Looking back at where you started when you first opened your business to where your shop is now can be an eye-opening experience. You can reminiscence on the good times and be glad you’re through the rough parts. You’re also able to understand what actions have worked the best for you and fine tune your business practices to continue seeing the best results possible. Rich Gregg, owner of Essential Automotive, has come a long way from where he started when he opened his shop in 1999. He’s been in business for 23 years and counting and he’s learned a lot during his time as a business owner. From budgeting his finances to how to delegate to his team, and even how to make his goals a reality.
How your shop operates on a day-to-day basis makes an important impression, not only on customers but potential future employees as well. When customers walk in are they greeted by a staff member? Is there a set process for customers to know what is wrong with their car and what you’re going to do to fix it? These aspects of business are important, the easier you make it for your customers the more likely they are to come back. You can also garner a respectable reputation in your community.
At the opening of his shop, Rich was the only employee. He made a total of $24,000 in 9 months, which is what he now makes in four days. His day consisted of him playing video games in between jobs and waiting on the next customer to call. If someone rang the shop, he would tell them to come right in. Instead of charging differing amounts per job based on what each situation needed, Rich would charge his customers a flat rate of $45 per hour. His only concern? Being cheaper than the next guy.
Now, Essential Auto is fully staffed with a team of seven – not including Rich. The shop has four technicians, two service advisors, and one manager. Customers can book an appointment online through the shop’s website or from a digital service reminder that runs through their booking calendar. Then, the work is distributed electronically to each technician on their iPad. The technician will submit a digital inspection for the service advisor to annotate. Once the annotations are finished it is sent to the customer through AutoVitals. Rich says, “we keep a tight, organized workflow through the day and finish with a Quality Control test drive by the manager or myself if I’m at the shop.” The day-to-day operation of the shop looks quite different from when he first opened, and he couldn’t be more proud.
Rich credits part of his success to joining DRIVE. As a DRIVE client, he has learned how to run his business in the most efficient way possible. He says, “DRIVE has given me the courage to take big leaps forward and trust in my abilities to get the job done.” Not only do the coaches help motivate and train him, but it allows him to network with other shop owners. He can workshop his ideas and hear how others have gotten through the issues he might be facing. He says, “being able to see how they have overcome obstacles is a huge help. I love being connected to such a large group.”
Marketing is one of the most important business practices a shop can partake in. If no one knows about your shop, how are you going to acquire customers? A good marketing plan can help you attract new customers and keep past customers returning to your doors. This includes print advertisements, online social media presence, branding on your website, and even the signs in front of your physical shop. As an owner, when you first open your shop, it can be difficult to craft what image you want your business to have. Defining your brand is a crucial part of success.
For the first 12 years of his career, Rich relied solely on word of mouth. He had no other marketing tactics in play. Now? Marketing is one thing he doesn’t skimp out on. Rich describes his marketing budget, saying “we have currently a $60,000 a year marketing budget that includes $800 a week for Google AdWords, Facebook and Instagram branding, and regular changes to the website.” He has also hosted multiple Ladies Car Clinics and Automotive Minute Radio informational spots.
Your team can make or break your shop. When you have a full crew that loves their job and shows up ready to work, your operation is more likely to run smoothly. A good team can also help shape your public image. Customers will want to return if they were treated with respect and the work on their car was done honestly. On the other hand, having a non-committed team can have negative consequences. When technicians don’t do the work, they’re supposed to or don’t give their full effort your shop’s image can suffer. Your shop can go from a trustworthy company to a place people won’t step foot in.
At first, Rich was the only employee of Essential Auto. It wasn’t until 9 months after opening that he hired James. In the beginning, James worked as a technician but has climbed up the ladder and is now Rich’s shop manager. He oversees the shop’s day to day operations for Rich. One year later, Rich hired John who also still works for the company. Having a dependable staff has allowed for Rich to be able to step away from the shop and focus on working on his business, rather than in it. Now, as the owner, Rich only keeps an oversight on the business.
When your shop first opened what were your plans? Have you achieved them yet or did you create new goals? Being able to set and fulfill your goals is an important skill every business owner should possess. When you plan ahead it is easier to grow your shop to the level you aspire to be at. Goals should be specific, timebound, and measurable. You can have weekly, monthly, and yearly goals you keep an eye on.
Setting goals was a valuable skill Rich learned along the way. He says, “I have learned that making goals is a must if you really want to experience the most out of life. Anything is possible if you develop a great plan and have the discipline to follow it.” His current goals for the year include getting involved with DRIVE’s Top 20 group and implement new strategies he’s learned from other successful shop owners. He also is interested in expanding to multiple locations in the future.
When you, as a business owner, look back on your shop’s history you can really see how far you’ve come. Being able to see your successes and mistakes makes you stronger. Now, you can go out and give advice to new shop owners ensuring continued success in your industry.
Prepared by Chase Clough