Shop Life Columnists

Gear Up For Growth

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Spring is here (in Tennessee, at least.) The season’s changing, hopefully the weather’s warming up, and suddenly everyone seems to have a new energy. 

Whether we’re cleaning up the garage or tackling this year’s taxes, the start of the new season always seems to kick things into high gear. And for my shop, it’s time to start focusing on growing the company.

You see, there are seasons for refining the business (times of the year when business predictably slows down and you have time to focus on fine-tuning your operations) and seasons for building the business (times where sales are high and you can put everything you’ve refined into practice as you work to bring in new business with marketing and customer service strategies).  

Everyone has their own unique busy and slow season. For my business November through February is a time to refine, while March through October is all about growth. But for shops in Alaska that growth period could land in the fall when you’re busy installing remote starts before the bitter cold sets in, and for shops in Miami that busy period could come in June, July and August when everyone’s scrambling to get their AC fixed. Maybe your shop falls somewhere in the middle. 

Regardless, as a shop owner you have to be in sync with your shop’s unique flow so you can be ready to switch gears when the time is right. You should always be asking “what season am I in?” Because mistaking those cues could mean missing some major opportunities. Chances are, that busy period that’s primed for growth is also going to be when your ideal new customer is on the hunt for services—a moment where you already have your flag waving and you marketing efforts at full blast. 

You also want to make sure you’re preparing your team accordingly. That switching of gears between growing and refining may be constantly in flux, but it is a teeter totter. You never want to be in both modes at the same time and at the end of the day, to get the most from both modes, you need to make sure your group is all rowing in the same direction with the same focus. Trying to do both at once will pull your team in too many directions and ultimately limit your capacity to achieve either. 

If you’re like me and getting ready to rev up your growth efforts, you’re focused on attracting new customers, enticing existing customers to come back (and come back more often) and searching for ways to get customers to spend more on each visit. 

It’s a great time to be asking “How do we want to take the business to the next level?” If car count is already high, is there anything you can do to boost your average ticket? If you already have a high average ticket but they only come once a year, what can you be doing to get them back three or four times a year? If you’re dominating in a two-mile radius, how can you expand that to a three- or four-mile radius? The shops you’re seeing that are bringing in over $5 million a year took the time to ask and work through those questions. 

This is a great time to be considering new fleet accounts, looking at new equipment purchases that could help service a particular type of repair you’re seeing come into the shop time and time again. It’s also a great time to make sure your service advisors are performing, and to evaluate whether you’re ready to bring on new staff as a part of that push for growth. 

Building your business is done one car at a time, through one technician at a time, with the help of one service advisor at a time. Only you will know how many additional cars, techs, and advisors your shop can truly handle, but it would be a shame to waste this season filled with potential. It’s time to get moving. 

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