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How I Work | Randy Bunn

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For far too long, Randy Bunn got in the way of his own business, Quality Plus Automotive Service in Raleigh, N.C. The shop was essentially a one-man show, where Bunn played the roll of technician, service advisor, manager and owner.

The result: For over a decade, Bunn put in countless hours and saw very little return, a lifestyle that took its toll on him and his family.

“There was just no money left over,” Bunn says. “And my wife was taking care of my family. I had no time to spend with my kids.”

Eventually, Bunn, 57, had enough, and he decided to focus his efforts on the owner role.

“Efficiency, that became my priority,” Bunn says.

And it worked. Seven years ago, he opened a second facility in Wake Forest, N.C. Using rigid workflow procedures, Bunn’s two-shop operation is highly efficient and productive, generating combined annual revenue of $2.4 million.

Now Bunn has what he has always wanted—freedom.

I worked about 80 hours every week for about 13 years, nonstop. We never took a vacation for the first 12 years of business.

The biggest problem in my shop was me. I was the show. Without me there, nothing worked. I was too involved in fixing every car, test driving every car, ordering every part, talking to every customer, answering every phone call. There was not enough time for me to do all of that.

I was labeling myself as a technician who had gone into business. Now I’ve become much more of a business owner.

I’m still the first guy here. We open at 8 a.m. I usually go to the Raleigh, N.C., shop in the morning.

I usually talk to every person there—the technicians; I talk to the manager; I talk to the service advisor. How’s it going? How did we do yesterday?

I’m kind of watching what’s going on. If there’s some kind of issue, I stop and try to get that handled, if it’s something that I need to handle. I try not to override somebody else. The manager’s job is to run the shop. If it’s his job to handle that situation, I’ll let it go.

“The most important thing you have is your staff. It’s all about finding the right people.”
—Randy Bunn, owner,
Quality Plus Automotive Service

More than 85 percent of our stuff is printed the day before. Say it’s Friday, after we close up; the service advisor goes into the computer system and prints all the ROs that are coming for Monday.

And it’s all put in different color packs, depending on the person. For example, a red pack means it’s a waiting customer. An orange pack means it has to go by a certain time. A green pack is a brand-new customer. If it’s a yellow pack, it’s a comeback, and that’s bad; that car takes priority over everything.

There’s no verbal communication—everything is written down so there are no questions.

We have shop meetings every Monday from noon to 1 p.m. We close both shops. We all go out to lunch.

One of the things I’ve learned in the last five or six years is that the most important thing you have is your staff. It’s all about finding the right people. We are all a part of what makes this work. There’s not any one guy here more important than the next guy.

TEAM PLAYER: Randy Bunn, right, gives his employees ‘a lot of leeway’ in making decisions. Photo by Neil Boyd

I give my employees a lot of leeway. They understand the policies, how we work, the procedures, and what should be done.

They make a lot of decisions without me being here. Most of the time, the decisions they make are good decisions, and if they make a bad decision, we fix that and life goes on.
On Monday, that is what we go over.

We take all the graphs. We look at them, and we talk about what we can do to be more efficient. How many appointments do we have? How much work do we have pre-sold? How many new customers do we get every week? Do we need to take fewer waiting customers? Do we need to take more waiting customers?

Every day our statistics are posted on the wall for every employee. Some people disagree with this, but I tend not to. I’m a production guy. Everybody who works here gets paid on production. We have employees that have a base salary, plus some kind of incentive program.

“One of the most important things: Everybody’s time is so valuable. Efficiency is the ultimate key.”
—Randy Bunn, owner, Quality
Plus Automotive Service

Everybody knows what the break-even point of the shop is. Everybody knows what it costs to run the shop every week. This is what we’ve got to do for the shop to break even, so we can pay our bills.

Everybody realizes where we’re at. My employees actually love it. They love to be able to know how much they’re going to make Friday. It gives them control of their life.

One of the most important things: Everybody’s time is so valuable. Efficiency is the ultimate key. That’s the goal of my shop is to be 100 percent efficient. We are actually at about 115 to 120 percent efficiency every week, meaning we turn in more billable hours than the technicians are actually there. We have to work really hard to make that happen.

To be honest, I can actually do what I want to do now. Money is not the most important thing for me—it’s freedom. I play golf every Thursday. I go to the gym almost every day. I’ll go to the gym at 3:30 p.m. one day, and guess what? My two shops will probably do $10,000–$12,000 in sales that day.

My wife and I went to Switzerland, stayed there for about 15 days, and the stats were higher than they’ve ever been.

This is a problem-solving business, but the thing about it is, all of the pressure is not on me. I have service advisors and managers that handle those problems. I have technicians that fix the problem cars. As long as I handle my problems and do the administration stuff right, I don’t have to be there every minute to make it work.

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