Many days I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I get to work with intelligent, hardworking auto shop owners who are always trying to improve their businesses. They take training, they hire business coaches, they join associations –in short, they are progressive. These people make my job very rewarding.
Over time, I have become connected with hundreds of shop owners, through social media networks and by those that follow my articles and webinars. Many I have met in person – I currently work with close to 100 – but many we only know through social media. The challenge is that for the most part we are not attracting a lot of new shop owners to this network.
I know it does happen, but it just seems too slow for the number of owners that are struggling with lack of profit and high stress levels.
There are estimates out there that only 20% of shop owners have ever taken management training, hired a business coach, or joined a performance/mastermind group. I have many theories as to why this is, but here are some typical examples.
Over the last few years, I have been invited to join several Facebook groups for or by shop owners, usually by someone in my network. In many cases, the administrator of the group is very clear that I am not allowed to “sell” my services, but I am free to be part of the group. I am fine with that. My purpose in joining the group is to contribute to the discussion, and maybe even help a shop or two, free of charge. I truly believe that giving back helps me grow my business; I don’t need to sell anything.
Funny thing is, as soon as I make a comment, or suggestion, or answer a question in some of these groups, I get kicked out. I get told that the group is for shop owners only and not for coaches to sell their wares. Feels weird to get kicked out of something that I was invited to. The key feature of two of the “shop owner only” groups that I was kicked out of was the mutual moaning and whining about cheap customers and crappy vehicles they work on. In addition to that there were a lot of posts asking for free or cheap pieces of equipment, software, and advice. No wonder they were complaining about cheap customers and crappy cars. They have attracted who they are.
We do attract a few new very lovely people to work with on a regular basis, but here are some of the other responses I get when someone first contacts me. Usually in response to one of my articles, webinars, or other social media posts, a shop owner will reach out to me, typically through email. In a recent one of these, the owner said, “Call me, I have some questions, I need help!” No “how are you,” no details, no effort to type out the questions, assuming I will drop everything to call him. Another one typed an email with no punctuation, no effort at spelling, and a similar message. And I finally tried to call another after a short email exchange and their voicemail box had been disconnected.
When I do get through on the phone, I get a “hello,” maybe a “Can I help you?”, but usually the tone of the person answering the phone is “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” No wonder their business is in trouble – who would want to bring a car there if that is how the phone is answered?
The most common request is, “Can you help me get more car count?” Of all the shops I have worked with, barely 10% have a car count problem. Most shops asking this question are not doing well at making every car count. Here are some of the issues I see: They don’t do very good inspections, they don’t charge properly for their work, their parts margins are too low, or they don’t have enough service advisors. We call these breakdown, activity-based shops. And here is the kicker response I get, once I try to help. “I’ve taken all kinds of training, your stuff sounds just like the other guys, this stuff does not work in my town, don’t you have anything else?” Or my favourite: “I don’t want someone else to tell me how to run my business!” I’m confused; then why did you call me?
To be fair, I am sure some of these shop owners have experienced some poor training, or been subject to a “hard sell” presentation by a trainer, at some time.
But here are some things that are universal in any town:
Have a phone that works. Have voicemail that works. Answer in a friendly manner, using your name. Smile, on the phone and in person. And when communicating in text or email, spend the time to punctuate and spell. Have a website and a company Facebook page, and post regularly. Have staff meetings, have toolbox meetings, perform employee reviews.
Every town has people in it with money and good cars that are looking for a professional shop to have a relationship with. Just like every town has a shop who wants training, knows they need training, but they’re afraid to reach out, because they don’t know how to ask.
Those of you regulars in my circle: please invite one shop owner you know that needs help to the coach or training company you use.
They may take convincing, but it will be worth the effort because we all benefit when shops are run the right way.