8 Important Tools Every Advisor Needs In Their Toolbox

posted on May 20th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

As is true with the top techs, the top service advisors in America need a number of tools in order to succeed. Here’s a list of important tools you can provide to your advisors that will help them maximize sales, customer satisfaction and your shop’s profits.

1. Clearly defined sales goals and car count goals that are broken down into daily goals. Not only will having such goals in place help your advisors stay focused, but they will encourage your advisors to further develop their skills. If you don’t have daily goals in place, how will you and your service advisors know if they were successful that day? Remember, the fact that they were busy doesn’t mean that they were successful. By having daily goals in place, not only will they feel good on the days when they reach the goals, but you will have ample opportunities to congratulate them on their success.

2. Clearly defined systems and policies. As the shop owner, you need to ensure that every vehicle is properly inspected, and that all discoveries are documented, then provided to the advisor. These policies need to be strictly enforced to ensure ongoing compliance.

3. The ability to make decisions. The top advisors in America are empowered by their shop owners to make many decisions on behalf of the company.  Not only does this prevent you as the owner from being drawn into every customer concern, but it shows your advisors that you trust their judgement.

4. A budget for price adjustments. We all know that there are times when your advisors need to provide your customers with legitimate discounts, a rental car, etc., so what the top shop owners do is set a monthly budget of X dollars for each advisor, and they’ll tell their advisors that the money is there to be used in any way they would like to ensure customer satisfaction. Whatever is remaining in each advisor’s budget at the end of the month is then split with the advisor. With this approach it’s your advisors’ money to lose, so they’ll think twice before giving unwarranted discounts, refunds, etc.

5. A pay plan that rewards productivity. Regardless of how their pay plan is designed, your advisors need to be rewarded for three things: The sales they are able to generate, the gross profit margins they are able to maintain, and happy customers. Remember, any behavior that isn’t rewarded will cease to exist.

6. Ongoing training. The top shop owners in America realize that an advisor’s job is not an easy one, and that advisors need to keep their skills razor-sharp. This is why they not only enroll their advisors in sales courses at least once a year for a “tune-up”, but also help them develop their other job-related skills by enrolling them in management courses, and asking them to read books like How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, a great book on people skills.

7. A quality control system that includes customer follow-up calls and the recording of sales calls. Advisors can only learn what they are doing right and where they need to improve by listening to recordings of their sales presentations, and hearing what their customers have to say about their services.

8. Appropriate leadership. Simply put, advisors need employers that make a point of catching their employees doing things right and acknowledging their behavior, that constantly reinforce ethics, and that create a culture of never putting money ahead of people.

For additional help creating superstar service advisors, learn more about Elite’s Masters service advisor training course.

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Don’t Wait Until You Lose a Tech

posted on May 13th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Perhaps the worst time to look to hire a technician, is when we lose one.  At that point we go into “Crisis Hire” mode.  We most often settle for anyone, rather than taking our time to find the right person.

We need to take a lesson from large organizations and sports teams. Their strategy? They continually recruit.  I did not say continually hire, I said continually recruit.

You need to be on the lookout for the talent in your community. Find where the best of the best are working now. Reach out to these people, get to know them.

Make it part of your overall business plan to stay in touch with trade schools, the military for returning vets, and any other employee agencies.  Identify key people in your local auto community and ask questions: Where are the best technicians? How can I contact this person?  Who knows this superstar tech?

In other words, allocate a significant portion of your time to recruiting. Your goal is to have people in the pipeline, so when you lose an employee, you have a list of contacts to reach out to.

In the book “Work Rules”, a book about Google and its employee strategies, the author states that Google follows this rule: “Hiring is the single most important activity in any organization”

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

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A Shop Owner’s Guide to Staying Ahead of the Competition

posted on May 6th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

Not long ago it was easy to beat your competitors. All that you needed was more equipment, a healthy advertising budget and the ability to fix cars right the first time. Well, those days are long gone. Today, cars are being built better and require service less frequently, customers have more choices than ever before, and they are able to do a tremendous amount of research online before they even pick up the phone. Additionally, this industry is experiencing an extraordinary shortage of qualified technicians, and profit margins are being squeezed every day. To top it all off, the dealerships have their eye on one thing and one thing alone: Your customers. So the question is, during these challenging times, how can you stay ahead of your competitors?

First and foremost, you will need to have clearly defined goals in place, and you’ll need to create a plan for reaching those goals. The right goals and an action plan will enable you to make far better business decisions, and improve productivity and profits.

Secondly, your success will be predicated on the caliber of people that work with you. We can never forget that whenever someone buys a product, they will always remember the product, but when they buy a service, they will always remember the people that provided the service. How will the top shop owners find and hire the superstars in the coming years? In addition to having an apprentice program in place, they will create a recruiting plan that contains a well-designed compensation program, and they will market to the superstars in the same way they market to their retail customers.

The top operators will also create marketing plans that target their ideal customers, and they will use the right media. The successful shop owners will be brand builders rather than price promoters, and they will invest at least 4-6% of their total sales into their marketing programs. They will recognize that the Y Gens and Millennials hold the key to their future, so will be investing a part of their marketing budget into campaigns specifically directed towards them.

The successful shop owners in the coming years will constantly analyze every component of their customer process with their crew, and they’ll create policies and procedures that better ensure extraordinary service at every customer touch-point. They will also embrace the philosophy that keeping their superstars happy, motivated, well-trained and productive will depend on their employee management skills. They’ll realize that their brand is their people, so to further develop those skills they will invest in books and courses that are directed towards employee management.

And lastly, the top shop owners in the coming years will not only know their numbers, but will know what needs to be done in order to reach each and every one of their performance goals.

In conclusion, if you want to build a world-class shop you will need to have clearly defined goals with a written plan, and will need to know your numbers. You will also need to have a team of superstars, and a well-designed marketing plan that brings in your ideal customers. If you do these things, if you never forget the importance of the people that work with you, and if you live by the  principle that you will never put money ahead of people, then you will not only stay well ahead of your competitors, but you will have a far more profitable, successful business in the coming years.

For additional help staying ahead of your competitors in the years to come, learn more about how you can receive 1-on-1 coaching from one of the top shop owners in America through the Elite Coaching Program.

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When Hiring, Look for Character, Talent and Then Skill

posted on April 28th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Years back, when I was looking to hire a technician, my first criteria would be the person’s skill level.  In fact, I mainly based my decision on the tech’s skill, ASE certifications, and experience.  The result? High turnover.

Now, I look for character first. Is the person I am looking to hire the right fit for my shop?  Does this person have the right character?   After that trait I look for talent. With the right character and talent, we can teach them the skills.

Obviously the tech needs to be technically proficient, but hiring people based on skill alone is not the recipe for a long-term profitable business plan.

The most important component when hiring is ensuring that the person you are hiring is the right fit for your company.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

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Think Your Business Isn’t Going to Change Dramatically?

posted on April 22nd, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

All great companies have one thing in common: They realize industries and consumers need change, so they follow their customers. Apple provides a great example. As we all know, when Apple started they were a computer company, but when that industry began to decline, Steve Jobs was able to see that his targeted customers were investing in music. This is why Apple Computers became Apple Inc., is why they reached a point a few years ago where their online music sales exceeded their computer sales, and is why today they are in the mobile device business. In essence, they transformed to meet the needs of their customers. IBM and American Express are other great examples.

Your business is no different. Over the decades the auto repair business transformed from a “we fix anything” business that rebuilt every component into an industry that installed remanufactured parts. We then transformed from a repair industry into a maintenance-driven industry. If you bring hybrids and electric cars into our discussion, the change becomes even more dramatic. As this progression continues you will be seeing your customers, and repairing their cars, far less often. Interestingly enough, most shop owners are not too concerned because they simply believe that all they will need to do is ratchet up their marketing efforts to bring in more new customers. Unfortunately, there is typically a finite number of potential customers in any marketing community, and your competitors have the same plan in place. So rather than fighting the inevitable changes, or doing business the same old way until your business is out of business, here are my recommendations…

First of all, shop owners typically diversify for one of two reasons: They do it out of desperation, or out of inspiration. The ones that do it out of desperation are the ones that take the leap when they are struggling to pay their bills, and are scrambling to find any way to bring in a few more dollars. The ones that diversify out of inspiration are the ones that see the change in the wind, and take the necessary steps to ensure their continued success.

However, there is no one road that is right for everyone. If you are in a specialty business such as transmissions or suspension, you may want to consider transitioning into general repair. You already have the most important part, which is your customer base. Another option is to consider the exploding world of infotainment. As I am sure you will agree, if you walk into any new car showroom today you will find that just about every new vehicle has a wealth of entertainment features, along with navigational and communication features. So the question is: Who is going to not only be servicing these components, but who is going to be offering upgrades, and handling the installation of the newest state-of-the-art components that the drivers of older vehicles would love to have? Someone is going to do it, so why not you?

I would like to leave you with a story that has a powerful message. It is argued that at one time Bill Gates said, “If Santa Fe Railroad would have realized that they were in the transportation business, and not the railroad business, today we would have Santa Fe Airlines.” This is a message we should all take to heart, because the one thing that is certain is that our industry is going to go through many more dramatic changes. The first to embrace this reality, and make the necessary changes, will become the industry leaders for decades to come.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Program

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Success Isn’t Determined By Tools, Equipment or Ability

posted on April 15th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Before you call me crazy, please read on.

Your tools, your technical ability and your equipment are all components of your business, and of course you cannot conduct business without these components, but the real key to your success is who you hire and how you manage your employees.

In addition, morale has more to do with worker engagement than any other element of your business. And engaged workers are more productive, have less comebacks, take less sick days and contribute to the growth of your business.

We all know one undeniable fact: Happy workers create happy customers, and happy customers put you in a position to win.

Think of it this way; what wins baseball games?  Is the stadium? Is it the training equipment? The beautifully manicured field?  The baseball bat? The baseball?  These are elements of the game, but it’s the quality of the players, combined with their drive to be the best, that ultimately determines success and wins games.

Hire the best talent, work real hard to keep morale up, and do all you can to bring out the best in all your employees. Do this, and the rest will fall into place.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

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The Most Powerful Lady in the Auto Repair Industry

posted on April 8th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

For an industry that was once dominated by males, I am pleased to have watched us evolve to a point where today we have female technicians, service advisors, managers and shop owners that are superstars in every regard. Without question, there are many powerful ladies throughout our industry that are role models for all of us. When I think of all those amazing women and the impact they have had on our industry, I can’t help but also think of a gal that’s not only changing our entire industry at the speed of light, but that has the power to take you and your shop to the top, as well put you out of business. At Elite we have a name for this amazing lady: We call her Mother Google.

As you well know, the people in your community no longer have their auto repair choices limited to a few printed pages in a worn out directory. With just a click of a mouse, Mother Google, who’s on call 24/7, will now provide that potential customer with information on dozens of auto repair facilities. The only limits in place are self-imposed by the consumer: ­­How many pages of results they’re willing to search through, and how far they are willing to travel. So in essence, the consumer’s options are endless.

Mother Google will also help that potential customer decide which shops they should call by scouring each website for relevant information, and then presenting the sites that she feels to be the best choices on the first page of her search results. Even though you could argue her job would then be done, she doesn’t stop there, as she will look at every word on those sites, and she will rank her search results in an order that she feels best serves the consumer. In essence, she’ll tell your potential customer, “This shop is more likely to be able to fulfill your needs than the one I’m showing you below it.” So if you’re not one of Mother Google’s top recommendations for your targeted keywords, you need to talk with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert about how you can move your website up in her rankings. Please keep in mind that it can be very difficult to evaluate the capabilities of one SEO expert versus the next, so I’d encourage you to ask other business owners you know if they can recommend an SEO expert that has delivered results. In today’s day and age there are many ways you can get your phone to ring, yet as I am sure you will agree, Mother Google will play an incredibly important, if not leading role.

Beyond search results, through Google+ reviews she is now providing a platform that enables people in your community to share their experiences and overall opinions about your shop. The day is rapidly approaching when there will be no secrets due to her diligence and the insights to your customer experience that she makes accessible to the world. So while providing an amazing customer experience has always been critical to a shop’s success, it’s never been more important to ensure you offer a customer experience that’s second to none.

And what about pricing? Not too many years ago it was a task for customers to look for price comparisons, but today she has reinvented that entire process. Not only are there companies like RepairPal that provide community-based price comparisons, but Mother Google will find prices and availability for your customers instantaneously. You can rest assured that when you call a customer with a service recommendation, and they tell you they’ll call you right back, in most cases they’re reaching out to their friend Mother Google for more information they can use to make their decision.

Does Mother Google have weaknesses? Of course. For example, she typically provides more confusion and misdiagnosis than accurate results when it comes to providing diagnostic information. But when you judge her by her strengths, and you consider that she is available to each and every consumer at a moment’s notice, you will then see that she is not only the best friend of today’s consumer, but like many women today she is revolutionizing our entire industry, and she is absolutely critical to the success of your shop in the coming years.

In closing, I hope you consider that people in your community now have far more choices than ever before, pricing transparency is becoming more the rule than the exception, and you have to be at the top of your game if you want Mother Google to recommend you. There’s a good chance those that fail to appreciate her power, that don’t offer an amazing experience for their customers to share and that are unable to get onto page one of her recommendations will ultimately find themselves in front of a bankruptcy judge. But if you stay sharp, and never put money ahead of people, Mother Google will help you take your shop to the top.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business in the years to come, learn more about how you can receive 1-on-1 coaching from one of the top shop owners in America through the Elite Coaching Program.

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Taking the Mystery out of Labor Inventory

posted on April 1st, 2015 posted by Jim Murphy of Elite Worldwide

Many colleagues in the industry seem to be confused about managing labor inventory in their shops.  Much of the confusion comes from the terminology thrown around the industry and because the definitions for these terms vary (no disrespect to my peers).  I would like to clarify, from my perspective, what I believe to be the proper terminology and formulas for managing labor inventory.

Let’s start with the basics:

- Available Time – This is number of hours your technicians are physically in the building, ready to work on vehicles.

- Actual Time – This is the time measured when a technician is working on a vehicle and producing billable labor.

- Sold Time – This is the time the customer is charged for the specific time the technician produced from an assignment or labor operation.

From this information we can measure certain things as managers of our businesses, and create changes for improvements.  The following are the KPI’s that I feel are most important to pay attention to when measuring your technicians:

- Technician Productivity – The Actual Time ÷ Available Time x 100 = the Technician Productivity percentage.  Each technician should achieve 90%.

- Technician Efficiency – The Sold Time ÷ Actual Time x 100 = the Technician Efficiency percentage. Each technician should achieve 125% unless they are a general service tech that is predominately producing low sold hour operations, such as oil changes.

The next items will help you effectively measure the business performance, as it relates to labor inventory:

- Labor Sales Per Billed Hour – This is measured by the Total Labor Sales for the month ÷ Total Sold Time produced by the technicians. It is important to monitor your average labor sales per billed hour compared to your door labor rate to determine if your front counter staff is doing a good job of not letting the labor rate erode due to discounting or selling work below your posted rate.

- Effective Labor Rate – This is one of the most confusing terms in the industry. Effective Labor Rate deals with analyzing your available time and your labor rate.  The formula is Total Labor Sales for the month ÷ your Total Available Time. The reason for this formula is to help you determine how effective your staff is at selling your technician’s entire labor inventory.  If we have 3 technicians in the building for 8 hours per day and for 21 days in a month, we will have 504 Available Hours. If we divide that into our labor sales we will get a comparison to our labor rate. If the staff sells and produces more flat rate hours in a month and those hours are sold for a better Labor Sales Per Billed Hour, then you will have a more effective (or more profitable) Effective Labor Rate.

Remember, at the end of each day what we have to sell is labor, as parts sales naturally come along with the sale of labor. It is very important to manage that labor inventory because it is a perishable commodity that spoils daily and cannot be replaced. The shop owners that I work with that do a great job of managing labor inventory, controlling margins, and controlling expenses tend to be some of the most profitable shop owners I coach.

This article was brought to you by Jim Murphy. Jim is the leader of Elite’s prestigious Pro Service, a 20 group-like community comprised of 90 of the top shop owners in  North America.

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Hit Any Potholes Recently?

posted on March 25th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Driving to work yesterday was like driving through a road that was recently shelled with bombs. Because of the severe winter, potholes and damaged roads are a big problem. But let’s face it, there are a lot of other people that are driving on these roads, and a lot of them are our customers.  In fact, unless someone’s car was parked for the last 2 months, just about every car will need to get inspected for winter-related damage.

Now, I don’t want to sound like Dr. Evil and wish bad things on anyone, but the fact is that we are already seeing pothole-related damaged cars.  Damaged tires, wheels, suspension, steering, wheel alignment and other damage.

If your shop suffered through 2 rotten months of bad weather, do yourself and your customers a favor and inspect each car for winter-related damage.  The opportunities are there.

You owe it to your customers and to your bottom line!

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program

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This Announcement Will Impact the Future of Your Shop

posted on March 18th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

I wanted to share the news that last week GM decided that their 2016 Chevrolet & GMC vehicles will only carry a 60,000 mile warranty on the powertrain. This is down from the 100,000 mile warranties that they have been providing for nearly a decade. This reduction in coverage will provide our industry with many more sales opportunities, and as we all know, if a customer has a remanufactured engine or transmission installed in a vehicle with 60,000-100,000 miles, there is a far greater probability they will authorize ensuing services and repairs. Although this will not have an impact on our industry until those 2016 vehicles come out of warranty, it is certainly promising, and it will better ensure your success in the coming years.

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