Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many of the top shop owners in America, and I have met thousands of owners who are living from day to day, and then unfortunately fail. There have been a lot of discoveries along the way, so I would like to use this article to share what I feel to be the top 7 reasons why most shops fail.
1. Pride. There is no question that pride plays an important role in a shop owner’s success. It causes them to make sure that their shops are clean, vehicles are properly repaired, and the customers are pleased with their services. Certainly there is a place for pride, and all successful shop owners have it, but they also know when to turn it off. They turn it off by admitting to their mistakes, complimenting their employees for doing a job better than they could, and as Henry Ford did, they accept the fact that they can’t build successful businesses on their own. The shop owners who are unwilling to set their pride aside when it’s appropriate to do so, are the owners who inevitably fail.
2. Fear. As with pride, fear also plays an important role in a shop owner’s success. The fear of not doing a good enough job for their customers, the fear of a new competitor moving into town, and the fear that comes along with investing in themselves and their employees, are all shared by the top shop owners in America. What separates them from those who fail is that they face their fears head-on, and they take the proper action to ensure their success. The shop owners who fail are paralyzed by their fears, they take no action, and then their worst nightmares come true. They lose their key employees, their car counts drop, and their profits disappear.
3. Shop owners not realizing what their jobs are. Successful shop owners know that the best way for them to build their companies, and help their customers, is by doing what they should be doing as business owners: Setting the goals of the company, developing the plan, hiring the superstars, bringing out the best in their people, and ensuring the success of the company. Those who own failed shops typically have big hearts, but instead of doing what they should be doing, they are found under the hoods of automobiles, chasing parts and sweeping their parking lots. These are all things that need to be done, but by other people, not by the owners.
4. Not knowing when and how to invest. Most shop owners are quick to invest in equipment, inventory, and in most cases, their marketing programs. Of course these are all investments that certainly need to be made. Beyond these types of investments, the top shop owners constantly invest in their most important assets: Themselves, and the people who work with them. Whenever I look at the financial statements of a struggling or failed auto repair shop, one thing is almost certain: There is a glaring absence of any investment in their own education, and in the training of their staff.
5. The absence of systems. Successful shop owners have clearly defined procedures for answering every phone call, writing up their customers, inspecting vehicles, recommending and selling services, performing services, car delivery and customer follow-up. The shops that fail rarely have systems in place. I have found that their employees typically have their own ways of doing things, which is a guaranteed recipe for failure.
6. Trying to be everything to everybody. Most shop owners try to please everyone, and that’s good. But the top shop owners realize that bringing in the wrong customers will drive down their profitability, erode morale, and wipe out their profits. They know exactly who their ideal customers are, and they target them with all of their advertising programs. The shops that fail are more interested in filling up their service bays than in bringing in the right people. While they are thinking of vehicles in the bays, the top shop owners are thinking of the right people and the right vehicles.
7. The absence of goals. By having clearly defined goals, the top shop owners are passionate about their mission, they make better decisions, they do a far better job of hiring, they have happier customers and they put more money on their bottom line. The shop owners who fail operate their shops from week to week, they run up debt, they burn out, and they ultimately close their doors.
In closing, if you want to build a more profitable, successful business, as I am sure you know, there are no guarantees of success. The one promise that I can make is that business, as with life, is all about choices. If you set your goals, and if you put fear and pride aside, you can build an auto repair shop that is second to none. Others have, so I know you can as well.
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