Hoping to Grow? It’s Time to be Intentional

Jan. 26, 2023

Tips and advice for managing the budget in order to grow and scale your shop.

Michael Mole, the general manager of Integrity Auto Repair in Savannah, Georgia, likens his shop’s philosophy on growth to a religious fervor.  

It starts with belief.  

“If you don’t have the belief right first, then all the best practices in the world are irrelevant,” Mole says.  

Mole has belief in Integrity Auto Repair—he says it can be among the best small businesses in town. That’s why Integrity Auto Repair is intentional about prioritizing growth when making budgetary decisions.  

That’s also why Integrity Auto Repair is in the process of “significant expansion,” adding eight bays to one of its two locations.  

“If you want to be growing, then it has to be what your focus is,” Mole says.  

It starts with that philosophical standpoint—Integrity Auto Repair’s focus on growth makes a direct impact on the company’s budgetary decisions. 

That philosophy is the foundation, and once that foundation is set, there are a number of other aspects to consider when managing a budget for a shop that’s growing and scaling.  

Here are some tips and advice from Mole:  

Make Sacrifices  

Mole says a lot of owners and managers talk a good game about wanting to grow and hire more people, but that they’re not putting their money where their mouth is.  

Mole says he and his business partner Craig Spinks, Integrity Auto Repair’s store manager, pay themselves modest salaries below market value in order to reinvest money back into their business.  

“Our vision requires a certain level of focus and sacrifices that we’re willing to make because we think that we can be not just one of the best auto repair shops in Savannah, but we think we can be one of the great small businesses in our town,” Mole says.  

Mole’s philosophy is that by reinvesting that money now, it will make Integrity Auto Repair well-positioned for success in the future.  

Have Patience  

By placing a focus on growth, Mole is making an investment in Integrity Auto Repair. Most of the time, investments take time to pay off. After all, they’re not running a get-rich-quick scheme.  

“As we’re looking at the investment property standpoint, and even from a new hire standpoint, they don’t have to pay off immediately,” Mole says.  

Mole notes that some of the investments they’re making are meant to make their business more well-positioned and more dominant five to seven years down the line.  

Keep Cash on Hand 

While it’s important to take calculated risks and make your budgetary decisions from a philosophy centered on growth, you can’t bet the whole farm. Mole notes the importance of keeping a certain amount of cash on hand based on your fixed costs. He says at Integrity Auto Repair, they’ve never gotten below a month’s worth of payroll.  

“If a hurricane hits, I can shut down for a month, bargain with all my landlords and power and all that kind of stuff,” Mole says. “But you can’t bargain with your people.”  

Mole says he’ll sooner not pay himself before he gets below that number. However, he says the cash on hand number can be different for every shop, and it also depends on each owner and manager’s risk tolerance. It can also go up and down as time goes on.  

But once that number is set, it provides a solid base for taking future risks. 

What’s Your Demand?  

When directly making decisions about growth and expansion, it’s crucial to pay attention to a key metric: demand.  

Mole says when making those decisions, like adding bays, they’re looking at how many phone calls they’re getting and how many clicks are coming in on the website. They’re trying to figure out what their demand is, and whether they’re capturing and maximizing it.  

And if they’re booked out two weeks in advance, that’s a problem.  

“I hate that,” Mole says. “I get so antsy … because that means that (the customer) is gonna go somewhere else, and they’re going to have a worse experience than they do (with) us.”  

Mole says when they’re booked out more than two or three days in advance, it’s time to start looking at adding someone.  

Not Perfect Timing  

While we may hope that everything in our lives will line up perfectly, falling into place at the right time, more often than not, that isn’t the case. The same is true when looking to hire. 

However, if you’re building towards growth and managing your budget accordingly, then there are times when you should make a calculated risk and hire the right person at the wrong time.  

“The help you need is not going to come usually at the precise time you need it. It’s going to come either too early or too late,” Mole says. “You got to be ready to snap it up when those people are available.”  

That’s particularly true in the current job market, where unemployment is low and experienced workers are in high demand and finding jobs extremely quickly. Another step in being proactive in hiring is courting workers, something Mole likened to recruiting in college football. He says as a hiring manager you need to be active, willing to go out to dinners with good techs in your area and gauge if they’re a good fit and would be interested in coming aboard.  

“If you aren’t willing to recruit your butt off, then you’re not going to steal good talent away from places where they’re comfortable,” Mole says.  

And if you’re not approaching your budgetary decisions with an intentional focus to grow your business, you’re never going to grow.  

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