Stokes: Growing Your Business Through Car Count

March 24, 2022

Focus on capturing the lion's share of the market this spring.

Spring has sprung, and now is when we see our highest car counts.

During this time, it’s our job to get people through the door and to capture those customers. New people have moved into your market; people who have not had their car serviced yet, people who have had a check engine light come on all of a sudden, people looking for their new local shop.

Our job is to impress them so we capture and hold the customer, even if our average ticket drops. We do this by focusing on volume—keeping cars coming in the door and grabbing as much market share as we possibly can without concerning ourselves with the ARO. We have to ask ourselves, “How do I close in on as many customers as I possibly can?”

Easy. We impress them on the first visit. We call them back on time. We inspect their cars right. We fix their cars right. We do a great job and get them out on time. We’ve got to make sure when they leave, the check engine light doesn't come back on and they come back.

Here’s how you’ll know they’re impressed: If a customer is married, his wife's got a car and he’ll bring that in. If he has a teenage son, he's going to bring his son's car. If he's got a daughter in college, he's going to bring her car. Now you’ve turned a one-car deal into a four-car deal.

For now, whatever the sweet spot is for your shop in terms of car count, let it get higher. Let the techs feel a little stressed. What we need to do is get the car count so high per tech during spring that we can afford to add another tech and let the count drop back down to the sweet spot per technician.

Pivoting from car count back to ARO

To get here, let the average ticket drop for now. Get those new customers and give them great service so when they return during the summer to get their AC fixed, to get their brakes fixed, or when they need the tires, they come to us. And when we’ve grown that market share, we can start increasing our ARO. We want to make that average repair order as large as possible.This means we're finding work and we're fixing those issues on the car.

You have to understand, though, if you don't upsell that customer's car, they're going to break down in three months when they're at the beach, when they're in the mountains, or when they're on a road trip. They're going to be wishing you predicted this was going to happen. You could have had you just upsold them. Upselling is a dirty word. If you're ethical and honest, you tell the customer if you see a potential problem with their car for their safety and peace of mind.  

Here’s the big picture: when you focus on growing by car count you can attract good technicians to your shop as you grow. They won't come to us if we're not busy. If we can grow our client database as big as possible, technician’s will show up and come try our shop, and when that technician says, "I want to come work for you," you can be ready to hire them.

So for now, focus more on impressing customers with amazing customer service and capturing as many customers as you can. Then in the early months of the summer, you can pivot and start focusing on growing your average repair order again. This spring we need to focus on growth, the summer will be our time for refinement.

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

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