By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber
For those of you who do not know our backgrounds, both of us were independent jobbers for more than 40 years, second generation in a family business going back to 1955, which grew to five locations.
Simultaneously, for 24 years, we also owned and operated a six-bay service center.
For more than a year now, we have been writing about areas of interest that affect our industry and the way we do business every day. Topics such as identifying the various types of professional customers we sell, to different levels of counterpro product knowledge (or lack thereof), parts inventories and modern methods of inventory analysis, technology available today and how it allows us to run our businesses more efficiently. We also have written about parts store staff and various ways that manufacturers offer incentives to move more of their products out the door.
As jobbers, we face similar issues regarding our independent repair customers. Yes, we have every right to be concerned when our repair customer cannot meet his obligation to us at the end of the month, or when their return rate becomes a burden or when all it seems they want is a cheaper price. Most of the time our knee-jerk reaction is to get tough, after all, we have businesses to run, which includes the need to make a profit and support our families.
But we haven’t written about the challenges facing our independent repair customers. Before we continue, let’s make it clear that there are a good many profitable and excellently run independent repair shops. But let’s be honest: how many times have you said that Joe at Joe’s Auto Repair (not meant to reference any specific Joe’s Auto Repair) is a great tech, but what does he know about running a business?
We have all been guilty of these thoughts.
Running a profitable auto repair shop is complicated. In our role as business consultants and trainers, we find several types of independent business repair shop owners. First, is a great technician who scrapes up enough capital to open his own shop, only to find out he is not prepared for the tough financial decisions that lie ahead. Next is the well-prepared and educated businessperson who is held hostage by his technicians, because he himself is not a technician. Finally, a family business where the business is still being run the way it has always been for the past 30 to 40 years with little or no modernization.
Without the proper business guidance, today’s repair shop owner has a rocky road ahead. Their business will continue to become even more complicated with additional government regulations and additional reporting requirements.
It’s time for automotive jobbers to take the lead in providing the necessary business training to professional repair customers to improve and update their selling skills. Owners and service writers have to learn new methods selling customers in our fast-paced business environment. The same way that we use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure our business success and challenges, it is up to us to assist our repair customers attain, use and understand these tools so their businesses can be successful.
As long as we can remember jobbers have been supplying mechanical training classes to update professional repair customers up on latest vehicle technical innovations. Today, there are hands-on seminars, workshops and individual shop business analysis programs available to the independent shop for extremely reasonable fees that can be hosted by a jobber store. We have found that even the successful shops are looking for that one new idea that will help their business make additional profits.
How do we know this? Our seminars are always full.
Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop.
For more information, go to: www.autobizsolutionsllc.com
or e-mail [email protected]