When it comes to owning an automobile repair service garage, your employees are your greatest asset. As with any business, there are ups and downs. Getting customers in the door, managing employees and turning a profit is hard work.
Fewer people can afford to buy new cars in the present climate, which forces them to hold on to their cars for longer than they normally would. Keeping these cars in the best possible condition is the only way people will be able to achieve a reasonable return on their investment, once they are able to buy another car. As a result, there are more repair jobs than ever and this calls for qualified repair technicians to bring in business.
Don’t be unrealistic about the hours of overtime your staff may expect to be working. If you cannot afford to pay an overtime rate, be upfront and tell them that you are new in business – better rate of pay will be available for those who put in the effort. Don’t be afraid to extend a probation period, if you are unsure about a new employee’s skills and suitability for your repair garage. If the person is no good and is costing you money, then don’t take them on after the initial qualifying period.
You may feel bad, if you like the person on a human-to-human level, but you are running your own business now and you’d like your family to eat and be happy, don’t you?
Customer Service and Supplier Relations
Establishing good relationships with suppliers is as important as building up a good reputation with customers. In an emergency you may rely on them to pull out all the stops for you and deliver an important spare part in person long after their own shop has closed.
Paying within the stipulated credit terms is important, but if you are experiencing temporary cash flow problems, tell them and inform them what you can afford to pay and when. People who run a business will be accommodating up to a point, as long as you are true to your word and stick to whatever you both agreed upon.
Customer service is one area where you can really shine and outdo the competition. You may not be able to beat the established larger repair garages on price, but you will be able to improve on their customer relations. Keeping your customers informed of the progress of their repair job, telling them upfront what repairs will cost and reacting in a professional manner to complaints will be very important.
If you can afford to do so, join a trade association relevant to your industry and your qualifications. Abide by their code of conduct and be sure to let your customers know that you are a member of this trade body. Display their logo alongside your own and use their expertise on staff, customer service and legal matters pertaining to disputes, whenever you have the need. Make the membership fee work for you, attend the occasional networking event or create your own for your area. It is good to hear from other like-minded business people and to learn from their mistakes and successes.
Sourcing Spare Parts
Some large spare parts online companies are advertising for participating suppliers and repair companies. Their schemes are free to join and you will be able to get parts at a discounted price. Establish a good relationship with scrapyard owners in your area; you will need their support and supplies.