It was fantastic seeing a lot of you in Minneapolis for the Ratchet+Wrench Management Conference. Between seeing old friends, meeting new ones, hearing extraordinary training sessions, and, of course, learning what a "furry convention" was, a good time was had by all!
If you were in any of my classes, you heard me refer to "alternate universes." Have you ever heard the saying, “Some people make things happen, some people watch what is happening, and some people don't know anything happened”?
Over 6,000 independent shops closed their doors over the last 18 months, yet other shops had record sales and continue to grow. You need to figure out what the differences are and how to be in the right universe!
In addition, we saw a lot of movement within the technician pool. Master techs are moving from the mom-and-pop shop they worked at for years to bigger, more well-equipped shops that provide rich benefit packages and increased wages.
The other movement that most shop owners aren't aware of is that 2020 was also the year the largest number of acquisitions happened in our industry. So, private equity firms and strategic buyers were taking advantage of the uncertainty and building their footprints. I have taught about this for the last few years, and my predictions have come to pass. Have you thought about your exit strategy and who will be the most likely person to buy your shop?
As Bob Dylan sang in 1964: "And if your breath to you is worth savin', Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin'"
I hope the song gets stuck in your head because continuing with "business as usual" will not work.
So you ask, “How do you stay on top and thrive over the next decade?” I may not have all the answers, but this I do know: We are in the people business. Invest in your leadership; invest in being around other shop owners determined to succeed; invest in training all of your staff; invest in the appropriate technology to service today's vehicles (Do not send your customers to a competitor or dealer!).
Get you and your team to VISION, STX, and other high-level training events. Find a Mastermind, 20 group, or coach that gets what's happening and can help you navigate the waters ahead!
And please, please, please do not forget that the neighborhood shop's competitive advantage is its ability to provide a higher level of customer service and convenience. Educate your customers that you are well equipped to service whatever they drive and will continue to be ready to service their hybrid or electric vehicles. Have a clean and modern-looking facility, which you can be proud to show off to your customers and community.
Some of you will say, "I can't afford all of these things," and I say, raise your rates so you can afford it! You can't be the cheapest in town and stay in business, so don't let your competitive advantage be "we can beat everyone's prices."
Maybe I sound like a broken record, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the bigger picture and not let complacency, or the busyness of the day, keep us from thriving over the next decade.