Bunch: Growing Your Auto Business: A Prelude to Expansion

Oct. 26, 2023
In his latest series, columnist Greg Bunch takes a look at the process of shop expansion.

When I read back through the responses from my previous series, some conveyed a real undercurrent of sadness. It resonated deeply with me. These were words from shop owners who felt trapped in their businesses, fearful that they had lost their resale value. Such sentiments made me reflect on an essential aspect of business often overlooked: the human emotion driving it. Behind every shop is a story, an ambition, a dream. Sometimes, these dreams get mired in the everyday grind, the pressing challenges, and the looming uncertainties. Time goes by much too quickly and many shop owners are at the point of despair. They may not get the money for their shop they were hoping for, but they could provide the next generation of shop owners with an opportunity for their legacy to live on.

This new series aims to talk to the new generation and the aspirations of expanding your auto repair shop business. Before one even thinks about buying another shop, there's a need for introspection. A business, much like a person, has its own temperament, habits, strengths and areas of improvement. Recognizing and understanding these are foundational to any expansion plan.

Reflecting on Financial Discipline

It's said that our relationship with money is often a mirror of our deeper virtues and vices. Before dreaming big, let's start with the basics. How disciplined are you with finances? Do you often find yourself making impulsive purchases or are you more of a calculated spender? The way you manage personal finances often spills over into your business. As you move on to becoming a buyer and investor, the first step is creating a personal and business budget. Building and, just as important, living by them will be a great step in getting the financing needed to expand from lending institutions.

Budgets aren't merely restrictive tools; they're a roadmap for financial decision-making. Establishing and adhering to budgets ensures that resources are allocated optimally. They allow for a cushion during lean periods and provide clarity on when and where to invest during boom times.

 Know Your Numbers

Navigating the world of business, especially when considering expansion, isn't merely about passion or gut instincts. There's a dance between intuition and cold, hard numbers. These figures, margins, and statistics become the backbone of your enterprise, guiding every strategic move.

First and foremost, one must have a firm grip on margins. Margins aren't static; they fluctuate, impacted by both internal operations and external market forces. An understanding of how different decisions or events impact your margins will allow for proactive, rather than reactive, management. If you're aiming to buy another shop, analyzing its operating margins can offer insights into its efficiency and profitability.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) act as the pulse of your business. Whether it's the average time a car spends in the shop, the number of repeat customers or the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, KPIs offer a tangible measure of success. But it's not enough to just know these numbers; one must also set benchmarks and strive continually to surpass them. This continuous cycle of setting, achieving, and recalibrating goals keeps a business dynamic and forward-moving.

Lastly, the need for cash flow management can't be overstated. More businesses falter due to cash flow issues than a lack of profitability. It's essential to understand the ebb and flow of funds, ensuring that obligations can always be met and that there's capital for seizing opportunities.

In essence, "knowing your numbers" is to understand the language of your business. It tells a story—of where you've been and where you are, but most importantly it charts the course for where you're headed. As we delve deeper into the intricacies of business expansion, this understanding will be pivotal in making informed, strategic decisions.

Your Business' Independence

Here's a revealing scenario to consider: imagine if you had to step away from your business for an entire month. How would your shop fare in your absence? Would operations run smoothly, or would there be hiccups? This exercise isn't meant to induce anxiety but rather to gauge the independence and resilience of your infrastructure. It's an indicator of how well your business can adapt to expansion, where your attention will inevitably be divided. Don’t just imagine it, put it on your calendar now!

Building a Brand Beyond Borders

When you think of expanding, it's not just about acquiring a new location and replicating your services. It's about transplanting the very essence, the soul, of your brand into a new environment. Ask yourself: Is there a robust mechanism in place to onboard and train new members? Do they know and can they teach the core values that set your brand apart? The culture you've fostered in your original shop needs to spread to every new venture.

Innovation and Adaptability

The auto repair industry, like any other, evolves continuously. It's essential to self-evaluate. Are you adaptable? Are you keen on adopting the latest in technologies like a robust CRM and DVI platform? What about sales and leadership training for yourself and your team? Or are you content with your so-called ‘time-tested methods’? Your readiness and enthusiasm for innovation can dictate the success trajectory of your expanded operations.

Unraveling the 'Why'

Lastly, and perhaps most pivotally, delve deep into your motivations. Every entrepreneur has a 'Why', an intrinsic drive that propels them forward. Is your 'Why' clear to you? Is it the thrill of new challenges, the vision of a growing business empire or perhaps an innate passion for our industry? Recognizing this 'Why' will be your compass in the unpredictable journey of expansion.

A Final Thought

As we embark on this series together, I promise you a blend of practical insights, personal stories and shared experiences from those I've had the privilege of mentoring. Business expansion is more than just numbers; it's a narrative of growth, challenges, triumphs and learnings. With introspection as our starting point, we set forth on a path to achieve, and perhaps even surpass, the dreams we've envisioned for our auto businesses.

Stay tuned for my next article as we dive deeper into growing our shops! Email me your thoughts at [email protected]

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