How’s the health of your business?

Is your business idling, accelerating or stuck on the hard shoulder?

Published:  10 December, 2018

In my line of work I meet a lot of great garage owners. Dedicated men and women,  all committed to repairing their clients’ vehicles to a high standard. They’re intelligent, hard working and persistent people many of which have been in business a good few years.
    
With all of this in their favour you would imagine that they would be spending their free time pondering the length of their next yacht, or whether they should winter in the Alps or Rockies? Unfortunately this is often not the case, and it’s not uncommon to be asked “How can I increase the financial success of my business?”
    
We all know that an unfeasibly large income doesn’t buy you happiness, far from it. But I do know this. A healthy business is a profitable business, and a profitable business not only buys you less stress, it buys you choices and options on how you spend your days.  Would you like more options? If so read on.
    
Back to that question. “How can my business be more financially successful?”
    
‘More’ is a dangerous word and it’s often not attained. A better question would be “What is the maximum revenue, profit and personal income that my business can generate in its current form?”
    
It is something that a lot of business owners haven’t contemplated. But you really should. Only when you know this, can you decide if your current business is performing at it’s best, and is the vehicle to get you to where you need be financially.
    
The good news is you don’t need to be an accountant to calculate your maximum net labour revenue. Just using the available hours to sell your labour rate and the number of technicians your employ will get you a long way in the right direction. Take an average hourly rate of £55. It could probably be higher but we’ll come to that in due course. This will yield a maximum net income of £422,000 a year from labour sales with four technicians. If your garage is reaching that level of income (£105,000 per tech) at that labour rate, then you should give yourself a rather large pat on the back. Nice one! Not reaching that? That’s incredibly common. In fact if your garage has a net labour revenue of around 54% of your maximum, then you’ll not be alone as that’s the average for a business when we start to work with them on our business development programme.
    
Why so low? Why are business owners leaving £50,000 per technician on the table? There are a plethora of reasons but I find the most common answer is one of focus. They’re just focusing on the wrong things.
    
It’s natural. In fact it’s perfectly understandable why a garage owner focuses on the technical aspect of their business. You know that if you don’t fix the cars in a timely manner to a high standard that your income will suffer and your customers won’t return. So of course you’re interested in technical tools and the latest workshop wizardry that’ll enable you to complete a job that you couldn’t without it, or the same job in less time. But let’s be honest (we’re friends after all) is this laser-like focus healthy? Are you too focused on the next tool, the next gadget, the next BIG THING to the cost of your business? All too often I find that a garage owner is and it’s costing you.

If you’re not measuring it…
All that is required is a change of focus. The success of your business is in the data, and if you would like to claw back that £50k per technician (or at least a large chunk of it) then learning how to measure the right data and use it to your advantage is essential. After all: If you’re not measuring it, you can’t improve it.
 
So, you want to increase your income and profit, what should you be measuring? Here are a couple of metrics to get you started.

  •     Technician efficiency – Are your techs completing the work in the allotted time?
  •     Technician utilisation – Are you selling and using all their available hours at work?
  •     The good news here is that you don’t need complex systems or expensive software to see some amazing gains in both these areas. With the aid of a piece of A4 paper (not sexy but very effective) we help many garage owners raise their net revenue north of 85%. This means that for no additional cost each tech will earn your business an additional £32,000 a year. What’s not to like about that? Not a lot!


Can I have ‘more’ sir?
Still not enough? OK, I get it. You’re a business owner and naturally you want to make the most out of your investment. Where do you put your focus next?
    
How about increasing your labour rate? What do you mean “our customers won’t pay it”?
    
I often ask how busy a garage is, and I’m often proudly told that they’re booked up two weeks in advance. “Well done” I retort. I then ask what their hourly rate is.  “£50” comes the reply, sometimes followed by “we’re the dearest in our area.” Why don’t you raise it to £60, or £65, or £75? I ask You know what’s coming don’t you? “Our customers won’t pay it”...
    
How do you know they won’t pay it? What data do you have? The “they won’t pay it” card is often subjective. Here’s a question for you. How many times are you asked what your labour rate is? Not how much a repair costs, but how much your labour rate is? I’d guess not often. As an experiment ask your front of house team to make a note of how often they’re asked, measure it for a month and let me know how you get on.
    
Raising your labour rate by £10 will increase revenue (at 85%) by another £16,000 per technician each year. Certainly not to be sniffed at.
    
Don’t get me wrong. I understand your hesitation. Raising your labour rate should be carried out with a systematic plan, and the first part being an increase in the number of customers, or more accurately, more of the right kind of customer.
    
If you’re in business then you’re in sales, and to make sales you need to find customers. That’s right. FIND customers. The whole “build it and they will come” business model just won’t cut it in today’s world, so you’ll need to become a competent marketer to ensure you have a steady stream of the right kind of client through your doors.

Fish where the fish are!
Marketing should be considered to be a long term investment in your business that is carried out continually and increased when required. Definitely not a reactive “I’m short on work let’s do some flyers” take on this critical element of your business.
    
Like every critical aspect of your business it’s a skill, and once honed will deliver consistent results. Just like angling though you need the right bait for the right fish, and this is where it often goes wrong for a garage owner. They can’t decide which fish they’re aiming to land.
    
A carefully crafted marketing campaign will have a very clear picture of the customer. With the customer at the forefront of your mind, a sales message can be crafted that ticks all of the customer’s boxes and leads to them lifting the phone and making a booking. Anything other than a planned campaign is akin to trying to catch tuna with maggots. You may get one or two that leap into the boat but that success will not be repeatable long term.
    
At the top of this article I asked “Is your business idling, accelerating or stuck on the hard shoulder?” and it’s an important question. Like the saying goes:  If you’re not moving forwards then you’re going backwards. And it’s with this in mind that I urge you to consider what’ll you do to change this. It doesn’t take much to change. Just one step in the right direction followed by another and another can have an unbelievable impact on your business. Regularly monitoring and improving the key metrics mentioned along with finding new clients is a pretty good place to start for many. Doing this for the rest of 2018 could well have you set to accelerate your business into 2019 and beyond!

Related Articles

  • Do you have a business or a profitable job? 

    It’s a favourite of mine, and one we ask of all garage owners that join the Auto iQ business development programme...
      
    “Do you have a business or a profitable job?” Not sure which one you’ve got? Carry on reading.
        
    That question is a doozie and is often met with a few seconds of silence followed by a mixed range of answers whilst the questionee arranges their thoughts. The question is designed to be thought-provoking and entice the garage owner to work through the differences between the options.

    Different sides of the coin
    What’s the difference between a profitable job and a business? It’s a fine line with a BIG difference.
        
    Quite simply if you have a profitable job the income from your work (where you spend your hours in the day) reduces when you’re not doing that work. You might be able to get away from the business for a week or two but longer than that will have you sweating, you’ll wonder if your techs are efficient without you in the building, concerned that your numbers are going south.
        
    A business on the other hand will run without you being there for a significant length of time. Which one do you have?
        
    I can feel the tension elevating as some of you may be rising from you chair ready to give me a good talking-to. Hang fire though and hear me out. In no way am I saying that having a profitable job is wrong. Quite to the contrary. If that’s what you set out to achieve then who am I to say any different? Here’s the deal though. Most garage owners don’t embark on this amazing journey to be ‘self employed,’ they do it to build a bigger and better future for their families. They did it to have more time with their loved ones, the funds to allow this and probably have early retirement thrown in with the business providing the income. Can a profitable job do this or do you need a business that’ll run without you? I think you know the answer.

    What’s the difference?
    So you’ve decided that a business is preferable to a profitable job. But is there really that much of a difference? Let’s take a look. It often comes down to nothing more than a state of mind that separates these different sides of the same coin.
        
    Let’s compare the owner with a profitable job and the business owner. At first glance I’d challenge you to notice the difference. They’ll both have a business that they’re proud of and rightly so, they’ve worked hard to build it. More often than not they’re both skilled technicians, have the respect of their team as well as their customers. Then how can it be that one earns significantly more than the next. One word, focus.
        
    Our owner with the profitable job will be very focused. He’s focused on his own ability to fix the vehicles in his workshop often working shoulder to shoulder with the technicians. The technicians respect him because of his technical ability and work hard alongside him. All admirable qualities.
        
    Our business owner also has a laser-like focus, his target is a little different though. His gaze is firmly fixed on a vision of the business he’s building and knows that long term success requires not only focus but patience. He’s acutely aware of the one thing that will bring freedom and the time with his family (the reason he started this venture) is the team he builds and trains.
        
    This isn’t to say that he doesn’t roll up his sleeves and lead from the front when required, it’s just that his daily focus is on the strategic functions of the business that drive success, rather than the day-to-day tasks that so many owners get caught up in. There’s a huge benefit to this as well. You get to keep the skin on your knuckles.

    Dominant thoughts
    It’s a proven fact that we all move through our day in the direction of most dominant thoughts. What does your typical business owner ponder?. Now I can’t read minds (how cool would that be?) but I do know that these are the questions that need to be answered:

  • The Garage Inspector - Training dates 

    The Garage Inspector a.k.a industry consultant Andy Savva has announced a number of one-day business training course dates.

  • TechMan: GMS 

    TechMan is a garage management system (GMS), designed by an independent garage, specifically for independent garages. Its features expand beyond the boundaries of traditional invoicing software in order to offer improved business processes, all the way from booking a customer in, to ultimately taking final payment on a job. Its focus is to reduce many of the manual admin tasks performed by a workshop business on a daily basis, and assist these garages in improving their bottom line takings. Key features like tablets for technicians, making workshops paperless, clocking on and off jobs to track technician efficiency and seamless audit trails for parts ordering and returns, are offered by the TechMan GMS.

    www.techmangms.com

  • Diamonds in the database  

    One of the biggest mistakes I regularly see within the aftersales garage sector is the constant advertising specifically in local press with ‘come and get me offers’ in order to attract new business. Most of these are by already established business.  
        
    Whether they are large or small, they will rarely measure the actual effectiveness of such campaigns, or analyse the type of customers they are attracting. Indeed very few of these businesses actually understand the ‘diamonds’ that already exist within their database.   
        
    Too little thought is given to how an existing customer may feel if he or she saw a deal that had never been offered to them, despite the fact that they have been loyal customers over a number of years. This could be a real kick in the teeth.

    The perils of transactional marketing
    We’ve all seen the larger corporates like Sky, Vodaphone and, of course the insurance industry to name a few, offering far better terms for new customers than any existing customer can get. In my opinion this form of ‘transactional marketing’ does not work in the independent garage sector as it does not lead to long term loyalty and leads to these potential new customers hopping from one garage deal to the next one.
      
    There is no point trying to attract vast numbers of new customers and provide them with a sub–standard service based on a cheap price which can cause severe damage to the reputation of your business. Another factor is that established customers tend to buy more and are less price sensitive and may be less likely to defect due to price alone.

    Focus on relationship marketing
    You have to focus on ‘relationship marketing’ and yes there are many guises however your own database and the ‘diamonds’ within must always be your starting point. It also builds a platform where the business and its customers are more likely to be able to adapt to each other’s needs and reach agreement quickly and easily. So, by getting emotionally connected and regularly engage with your existing customers will only enhance the trust and loyalty you build with them.
        
    It can be concluded that relationships with customers help a lot growing the revenues/profits for the business. Relationship marketing is all about creating, building and maintaining the relationships with the existing as well as new customers for the long-term profits. Relationship-focused marketing is not something that will happen overnight. It requires a change in thinking and some discipline along the way. Top level management support is needed for introducing such a change.
       
    It's quite obvious that the relationship approach is really successful, because 80% of an organisation's revenues are generated by 20% of the customers. Thus, it is concluded that building strong relationships with customers is very important for any business to grow and relationship marketing is a mantra to long-term success by retaining and delighting the customers.
        
    Simply by reminding customers of their vehicles next MOT due date, or service for that matter is the minimum that any independent garage should be undertaking. Reminding them of specific campaigns such as winter checks or health checks if they are planning long journeys will reinforce that you care about them and keep them safe. By expanding this two-way communication with news of any success stories within the business, such as: charitable fund raising by the business or any employee, training and development that’s undertaken, new services/products introduced will reinforce to your customers that you want to build long term relationships with them.
        
    This strategy will help you constantly create a small influx of new customers through recommendations as opposed to constantly advertising for a field for new ones. You will also greatly improve the chances of providing and exceeding the high level of service they expect, because you will not be swamped with a mass of new customers rushing to take you up on those ‘come and get me offers’. Therefore, this promotes another selection of new clientele that hopefully continue the cycle and improves the long -term implications for continued growth. Your existing customers will become your advocates; your marketing angels.  

    Assets and more diamonds
    Quite simply, customers are the organisation’s most important asset (along with staff too). Without them, it cannot exist. To survive, prosper and possibly expand the business, the independent garage owner must continue to acquire new customers but more importantly must never neglect existing customers or take them for granted.
        
    Constant database management will build-up and trust and personal knowledge with your customers, which create a far more effective customer retention tool, which in turn will find you more diamonds.


    Please visit www.thegarageinspector.com for business training courses and for more business tips.

  • Diamonds in the database  

    One of the biggest mistakes I regularly see within the aftersales garage sector is the constant advertising specifically in local press with ‘come and get me offers’ in order to attract new business. Most of these are by already established business.  
        
    Whether they are large or small, they will rarely measure the actual effectiveness of such campaigns, or analyse the type of customers they are attracting. Indeed very few of these businesses actually understand the ‘diamonds’ that already exist within their database.   
        
    Too little thought is given to how an existing customer may feel if he or she saw a deal that had never been offered to them, despite the fact that they have been loyal customers over a number of years. This could be a real kick in the teeth.

    The perils of transactional marketing
    We’ve all seen the larger corporates like Sky, Vodaphone and, of course the insurance industry to name a few, offering far better terms for new customers than any existing customer can get. In my opinion this form of ‘transactional marketing’ does not work in the independent garage sector as it does not lead to long term loyalty and leads to these potential new customers hopping from one garage deal to the next one.
        
    There is no point trying to attract vast numbers of new customers and provide them with a sub–standard service based on a cheap price which can cause severe damage to the reputation of your business. Another factor is that established customers tend to buy more and are less price sensitive and may be less likely to defect due to price alone.
    Focus on relationship marketing

    You have to focus on ‘relationship marketing’ and yes there are many guises however your own database and the ‘diamonds’ within must always be your starting point. It also builds a platform where the business and its customers are more likely to be able to adapt to each other’s needs and reach agreement quickly and easily. So, by getting emotionally connected and regularly engage with your existing customers will only enhance the trust and loyalty you build with them.
        
    It can be concluded that relationships with customers help a lot growing the revenues/profits for the business. Relationship marketing is all about creating, building and maintaining the relationships with the existing as well as new customers for the long-term profits. Relationship-focused marketing is not something that will happen overnight. It requires a change in thinking and some discipline along the way. Top level management support is needed for introducing such a change.
        
    It's quite obvious that the relationship approach is really successful, because 80% of an organisation's revenues are generated by 20% of the customers. Thus, it is concluded that building strong relationships with customers is very important for any business to grow and relationship marketing is a mantra to long-term success by retaining and delighting the customers.
        
    Simply by reminding customers of their vehicles next MOT due date, or service for that matter is the minimum that any independent garage should be undertaking. Reminding them of specific campaigns such as winter checks or health checks if they are planning long journeys will reinforce that you care about them and keep them safe. By expanding this two-way communication with news of any success stories within the business, such as: charitable fund raising by the business or any employee, training and development that’s undertaken, new services/products introduced will reinforce to your customers that you want to build long term relationships with them.
        
    This strategy will help you constantly create a small influx of new customers through recommendations as opposed to constantly advertising for a field for new ones. You will also greatly improve the chances of providing and exceeding the high level of service they expect, because you will not be swamped with a mass of new customers rushing to take you up on those ‘come and get me offers’. Therefore, this promotes another selection of new clientele that hopefully continue the cycle and improves the long -term implications for continued growth. Your existing customers will become your advocates; your marketing angels.  

    Assets and more diamonds
    Quite simply, customers are the organisation’s most important asset (along with staff too). Without them, it cannot exist. To survive, prosper and possibly expand the business, the independent garage owner must continue to acquire new customers but more importantly must never neglect existing customers or take them for granted.
        
    Constant database management will build-up and trust and personal knowledge with your customers, which create a far more effective customer retention tool, which in turn will find you more diamonds.





Most read content


Search

Sign Up

For the latest news and updates from Aftermarket Magazine.


Poll

Where should the next Automechanika show be held?



Calendar

Click here to submit an event

Facebook


©DFA Media 1999-2019