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Finding the Right Facility for Your Shop's Expansion

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In Mount Vernon, Wash., rests Bill Orsborn’s first Gateway Transmission location. And then 30 miles away, across Skagit Bay on a neighboring island, rests his second Oak Harbor location.

Two locations, two staffs to manage, and two customer bases to which he must appeal. It’s no easy task, but understanding the unique offerings your market presents allows you to research what businesses are available for acquisition, what buildings fit your shop model, and where your target customers reside.

“There’s different marketing for each location,” Orsborn says. “And to do that, you have to know who your clients are and what appeals to them.”

It's just part of the process that he and Jason Stretch, owner of Legendary Automotive and Truck Service in Fort Myers, Fla., covered as part of Ratchet+Wrench's future feature on expansion. And a huge part of that process is finding the right facility for your growing business's second shop.

One way Jason Stretch has researched his market is surveying mailing routes. He tries to match his demographics in his target areas to other regions in town; that way he knows where to market and where to build new shops.

Stretch is currently in the process of purchasing a new building. Just like he did with his first shop, he found a shop owner later in his years who was ready to retire from the industry and a staff that seemed ready for a refreshed outlook. Stretch met with the owner and the staff several times to ensure his new team would embody what made his current team so successful.

If you fail to do research on the region where the shop resides, it can bite you, Erb says. For instance, if you bought a cheap, flailing shop in a poor area, and then you cleaned it up and raised the prices, you’d likely have to rebuild the former shop’s base.

“You’re going to run off a lot of customers that wanted the cheap place,” he says.

As far as location, Orsborn says some classic advice still holds true: Curb appeal is everything for a shop. Lots of drive-by traffic will result in many eyes spotting your services.

Beyond that, the facility itself should offer your team the capacity to reach expected sales levels. If you’re purchasing an empty building, Erb says former auto shops make the transition easiest, as they’ve passed any zoning ordinances that could hold you up.

If acquiring a shop, Orsborn says to evaluate the facility’s capacity: car count, ARO, number of bays/lifts. That’ll give you an idea of how many staff members you’ll need, and whether this facility is primed for growth.

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