up all new signage last year, and next year plan to redo the landscaping around the property. They even plan to expand their parking lot to accommodate more cars. In addition, the shop’s general service employee stocks and cleans the waiting area nightly, adhering to the ABCs: Always Be Cleaning. And customers definitely appreciate it.
“Every customer we bring through the shop, or even the office, says, ‘Your shop is cleaner than most shop waiting rooms!’” Mark says. “Not many people want to go to a shop where they feel dirty just sitting in the waiting room.”
While word-of-mouth was its primary form of advertising for 60 years, changes in technology and how people are finding their repair shop prompted Mark and Tad to explore different avenues for marketing. They credit the 20 Group they joined in 2011, Gary Gunn’s Turnaround Tour, for providing them with new and innovative ideas to spur customer growth at the shop.
“Word-of-mouth allowed us to pay the bills, but we really could not grow as fast as we wanted to with just that,” Tad says. “We believe our growth has come from a marketing idea we heard in our 20 Group, which was direct mail (we use Go-Publishing).
“We send out more than 10,000 flyers a month with a couple coupons on them,” he explains. “This really brings the oil changes in, but we have been able to convert so many of those customers into lifetime customers.”
The shop’s positive online reviews are a testament to the shop’s professionalism, and they also serve as a means of bringing in new customers.
“We have more reviews online than any other shop in the area,” Mark says. “We have more than 250 four-plus star reviews. Most shops don’t even have five reviews and most are negative. Customers often bring this up as a way of finding us, but we believe our speed of service and atmosphere is really what retains our customers.”
Remember how easy it is to find what you’re looking for with a quick Google search? Tad says the importance of a strong online presence is only increasing for businesses today.
“We know most customers are googling ‘auto repair’ in the area,” he says. “You have to rank high on the search engines. I feel we do this based on our reviews and the length of time we’ve had a website. We’re getting customers scheduling appointments through our website about two times a week currently. Without that functionality, we may never have seen those customers.
“We also just upgraded our site to a mobile site,” he continues. “I feel this is critical. I’ve had customers come to us just based on that.”
Mark sums up his philosophy for business in this way: Have the right people with the right tools, and offer training programs for every employee from the owner on down. Add in customer service and consistent written and followed processes, backed by followup and accountability, and you have a recipe for success.
It’s that focus on meeting the changing needs of customers that will keep Mark’s Auto Service profitable for many years to come.
Article courtesy of SHOP OWNER.