Evo to evolution: Performance 3000

Aftermarket heads way out west to find out what gets the pistons pumping at Yeovil-based Performance 3000

Published:  01 February, 2020

When Aftermarket visits a garage, we usually find ourselves in a polished, visit-ready environment. At the very least, they will shove the clutter in a corner until we’re gone. That made it extra refreshing to poke our heads inside the door of Performance 3000 in Yeovil. Forget oily rags, this was a genuine building site, and we couldn’t be happier to be amidst the meat of a “what we will be doing to our business” anecdote.

Co-Founder Mike Randino talked us through the plan: “We have a warehouse that is now empty and is now in the midst of being knocked down as we speak, ready for moving our two commercial ramps. This will give us the space for putting in our new Class 7 MOT bay. To the right we have another warehouse, this was originally full of performance suspension, exhausts, air filters etc.  When we finish, we will have three commercial four-poster ramps, and two two-poster ramps. At the moment, we are only on two four-posters and two two-posters.

“James Trott, my business partner, is actually an engineer and we have a machine shop. That is now located in our main warehouse. This was just done during lockdown, I had seven weeks to list lots on EBay. This produced a nice income to help us through the period, and released a lot of space.Once we have got our MOT bay in, and all our ramps in there in the correct place, we can then start working on moving forward.”

The change is part of an ongoing evolution for a business that was previously a mainstay of the performance market: “I used to be well into performance vehicles. We have come away from that market now.”  

As Mike said, the direction of travel has changed, and with it, the typical customer. No more cash-rich boy racers then?
“Today, we have more of the professional middle-aged customer,” he confirmed. “This is a total change. I believe my experiences in the performance market helped me to get to the stage where I am now though. That is where I learned about customer service, and I find it natural.

“Back in 2004 when I started the business, the internet still wasn’t as massive as it is now. As a result, the performance market was all about socialising, working people, getting into groups, being friendly. This was all customer service. Even if they were not buying anything, you still had to give the professional approach. When they wanted to spend £5,000 on a performance engine rebuild, they remembered you.

We wondered if some of the professionals coming in are the grown-up versions of the earlier customers, who suddenly found the urge to have a really smooth ride, and were willing and able to pay for quality servicing:” There are a few, “ mused Mike, “but not as many as you would expect. I would say it is a whole new customer base really. There are a few exceptions where they have matured and got better jobs and bought a better car and no longer want a noisy exhaust, they want a comfortable ride, and they have come out of that scene as well. Our labour rate has increased quite a bit compared with when I originally started in 2004.”

Spooling back before Mike and the guys went all respectable, and before they went all noisy, we wondered how the garage got started in the first place: “I began my apprenticeship at one garage,” revealed Mike, and nine years later I bought it with my close friend James. That’s it – that’s my history. I have worked at one place, and then I bought it.

"That’s the dream, surely? Well, while consistency has its advantages, there are a few shortcomings, as Mike explained: “Because I have only ever worked at one garage, in the early stages of ownership, I lacked the wider experience of how a garage can be run. What I had learned here was the only way I knew. Over time, I had to develop.

“When I started employing people with wider experience, who have worked at five or six different places, I found some of the things I had missed out on. Now I have gained that experience, but it has taken me a long time to get to that position.”
On the other hand, this has meant Mike has learned the value of what people can bring to the table: “I have had staff come and go, but there are still things in place that they introduced. For example, our General Manager Tim used to work at Euro Car Parts, and many other factors before. He makes sure we are ordering the right parts first time.”

Top Garage
In 2019, Performance 3000 was a Top Garage finalist, and the business is on course for another great showing in 2020/2021 too. We wondered what Mike had gained from taking part:

“It was a great experience. Apart from the competition as a challenge in itself, you get to know the top people in our industry. That is what has changed it for me. Plus, afterwards at the Awards Evening afterwards it was nice to be able to have a chat with the judges.
“I have subsequently joined the Automotive Support Group on Facebook. When you look at the problems everyone else is having, and everyone has problems of one sort or another, you realise that your problems are not that bad.”

Mike has been getting himself out there, in a professional sense:  “It has only been in the last three years that I have been networking and socialising more with the top people in the industry. Before this I was more focused on just getting on with my own stuff and running my garage my way.

“I knew I needed some training, but you need the money too and so you just keep going. Then, after the 2019 Top Garage final and David Massey giving me the chewing out of my life about not knowing the relevant figures, I have done all four of Andy Savva’s Garage Inspector training courses. I have also completed a Diploma in Management and Leadership from Plymouth University, this also covered business marketing. Since then all I want to do is marketing now, but my workshop is not ready, and I am chomping at the bit.

“Looking at it now, I am surprised at how basic some of it is. Once I got involved in it, I was asking myself ‘why didn’t I think of that before?’ I am amazed at how easy and achievable some of it is.

This rolled into our next question, which was around plans for the future, which for Performance 3000 will be lining up the workshop and refocusing on marketing by the sound of it:

“We are working on attacking the main dealers,” confirmed Mike. “When you start looking around the area, why was I just going after the main dealer around the corner from me? If you have a Mercedes van, the nearest Mercedes-Benz CV outlet is 35 miles away from here. That is the same with Peugeot and Citroen vans. Even with Mercedes-Benz on the car side, the nearest dealer is 25 miles away. Tim is getting all the pricing ready so we can go after their customer base. It will be all genuine parts, and we will be promoting the fact that this is our approach. It is already working for us, and we haven’t done any marketing on it yet.”

Online is his weapon of choice in the battle: “Trustpilot reviews make such a difference. You can just direct a customer; ‘Read about us on Trustpilot sir’. It sells itself. This makes the marketing all the more easier, when you have something to back it up as well.”
Looking back and ahead, Mike added: “We have really come out of the performance market. I have even sold my rolling road. Now, is all about servicing, MOTs and repairs. It is definitely the way to go. When you have been in the performance market, you realise how easy a standard garage actually is, compared with one-off rebuilds. That stuff gives you headaches. They say customers can be hard work, but not if things are explained to them correctly and they are dealt with in the right way. Communication is key to everything.”  

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