Executing a Successful Expansion

Oct. 15, 2019
Jeff and Debbie Nol faced a variety of unforeseen challenges en route to executing two shop expansions.

Things didn’t exactly go according to plan with Arie Nol Auto Center’s two major expansions.

The first blow was dealt by the shop’s home city of Kentwood, Mich., whose beautification committee said the shop needed to clean up the amount of cars in its lot, as it didn’t fit in with the rest of the the city’s look. Owner Jeff Nol and his wife, Debbie, ended up purchasing the home next to the shop, expanding the facility by five bays and one technician so they could start moving more cars out of the lot and into the shop itself.

The second expansion was planned as they added a new building and expanded to seven bays. This occured right before the 2008 recession, which put their operations in flux, and forced them to market creatively to keep their business afloat.

Nol says he was able to get through the two expansions with help from his wife and son, and has seen sales per bay increase by 8 percent since the last expansion. Nol and his son may take the next step with yet another expansion in the upcoming years.  

That “leap of faith” he took to make those two expansions work for his business is exactly what Ryan Flanagan, the digital marketing coordinator from NAPA AutoCare headquarters, expressed in his 2017 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award nomination of Nol. By adding an additional four bays to the shop and employing more customer service staff and technicians, Nol was able to grow his business.

The husband-and-wife team give the top three keys they wish they knew about expanding their business.

1. Hire Professionals.

When expanding your business, the Nols say it’s important to find professionals who can execute everything flawlessly and handle any bumps in the road. There are three positions that Nol says are vital to hire:

  • Have the proper law firm behind you to get through any legal issues that pop up.

  • Have a good banker who is willing to move items around to fit your expansion budget.

  • Have an experienced builder who is fully on board with your plans and knows what’s going on.

Nol says you need to have a point where you and all three of these people sit down and go over the game plan, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“It’s super positive hearing from your attorney and CPA telling you that you may be taking these huge loans, but it’s going to work,” Nol says. “You need that positive encouragement.”

2. Get Employees on Board.

Another important tip is to make sure you explain what’s happening to your employees and that they’re on board with the decisions you’re making. This means explaining the expansion in its entirety, and explaining any staffing changes you’re going to make, and why these are being made.

When it comes to hiring new employees, Nol says he makes sure to hire people with similar characteristics as past successful hires. He also makes sure to have potential employees meet with the ones he has now.

“Employees are now really on board, especially with the second one,” Nol says.

3. Have Faith.

Having faith in your process, and making sure things will work out is the best way to get through unforeseen hardships, especially the ones that the Nols faced. Faith in his business, and faith in God and a focus on a larger perspective were both vital aspects to Nol’s expansion.

The lessons they learned from the first expansion helped significantly with the next one, and boosted their confidence going forward.

“When you have a three-bay shop and you decide to expand it, it’s really scary to do that the first time. When you decide to do it again, you know that you can handle it,” Debbie says.

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