Running a Shop Operations

Get Your Shop's Front and Backend to Work Together

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Recently, I got to speak at a conference on how owners can get their shops’ front and backend departments to work together. One of the biggest revelations I felt a lot of the attendees had, is that the front and back of the shop are totally different departments, and truly different businesses. Every shop owner out there has a factory department and a sales department.

And they really are run totally different.

If we focus on that, and understand that these two different businesses need to be managed differently, talked to differently and are driven by different goals—a breakthrough can happen. But if we don’t, we are never going to get our desired workflow.

One of the things that I push with everybody, is that whenever you fix your sales department, you have to get everything dialed in. And then when you fix the factory department, you have to also let the dust settle there.

If you try to do both at the same time, you are going to end up breaking your business.

Your company will go backward, you will lose money for a couple of months, and it’s going to cause major issues.

The fact is, focusing on both departments at once will paralyze you. Now, wouldn’t it be quicker to focus on one department, and then the other, and then the other—like climbing up a ladder: left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand.  

Now, I understand that for a lot of shop owners it’s nerve wracking to have to hire a tech while the office is understaffed, and then wait to let the dust settle, to then hire somebody for the office, or roll out a new office system. Shop owners want to do both at the same time, but that can cause side effects. Some of these side effects are positive, and some of them are going to be very negative. If you’re not careful, this process can really end up handicapping the business.

Owners need to see if they can discipline themselves to say, “OK, which department is more broken than the other?” and then go to that department and fix it.

As an example, let’s say you have a shop with three technicians, you're doing $90,000 per month, but you want to do $120,000. Your front counter can do it just fine—they might even be able to do a little bit more. Right now, the bottleneck is at the back.

So, you go and increase your marketing, and then you go and hire somebody for your “factory.” Now that your factory is performing at top level and outrunning the front office, you go and hire somebody for the front or bring in a new system. And you continue to go back and forth and back and forth as you get your business dialed in.

But, you never want both sides to be 100 percent dialed in.

If both sides are 100 percent, your business has flatlined and stopped growing.

Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, Aaron, that’s not true, my business is still growing by this small percentage every single year.” But is that because you are raising your prices every year?

Don't get me wrong, if you have a bunch of C-level employees that are slowly and surely getting better every year, then, yes, your business is growing because the talent of your current people is getting better and better each year. But eventually, that talent is going to level off.  Eventually you're still going to cap out.

The only true way to grow your company is to pick one of your departments that’s the most maxed out and provide more capacity, whether that's in the front or the back.

We must understand that our business is unique to others out there because a lot of businesses have a sales department, but the sales department does not have to coordinate near as much as we do.

A lot of businesses have a factory, but they don't have to coordinate with their customers’ schedules like we do.

And, they have the benefit of performing a repeated task over and over and over. We do not.

Because of that, our business is truly unique.

Sadly, we sometimes don’t see it as unique. Every single repair shop out there is different from one another. There is no one size fits all. There is only a spirit behind the rule that you need to follow, not an exact rule.


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