There was a time, many years ago, when I was young and carefree. I loved working on cars and people paid me to do it. Just me, my tools and a spot to work in. Simple. Over time I slowly began to experience what I now refer to as the “tradesperson’s dilemma.” You’re good at what you do, more people want your product or service, and you end up moving away from the work you originally loved and into the role of the business owner. It’s a great example of the American Dream.
And as your awesome service business grows, so does the need to manage and guide it along with your staff. As your business grows, it just gets to be too much for one brain to understand and keep track of all the moving pieces and parts.
Whether you started out as a technician or not, most shop owners get to a point where they realize they must begin keeping better track of their shop’s performance. Once you begin tracking and measuring, only then can you truly manage. It’s one of the key roles in owning a business.
Now this is a huge topic, but because I know how busy shop owners are, I’m going to (attempt to) condense a process for recording metrics that any shop can use to help them succeed. There are more items that are not included below, and the items below can and should all be tuned and tweaked for your particular shop.
Personally, I use an excel spreadsheet for each shop with each column representing a week and each row representing a metric that is measured every week. Each sheet is one year and the far right columns are average and YTD (year to date) totals. I visualize my sheet as a funnel. At the top of the sheet, the top of my funnel is marketing, or my “opportunity.” As I move down the sheet, the metrics show how well that automotive service opportunity was reached, how well we compelled the vehicle’s owner to action, how well we converted leads into an actual sale, what our gross profit was on that sale, and ultimately what our net profit was after expenses.
Here is a typical set of metrics that an automotive shop could consider tracking:
- Visits to website/social media page: Represents reach to our target market.
- Leads: Phone calls, website contact form, emails, messages that represent how well our marketing called people to action to contact us.
- Car Count: Completed repair orders in a given time. When compared as a % of leads, can help determine phone-selling skills and conversion of leads.
- New vs. Return Customers: Helps to determine if you are doing enough marketing to being in new customers to replace ones that leave, move, sell their car, etc.
- Total Opportunity per car: All of the work the car needed including work we did and work that was declined. If this is low, it indicates that our inspection or estimating process needs work.
- Sell Rate: Percentage of that total opportunity that turned into a completed sale/work order. Can represent the skill of a service advisor and quality of the shops marketing.
- Labor/Parts/Sublet Sales: Separate these out, note parts to labor ratio. Essentially all the dollars we took in.
- Average Repair Order: Sales divided by car count. Higher means finding and selling more work per car/reducing losses due to time we cannot bill for.
- Billed Hours: Arguably the central metric of our business. No sales without these. Billed hours are a factor of technician capacity and productivity.
- Number of Technicians and Productivity: Technician productivity is the number of billable hours during a standard number of clock hours, such as 40.
- Effective Labor Rate: Your posted labor rate might be $100 but when you divide your labor sales by your billed hours, it’s almost always less due to warranty, magic priced/discounted jobs, or estimating mistakes. Never make a financial plan based on posted labor rate.
- Comebacks: I choose to track this in hours and value of our shop’s time per hour/lost sales.
- Discounts: Amount of money, you should be understanding why. If it’s marketing, it can be a marketing expense and not a “loss.”
- Cost of Labor/Parts/Sublet: Cost of parts sold in sales, labor includes employer taxes and can also include benefits, uniforms, etc.
- Gross Profit on Parts and Labor: Can be measured as a % and also as a dollar figure. Your most basic profit after subtracting the cost of parts and labor from your sales but without calculating in any of the other (many) costs of doing business. Gross Profit = GP
- Gross Profit per hour: An indicator of what types of jobs your shop is doing
- Fixed Expenses: Costs not related to sales of parts and labor, costs that happen regardless of any sales. Includes marketing, staff, sales/service advisors (some count this as a cost of labor, some as a separate line item), and all other business-related expenses that recur. I keep a separate list that I update quarterly. It gives me a weekly estimate of the cost of my fixed expenses including items such as accounting, cleaning, credit card fees, insurance, shipping, rent, repairs, software, shop supplies, office supplies, taxes, tools, training, utilities, and shop vehicles.
- Net Profit: The money left over after all expenses are accounted for. Shop owners if you have a position in the company, your salary should be factored into fixed expenses. Net profit is only the profit of the business as a stand-alone entity. An owner, owners, or shareholders are then subject to income tax on any net-profit they don’t re-invest into the company.
These metrics above represent a great foundation for tracking your automotive service business. They are the “what.” The when would be every week, and the “how” will vary based upon what software and methods you use. The initial setup of a tracking system as outlined above can be daunting. Support personnel from your software companies, fellow shop owners, classes, coaches, and online social media groups can all help you get a solid system in place. And once that system is in place and starts producing data, all sorts of information will come to light that just wasn’t visible with the human eye or instinct previously. I remember how much I used to fret over our return parts and technicians on their cell phones in the past. Learning to measure and manage by the numbers allowed me to see where the real holes were in the business. I’m not quite back to that spot where I was young and carefree but on good weeks when I sit down at my computer and the metrics all look good, it does bring back memories of the simple times.