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How to Ensure Constant Business Growth

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SHOP STATS: Gales General Service Center, Gales Detailing & Reconditioning  Location: Saginaw, Mich.  Operator: Andy Gales  Average Monthly Car Count: 240  Staff Size: 11  Shop Size: 8,000 sq. ft. Annual Revenue: $1.1 million  

Growing up, shop owner Andy Gales had a natural-born ability to fix anything; he was referred to as “Handy Andy,” always tinkering around with anything he could get his hands on. Naturally, he put his talents to good use and decided to later join the auto repair industry. And, a short time into his career, he wanted to open a repair shop of his own.

“I knew I always wanted to do my own thing,” Gales says. “I worked for somebody else for a bit and basically, I said ‘I can do that, too.’”

To start his own business, he needed a facility to hold it all together. With a 3,500-square-foot building, one that had been vacant for years, he began constructing his business from the ground up. Gales said it was all possible because the building’s seller took a chance on him and gave him six-months of rent, free of charge.

“He said, ‘If you fix it up, I’ll waive six months for you,’ and I kind of just started from there,” Gales says.

After opening up his shop in 2009, Gales found a lot of success. The first year, Gales’s auto repair shop did $250,000 alone with a total of five employees, including Gales and his wife, Nadia. And since then, the shop has grown every year—the shop is now at $1.1 million. And as the years went by, he constantly found ways to grow what he had built, first by adding loaner vehicles to his shop’s services in 2016, bringing more in as needed—the shop is now up to 10.

“I always wanted dealership appearance, family experience,” Gales says. “I looked and researched every possible shop I could and I kind of just took what they had and made it better.”

That’s the kind of shop owner Gales is—always striving to be better. Since opening up Gales General Service Center over 10 years ago, Gales has accomplished many feats in his career, including winning the Best of the Best Auto Repair Shop in the Saginaw, Mich.-area for three consecutive years. Because of his success and his drive, he has constantly been able to grow his shop.

An opportunity to grow presented itself a few years ago. With the shop’s weekly car count reaching over 100 in a four-bay shop, things started to become stressful and confined; he wanted a better workspace for his employees, knowing this was his shop’s time to bigger and better things.

So in 2017, he moved his shop to a larger, 8,000-square-foot space and three more bays to work with just a half-mile down the road. From this move, the business kept growing. The shop’s revenue increased by $200,000 without changing any of his current prices.

Expanding the Operation

With the business doing well, he still had a minor detail to take care of. Because Gales is in an area where real estate comparables—price comparison between similar homes in the same area—are very low, selling his original building wasn’t really an option in his book. He knew he had to do something with the retired space instead of putting it on the market and selling it below its value.

When servicing cars, customers would always ask Gales about his detail offerings, or if he knew anyone that specialized in detailing. Originally, Gales subbed out the detailing service, but he didn’t like the results he got from it. 

“I am an extreme perfectionist, I like clean cars,” Gales says. “If you’re going to service it, you might as well be able to do it all.”

So, he figured out the only way he could get what he wanted was to do it himself; this way, he could control how it was done himself. 

“In auto repair, it’s very hard to get gratification,” says Gales. “In detailing, you can actually see the before and after difference. You get that ‘wow’ factor when you look at your car, where repair—it just drives as it should.”

To create a successful detailing business, Gales needed something to build off of. He looked at the top detailing shops, personally taking his vehicles to them to see what he liked and what he didn’t in order to make his shop even better. And thus, Gales Detailing and Reconditioning was born in January 2019, where Gales says it’s added 10 percent growth in revenue to his overall operation.

“You can easily sell detailing through the auto repair shop,” Gales says. 

After every service, the shop simply puts a flyer in the customer’s car to let them know about the detail offerings. A lot of customers use both of his services, but if they don’t, he gets an array of customers no matter the job.

“Some people don’t like to use us for repair and we are still able to get them as a customer for detailing,” Gales says. “It works hand-in-hand.”

 

Tips for Winning Detail

After studying detail shops, Gales learned how to provide the best possible service.

Tip No. 1: Show Your Appreciation

Gales noticed a lot of detail shops never left thank you cards, water bottles with their logo, or other incentivised gifts. Simply adding in a sample product to show you appreciate their service will help set you up for a future service.

Tip No. 2 Add Extra Offerings

Gales says dealerships would simply clean your car and nothing else. He says his detail shop gets out of this comfort zone by painting trim, applying ceramic coatings, dying fabrics and carpets, even repairing cigarette burns.

“Independent detail shops take clean to the next level of refreshing, restoring, and renewing the vehicle,” Gales says.

 

Devoting to Both Sides

When it came to updating his business plan to fit in the new operation, he decided it was best to keep the two businesses separate from one another.

“If you keep them separate, it’s more organized,” Gales says. “You can control it more.”

Adding another business on board also meant adding new tasks to manage. To efficiently manage the two, Gales holds weekly meetings and has a very strict quality control process. Along with this comes having clear goals in mind. His team’s goal for 2019 is to beat sales by 10 percent, and they carry this out by setting goals every quarter—three, six, nine, and 12-month goals.

Gales starts his days off at the auto repair shop, where he and his crew do all of the paperwork before the shop opens. Throughout the day, he swings by the detailing center to check-in, visiting about three times per day to keep morale up and make sure everything is running smoothly. And thankfully, it’s an easy thing to do with the detailing shop just a half-a-mile down the road, which makes devoting equal time easy for the business owner.

Growing with the Times

As Gales has physically grown his business, that doesn’t stop him from wanting more. Gales is always looking for new opportunities, whether its physical growth or improving operations.  As he considers himself as a millennial, Gales is committed to keeping up with the latest technology and tactics. Social media was an easy place to start, adding in more engagement with his customers.

To help manage this, he hired a marketing coordinator, whose only job is to control the shop’s social media.

“With success, we are growing with the times, where a lot of repair shops are not,” Gales says. “Our business is ran on word-of-mouth and social media, that’s it.”

And Gales says doing so has been a major success. Utilizing Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, the shop posts its own educational videos and tutorials, giveaways, and lots of light-hearted posts to engage with customers. For Halloween this past year, the shop had an iconic mascot, Wiz Casper, a “ghost kid” who likes to hide in the shop, trick-or-treating in the lobby, singing “Monster Mash” and just so happened to sneak into most of October’s social media posts. This, of course, was all in good fun.

“Success comes from having fun with auto repair,” Gales says. “People like to see real people.”

So this leaves the question then: how do you know if it’s the right time to grow your business? Get an idea, make it happen, and roll with the punches.

“You don’t really ever know. The hardest part is just getting started,” Gales says.

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