Bunch: Selling Your Shop: How the Value of Your Auto Repair Shop is Determined (Part 2 of 6)

Sept. 1, 2023
In the second part of this six-article series, columnist Greg Bunch explores the topic of how to sell your shop through the lens of perceived value.

This is part 2 in a series of 6 to be released in consecutive weeks every Friday.

In the first part of this series, we discussed the various factors and motives that can influence what a buyer might be willing to pay for your auto repair shop. Now, let’s dive into the specifics of how the value of your auto repair shop is determined. In this part, we'll explore the significance of location, systems and processes, your involvement in the business and your shop’s online reputation. These are key elements prospective buyers will evaluate when considering the acquisition of your auto repair shop. 

Location, Location, Location 

The adage remains true: location is vital. Being situated in a high-traffic area or near major roads can be invaluable for an auto repair shop. It increases visibility and accessibility, which can translate to more customers. Additionally, the demographics of the area, local competition and local economy can also play a role in determining the value of your location. 

Well-established Systems and Processes 

Buyers appreciate a well-oiled machine. Established systems and processes show that your shop can run efficiently and effectively. This includes everything from scheduling and customer communication to inventory management and quality control. Proper documentation and standard operating procedures (SOPs) add to the appeal, as they make the transition smoother for the new owner. Expect to turn over your pay plans and benefit packages as part of the due diligence.  

I'm currently working with a buyer looking at a shop where the current manager has a huge salary and six weeks a year of vacation. The manager is the face of the business and is working on how to handle this, as all his current managers have three weeks of vacation and are on a performance-based pay plan. Does he change the manager’s pay and vacation time in the shop he is buying a potentially lose him, or does he change the vacation time of his existing managers? What would you do? 

Your Involvement in the Business 

If your business heavily relies on your personal involvement, it may be seen as a risk to potential buyers. A business that can run independently of the owner is generally more valuable. This is because it demonstrates that the success of the shop is not solely dependent on you but is built on solid foundations and a competent team. Your shop won’t be most buyers’ first shop, and they will need someone other than themselves to run it. If they have to hire a manager or technician to replace you, expect that salary to come out of your EBITA or SDE number before they calculate a multiplier. 

Online Reputation and Reviews 

In today’s digital age, your online reputation matters. Positive reviews on platforms like Google can be a major selling point. They provide social proof of the quality of service your shop offers. If not properly addressed, negative reviews can deter potential buyers. It's essential to continuously monitor and manage your online presence to build and maintain a positive reputation.  

Customer Database and Retention 

A strong customer database with a history of repeat business is another indicator of the value of your shop. It shows that you have established trust and reliability with your customer base. Buyers are often willing to pay a premium for businesses with loyal customers, which should translate into a more predictable cash flow. I can’t tell you how many shops we have looked at that the database is missing mailing addresses and emails! Good data is gold; make sure you and your team are keeping your database up to date. 

Financial

Last but definitely not least, a prospective buyer will evaluate your financials. Revenue growth, profitability and well-managed expenses are indicators of a healthy business. Make sure that your financial records are transparent, accurate and well-organized. This not only helps in establishing trust but also streamlines the due diligence process for potential buyers. Taking cash out of your business or paying personal expenses can cost you dearly when it comes to maximizing your sale price. Time to get things cleaned up!    

As an auto repair shop owner, focusing on enhancing these core pieces can not only improve the operations of your business but can significantly increase the value of your shop when you decide to sell. Make sure you do not share any proprietary information with a potential buyer, even if they are an employee or friend without a fully executed Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) 

Please share your thoughts and experiences with me at [email protected] 

Stay tuned for part 3, where we will delve into preparing your auto repair shop for sale and successfully navigating the sales process. 

About the Author

Greg Bunch

Greg Bunch is the founder/CEO of Aspen Auto Clinic, a six-shop operation in Colorado, and the founder/CEO of Transformers Institute, a training, coaching, and consulting company for the auto repair industry.

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