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Transitioning to a New Management System

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Transitioning to a New Management System
Owner Bill Gurney dealt with a range of issues while implementing his first new electronic management system in 19 years.

The first day with Gurney’s Automotive Repair’s new electronic management system, Protractor, was chaotic. Service advisors were trying to work out the kinks in scheduling appointments and writing repair orders, while technicians were trying figure out how to punch in and out of the systems.

With his two New Hampshire shops struggling to adapt to the new system, owner Bill Gurney found himself switching between his Milford and Nashua locations for constant troubleshooting.

Despite training for roughly 15 hours per week in the two-month period before launch, and  getting the staff familiar with the demo in that time period, Gurney knew there would be some bumps in the road with his new system. However, it still threw his business in flux over the next few months, to the point where his staff struggled to get work done, and asked to back to the old system.

Regardless, Gurney pushed forward with the implementation, and now is at a point where his staff enjoys the new system, and his $3.7 million business is better for the change.


The Backstory

Gurney’s Automotive Repair used a basic computerized management system from 1989–1998. Then, in 1998, Gurney switched to GenesisFour, and its program, ServiceShop. Despite being a ServiceShop user for years, he grew frustrated with the program’s lack of updates.

After moving into the shop’s second location in 2010, Gurney and the rest of his staff considered finding a new management system for their shop. However, it wasn’t until nearly five years later that he finally decided to make the switch.

Gurney implemented Protractor for its online parts ordering and estimating services in 2015, before switching over to the program’s entire interface in 2017. He knew Protractor had a good reputation, and thought the change would keep his staff better organized.

Gurney and his base of 29 employees had 10 months to prepare for the new service before the planned implementation in October, and most of this occured in the two months prior to launch.

In that two-month period, Gurney himself spent about 15 hours per week watching training videos and reading the manuals, with service advisors doing about 10 hours per week to learn the system. Technicians didn’t have to do as much, Gurney says, because they learned as they worked through it.

“Every night I’d go home, I’d get my laptop out. I’d watch one on scheduling, I watched one on part ordering. I watched one on returns,” Gurney says.


The Problem

The two locations had 29 employees between them, most of whom had only used the shop’s previous system, GenesisFour. Gurney knew that no matter what, this would make for a jarring transition, and he found some resistance. While the staff had a taste of the system over the past few years in working with its part ordering and estimating, the staff had to get used to the new bookkeeping, point-of-sale system, and inspection reports.  

Several times, his workers would hit a snag, and would have to stop what they were doing to troubleshoot the system. His staff members even asked to switch back to GenesisFour.

“Everyone who worked with us said that they liked the old system because they knew it better,” Gurney says. “It wasn’t a better system for our business, it was just easier because everybody knew all the idiosyncrasies of it.”

Gurney knew that he, and the rest of his staff, would need to be patient and put in the time to make the transition a success.

To make matters more complicated, Gurney’s wife was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer when the system was about to launch. Though his staff was going through this major transition, spending time with his wife was obviously the priority, which meant he had to relegate management duties to the rest of his staff while they set up the system.


The Solution

Before the system was fully implemented, Gurney says that his extended training efforts were crucial in making the transition as easy as it could have been for his staff.

“It was ugly with the training, but it would have been even worse without it,” he says.

Before he fully implemented it, Gurney had his staff work with a full demo system, which allowed his staff to configure schedule and figure out how to work through appointments. The week before launch, Gurney sat all of his employees down to watch the webinars, and discuss how the system would work.  

Though his staff became frustrated from time to time, Gurney met with his staff frequently while they got acquainted to the system.

“I told them it was what our business needed to move forward. If we wanted to move forward, we had to make a change,” Gurney says.

While Gurney spent time with his wife, he says his general manager stepped in to learn as much of the system as he could, and worked with staff to learn the new aspects of it.

Once the system was launched, Gurney and his staff were able to talk with Protractor’s staff when they had any issues, and even had one of Protractor’s main sales workers on call during the first week. Gurney says the staff was very responsive with any issues he or his other staff members brought up to customer service, and always responded within a couple of hours.


The Aftermath

Now that they’re used to the new system, Gurney says that Protractor works much smoother than what they previously used. While productivity went down when the shop initially launched its new system, Gurney says it has rebounded significantly.

Gurney says that his staff loves the new text messaging service, and the scheduling process has made day-to-day life in the shop much easier.


The Takeaway

Gurney says you and the rest of your staff have to have patience while you learn how to use the system correctly.

“Don’t develop poor habits out of frustration on the go. Take your time, slow down, and figure out how to operate the software correctly from the beginning,” Gurney says.


Expert Advice: Overcoming the EMS Learning Curve

Jim Murphy has decades of experience in developing successful auto repair facilities throughout North America, working with Elite as a consultant for over a decade, coaching over 90 top shop owners. Murphy has seen firsthand the major learning curves it takes to get an electronic management system up and running to the point where it’s successful. He shares some tips to make the transition as painless as possible.

After transferring to a new system, many shop owners have a difficult time getting data to move cleanly across. If they don’t get it over in its entirety, dealing with customer counts becomes an issue, vehicle history becomes a problem.

Getting good solid support to train personnel is very difficult or very expensive to accomplish. Guys will often skimp on the training. There’s so many aspects of the program that could be making their lives so much better or profitable, and they have no idea that this functionality exists. Spending the time/money to get individuals of your staff up to speed on the software is critical.

Many shop owners will get their new system up to speed while still utilizing their old system. Once the staff is more proficient with the new system, they can pull the trigger and go live with the new system. That seems to get rid of some of the pain.

SHOP STATS: Learning the System  Location: Nashua N.H. and Milford N.H.   Operator: Bill Gurney  Average Monthly Car Count: Nashua: 575 Milford: 350-400  Staff Size: Nashua: 19 Milford: 10  Shop Size: Nashua: 9,400 square feet Milford: 10,000 square feet Annual Revenue Nashua: $2.5 million Milford: $1.2 million

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