Market Your Mentality
SHOP STATS: My Mechanic Location: Tucson, Ariz. Operator: Dena Ganje Average Monthly Car Count: 173 Staff Size: 7 Shop Size: 7,000-8000 sq ft Annual Revenue: $800,000
In 2014, Dena Ganje made a major career pivot. She had spent the first 23 years of her professional life in home health care, but about four years ago, she made what she says was a natural transition. In 2014, her husband’s company, My Mechanic in Tucson, Ariz., needed someone to fill in the gaps as it continued to grow.
Ganje says she always appreciated the automotive industry and what mechanics are capable of doing. What started as working during lunch breaks and running errands after work and shuttling customers soon morphed into a full career shift, and a full-time position at My Mechanic.
She officially started as the business manager for My Mechanic later that year, a position which she says involves doing everything other than turning wrenches in the shop. Some of her responsibilities include shuttle driver, safety coordinator, HR rep, marketing director, and customer service manager.
As of late, business has picked up for the small shop, as it reached a record monthly revenue of $90,000 in March.
Through all of these roles, Ganje has learned to be flexible with her work, while spending as much time as possible meeting other people in the community, and networking with other local business owners. These grassroots efforts have helped get referrals from other businesses, and increase buzz at her business.
As told to Alex Van Abbema
My day starts at 8 a.m. I check that the lobby is ready for customers and maybe shuttle a customer or two. Driving somebody could take 10 minutes or it could take an hour. But in that time, I really get a chance to get to know our customers.
When that’s done, I’ll help with some scheduling, respond to emails, and respond to reviews. Maybe I’ll end up calling a customer or sending a thank-you card. Some mornings I’ll randomly call our customers, asking how our service is in general, or how we can improve anything.
Sometimes I’ll have to go get parts, or order any supplies but that takes a short amount of time. There’s not set time that any of that gets done; it could be 2 p.m., or sometime in the morning.
Throughout each week, I really work on communicating with customers, and expanding our shop’s reach in the community. The reason we get new customers every day is that there’s a lot of buzz about what we’re doing. When our customers come in, we like to get to know them personally, what their joys are and what their causes are. We don’t rush them through the process, and don’t just park them in the lobby. They usually don’t want to be rushed out the door either.
A lot of them say, ‘Hey we have a football fundraiser, or we have a softball fundraiser. How can you help with that?’ They ask us and we respond. We decide where this cause resonates with them and with us, weigh out our budget, and see what other fundraisers we have. Then we’ll decide whether we’ll participate.
For our local softball team, we sponsor their T-shirt making. We’ve done food drives in the past, where we do social media blasts, and talk to people in the shop about it. For the first and second times we did it, I would give them $5 off their next visit if they brought in a donation. At the ATI conference a couple months ago, I gathered some more ideas. When I returned that week, I went to the humane society, and let them know I wanted to support them.
This Saturday, the humane society is having a grand opening for their new location. My Mechanic will be there to give out water bottles, maybe some raffle prizes with which we can help. We’re also sponsoring annual gala, their largest fundraiser of the year. We’ll sponsor by giving raffle prizes to that, as well.
From what we’ve done in the community, we get called maybe 4-5 times per week from organizations asking for help. Within a few minutes of each call, you know whether or not you can do something for them. That involves politely letting them know this isn’t something you can help with this time or letting them know it’s not a process you can help with at all.
In terms of marketing my business, one of the groundbreaking, grassroots things I do is create a flyer, and bring it to local landlords. They create new rental packets and put our info in there, which has been huge for getting new customers. It’s just an information flyer. You can take it to an apartment complex—give the gal or guy working at the desk a bag of cookies, gift card to Bruegger's Bagels, something like that. Then they’ll put your flyers in every single rental packet.
I’m not afraid to go up to people and introduce myself. I might see another business in the neighborhood, if I haven’t seen their cars. I’ll walk in and introduce myself, maybe leave them info about what we do. I also encourage them to read our reviews online because our customers have been very generous with reviews. A lot of time, that gains us new business, by reaching out to them on a personal level. I don’t do any email, cold calling; it’s always face-to-face communication.
I always try to network. There’s a local organization called Business Networking International, or BNI, that I meet with every Tuesday to talk about what I do. With BNI, there are all different types of businesses. Maybe you can pass them a referral, by getting to know that business owner. Then hopefully they can get to know you, and pass you a referral. It’s really about getting to know the other business and trying to support their cause. If you can set yourself aside and also try to think about other people, you’ll automatically be successful.
Besides these meetings, I try to have 2–3 coffee dates per week with other business owners, talking about what I do and passing referrals onto each other.
The end of my day usually involves me driving around, picking people up so they can get back here and pick up their car. Then I clean the coffee room, put all the coffee supplies away, and restock the lobby for the next day. I’ll try to answer a few last minute emails if needed.
We have a few other things planned for 2018 going forward. Starting today, the plan on Mondays is to have team goal setting meetings. We’ll be talking about the workload on hand and expectations of the staff for the week. We’ll take a look at what vehicles will be on deck, and if there’s any place we’re slacking in our customer service. Basically seeing if there’s anything we can additionally do for the wow factor.
Another goal we have for 2018 is to add health insurance for our employees. We also want to have scheduled, quarterly company outings. We’ve been doing it before when we can figure out time. We want to do group outings where we all go bowling together, camping or riding go-karts. Last year we did these twice, but this year we want to have them every quarter as a way for the staff to get to know each other and bond.