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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Remember Shop Owners: Everyone is Watching You

posted on March 11th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do as a shop owner is to consistently present yourself with a positive and upbeat attitude. Let’s face it: your life is filled with issues, from bounced checks to complaining customers, to comebacks and employee problems.

But the fact is you are the boss and the leader of your company, and everyone is watching you.  What you do and what you say is seen and heard by everyone.   As the leader, you set the tone, the mood and morale of the shop.

If you are negative, everyone around you will be.  One of the best ways to lead is to set an example by being positive at all times. I know this may be hard at times, but to walk around with a doom and gloom attitude will actually makes things worse.

People react to the emotions of the leader. It’s far better for the long-term success of the company to have the people in your shop feeding off your positive energy, than being brought down by doom and gloom.

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 Handling Phone Shoppers

posted on March 4th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

Today’s consumers have more choices than ever before. When it comes to choosing someone to take care of their automotive needs, they turn to their friends, family and co-workers for recommendations, they consider brands that they have heard of, and they search the web as well. Once they have a shop in mind, they may then either reach out over the web or stop by your shop, but the majority of your potential customers will pick up the phone and give you a call. Since you’ve spent a good amount of money to make the phone ring, and because most of today’s consumers are well-armed with information, you and your employees need to be far more than just good on the phone: You need to be extraordinary. I have created this particular guide to help you do one thing; Create an experience that will turn those difficult phone shoppers into lifelong customers.

1. Start with the end in mind. You need to ensure your advisors and support staff have clearly defined car count goals. Start each day with a predetermined number of vehicles you want to get into your service bays, and then have your team monitor that number throughout the day. For example, if based on your ARO you need 8 cars a day to reach your sales goal, then your advisors simply begin the day with the number 8 on a note pad, and once the first customer comes in, they strike a line through the 8, and write a 7 underneath it. This easy-to-use method of tracking your progress throughout the day will bring a whole new level of focus to your advisors, and time and time again I’ve been amazed at how effectively this focus helps advisors bring in more phone shoppers. Additionally, this approach will provide you with the opportunity to acknowledge the success of your staff when they reach the daily car count goal. I used this simple technique to grow some of the most successful shops in America, so I know it will work for you.

2. Meet with your entire crew and create a list of reasons why your shop is the best shop in town. Your list may include items like your commitment to ethics, world class technicians, second-to-none warranties, etc. In order for your advisors to effectively sell anyone on anything, let alone sell those tough phone shoppers, they first have to believe in themselves and in your company.

3. Implement a phone procedure you feel comfortable with, and mandate that every employee follows that procedure. The top shops in America realize that phone procedures are critical to their success for many reasons. Well-developed procedures will provide you with consistency in how your callers are handled, it will allow you to know what is being said or not said to your callers, and that consistency will help you bring in more first-time callers. In all cases, well-designed procedures will put the caller at ease, will reflect your professionalism, and will build interest and value in the services you offer. Never forget, the first thing the caller has to buy, regardless of how tough the caller may be, is your advisor on the other end of the phone. The right procedures will help ensure that the caller likes your advisor, trusts your advisor, and views your advisor as a credible expert.

4. The top shop owners in America record their calls. Not only will this better ensure that your employees follow your phone procedures, but you can use the recordings as training tools when you are coaching your advisors on their phone skills. Recording calls gives you the opportunity to praise their successes, and discuss the areas that need improvement.

5. Understand how the callers think. At Elite we have trained thousands of service advisors, and over the decades we have learned that understanding how callers think is critical to success in sales. There is a misconception about phone shoppers that they are only interested in the lowest price, yet in reality that’s the furthest from the truth. The reason most people ask for a price is because they don’t know what questions they should be asking. For example, if a call comes in from a lady that says she is calling around for prices on behalf of her husband, and if she states that her husband has the vehicle so she can’t bring it in for an inspection, your advisors should say something like this –

Well Mary, I know price is important to you, and if I were in your position, it would be important to me, too! But I have to tell you, if you call 10 shops today you’ll more than likely get 12 different prices. Mary, do you have a pen and piece of paper? Great! When you are calling around, I’m going to recommend that you consider asking some other questions as well. You may want to ask the shops you’re calling how long they have been in business (At this point the caller will typically thank your advisor for the tip). Another question you may want to ask them is whether or not they have ASE Certified Technicians (This is when your advisor can explain to the caller what the certification means, and how they will benefit). Some other questions I would encourage you to ask are how they go about diagnosing vehicles such as yours, what warranties they offer and whether they are in writing, and whether or not they provide options in their service recommendations. The last question I would ask, Mary, is if they are approved by AAA.”

I used this procedure in every shop that I owned, and found it to be so effective and powerful that Elite now teaches it in all of our sales courses. The reason this procedure works so well is pretty simple: Your advisors will be providing the caller with the kind of information they need to choose the right shop, and showing them that you care more about them than their credit card. You can also rest assured that the shops they call will stutter and stammer when asked these questions, and every time the caller asks the recommended questions they will be thinking of one thing – your advisor.

6. Never prejudge or prequalify. Many of those difficult phone shoppers are people just like you and me. Most just feel they have been taken advantage of in the past, so are legitimately overanxious. Win them over, and they can become your biggest songbirds.

7. Lastly, ensure that all of your employees realize that their responsibility is to help people, not just to fix cars. When they embrace this responsibility, when they follow well-crafted phone procedures, and when they live by the principle of never putting money ahead of people, you will be doing a lot more than just bringing in those tough phone shoppers; You will be setting a new standard for the industry, and building a more successful shop at the same time.  This is a promise I can make to you.

For additional help turning phone shoppers into lifelong customers, learn more about Elite’s Masters Service Advisor Sales Training Course.

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Sometimes, a Compromise is a Win

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

A long-time customer came in the other day for a LOF service and an annual state inspection.  He also needed a battery, but said that he would come back for it.  When I tried to explain to him that we had to jump start the car, he said he knew about it and would come back.

This did not seem right. Being me, I pushed a little; “Tom, why won’t you let me install the new battery today?”  He was silent. I then said, “Tom, you are going to buy the battery from someone, why not buy it from me?”  He replied, “Joe, I can’t afford your price.”  I replied, “Tell me what you want me to do.”  He said, “Nothing, I will put the battery in myself and save the labor.”  I told him, “No Tom, I will put the battery in, you pay for the battery and I’ll pay for the labor. Deal?” He was silent again, and then said, “Yes, you got a deal and thank you.”

Sometimes, you need to close the book on sales strategy, profit margins, and quotas and just do what you feel you need to do.

Sometimes, a compromise is a win.

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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Tesla is More Than Just Another Automobile

posted on February 18th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

Over the years our industry has seen many changes. For example, beyond the changes in styling and efficiencies, today’s vehicles are better built, they last longer, and they require less frequent servicing than they have in the past. But there is one emerging trend that will have a far greater impact on our industry than all the other changes combined. Consider this…

Electric cars are not new. As a matter of fact, they date back to the mid-nineteenth century. Yet if you step back and look at what has happened with them over the past 10 years or so, if you consider the societal trend toward clean energy, and if you take a really close look at Tesla Motors, you’ll see that the Tesla is not just an automobile; it’s a glimpse into your future.

Tesla Motors was started in 2003, and in 2004 Elon Musk was appointed as the Chairman of the Board. Since then not only have prominent individuals and world-class business leaders, such as the co-founders of Google, invested in Tesla Motors, but the global powerhouses of Mercedes Benz and Toyota have invested as well. I find it intriguing that so many say Teslas are too expensive, and that because of limited driving distance due to battery storage capacity, the vehicles will never become mainstream. However, here’s why that presumption is the furthest from the truth…

With rare exception, every new technology will target the most affluent markets first, because they can afford the new technology, and can provide a fertile testing ground. This is why products like airplanes, computers, mobile phones and advanced medical diagnostic equipment are typically introduced to the wealthy before any other market. Once it’s determined that the product is a good one, it is then scaled to the masses.

Today Tesla is following that same developmental path. While the company is still marketing to the affluent with vehicles that range in price from $70,000 to $95,000, they undoubtedly have clearly defined plans in place to reach the mainstream consumers in the next few years. As a matter of record, they plan to launch a vehicle in 2017 that will have a price point of under $40,000.

By now you are probably wondering what this means to you. Simply put; our industry has now seen the beginning of the end of internal combustion engines. They will inevitably go the way of the horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. As we move forward battery life will inevitably continue to be extended, and society will continue to show a far greater interest in vehicles that are less of a pollutant, are quieter, and are more dependable due to fewer moving parts.

There is no question in my mind that if you were to close your eyes and open them ten to twenty years later, you would see far more electric vehicles than you would ever imagine. So the questions you need to be asking yourself are; What are your plans to participate in this emerging market, and what will your business model look like when the industry is all but devoid of internal combustion engines?

In closing, I am not suggesting that you are in any kind of eminent danger if you don’t move quickly, because that’s not the case. What I am suggesting is this: The future is yours if you have the vision, and if you take the appropriate steps to keep yourself at the leading edge of the service industry. And if you want to see what the future looks like, you don’t have to step into a time machine or find a crystal ball.  All you need to do is find a Tesla showroom, and spend some time there. If you do, you’ll see why beyond being an amazing automobile, Tesla really is an omen… for our entire industry.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business in the years to come, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

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The Consequences of a Sloppy Shop

posted on February 11th, 2015 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

Legendary College basketball coach John Wooden would always preach to his players that it’s the details of the game that matter most.  That worrying about the score was futile if the execution and the details of the game were not performed with consistency and to the best of everyone’s abilities.  In other words, the score will take care of itself and the wins will come if every detail of the game is consistently executed properly.

In the shop environment, only worrying about getting the car done, without performing all the steps properly, will lead to an eventual breakdown in your workflow system.  It will lead to higher comebacks, lower profits and poor customer satisfaction.

To have a properly working workflow system that minimizes comebacks, improves overall quality and improves customer satisfaction, requires paying attention to the details of the workflow process in a consistent manner.

Is the customer write-up process done properly each time? Are the technicians following the workflow process, and is every checklist gone through properly every time? Are the technicians short-cutting the process in an attempt to book hours?  And, are you a victim of perhaps the main killer of the shop environment and workflow: a sloppy shop?

Yes, a sloppy shop leads to a breakdown in the system.  Disorder in the shop equals disorder in the workflow, which equals increased comebacks, increased chances of people getting hurt, unhappy customers and lower profits.  Time is wasted finding tools and equipment.  People tend not to care enough about the condition of the customer’s car because the shop does not put an emphasis on neatness and order in the shop.  Cars will leave with grease marks, dirty floor mats and job details forgotten.

The first step in any process is establishing the right shop environment, and that means shop organization. You cannot have an efficient workflow until you have shop order.  Everyone must be held accountable for keeping order, and it starts with the tech’s work space.

Want to improve production, profits and customer satisfaction?  Pay attention to the details, focus on quality, create a well-defined workflow process and maintain order in the shop.

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 Silent Killer of Auto Repair Shops

posted on February 4th, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

Over the years I have had the pleasure of watching hundreds of shop owners go to the top, and truly become industry leaders. I have also seen thousands of shop owners that struggle from day to day until they finally either try to find someone that is willing to take over their business at any price, or they simply close their doors and walk away. There are many reasons why shops fail, including lack of business skills and the unwillingness to reach out for help before it’s too late, but there is one silent killer that I have seen take even the best shops down. It preys on every small business owner, and if not caught early enough, inevitably puts them out of business. The good news is; if you are aware of it, you can not only side-step it, but you can turn a good business into a really great business at the same time.

Some shop owners started their careers as technicians, and others are simply entrepreneurs, but interestingly enough, all shop owners have a number of things in common when they first open their shops. They are excited about what they will be building, and they are filled with passion and energy. They secure a location and equipment, they hire a tech or two, and they get the word out in their communities that they are now open for business. These are the guys and gals that work six to seven days a week, and they happily put in the long hours, because they are making their dreams come true and building a business they can be proud of.

But then Father Time steps in, and these entrepreneurial shop owners find that they are no longer building their businesses. Instead, they are dealing with customers, ordering parts, working on cars and putting out fires. Unbeknownst to them, they have transitioned from being an entrepreneur to being a manager, and find themselves managing repair orders, managing checkbooks and managing people. Not only are these tasks uninspiring, but they are the furthest things from the role of an entrepreneur. This is when the excitement and challenge of building a business transforms into a job, and burnout sets in. If this sounds like a place where you reside, or if you feel it’s a place you are headed toward, then I have some good news for you: Not only is there hope, but the bright future you envisioned when you opened your shop can still be yours.

The first thing you will need to do is take a good, hard look at where you are with your business, and then set some long-term business goals that will get you excited again. I have counseled hundreds, if not thousands, of shop owners on this process, and after seeing the results first-hand I can tell you with confidence that taking this step will not only have a dramatic impact on your business, but it will have a life-changing impact on you as a person. When you set those long-term goals that are 3 to 10 years out, you will find that you are invigorated again, and you will reignite that entrepreneur inside of you.

In closing, all successful businesses are aware of this silent killer, so they never stop growing. I can promise you that ensuring you always have a vision and clearly defined goals will keep that spark of passion alive in you, it will give you a sense of purpose, it will inspire your employees, and it will keep you well ahead of your competitors.

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Encourage Bad News

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

The other day, one of my service advisor’s came to my office to discuss the past week.  We made an agreement that we would meet in private at least once a week to discuss his successes and challenges, and also discuss ways to improve our service. After telling me all the good stuff, he informed me of a situation where he dropped the ball, which resulted in a very upset customer.

My initial thoughts were anger and disappointment. The last thing we need these days are unhappy customers.  But, thankfully the years have taught me a few things about employee behavior and employee management.

I remained calm and thanked him for bringing this up and we discussed ways to correct the situation. I told him that while we need to celebrate the success stories, it is crucial to our long-term success to admit when things have gone wrong. I made a bigger deal about him coming clean than I did about the successes he had that week.

If I would have erupted in anger, he would have shut down.  Also, he would not come to me the next time we had a customer issue.  By thanking him and praising him for being honest, he now knows that people can make mistakes, and that we will work together to correct the problem.

No one wants to hear bad news, but it’s a lot better than not knowing.  What you don’t know, you can’t correct.  And that’s a recipe for disaster.

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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Tips on Hiring the Superstars in Competitive Times

posted on January 21st, 2015 posted by Bob Cooper

One of the single greatest challenges shop owners face today is finding and hiring the superstars. Regardless of whether you are looking to hire technicians or service advisors, here are some tips that will help you hire the stars.

1. Accept the fact that with rare exception, the stars you are looking for are already working, and are reasonably satisfied. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to a conversation with you, because many of them will be. It’s your responsibility to identify those stars, and then reach out to them. Even if there is little or no interest on their part after speaking with you, you still win, because you have started a relationship. Not only may the time come when they reach back out to you, but I have learned over the years that the stars know the stars, so they may be able to provide you with the names of some other good candidates who would be interested in your offer.

2. You should never offer someone a job, but should instead offer them an opportunity to join a company like yours. Beyond just a competitive wage, you will need to provide a compensation and incentive package that includes paid vacations and holidays, paid sick days, uniforms and ongoing training. In addition, you will need to provide the opportunity for growth and income advancement, security, rewards for tenure (such as retirement programs), and of course, leadership. Bear in mind that anyone can offer them a wage; what you need to offer is a package that shows that you really do care about the people who work with you. The rule that I have lived by for decades is that if you put out peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. The stars produce profits, whereas the monkeys produce debt.

3. Whenever there is a shortage of skilled labor, you not only have to make the candidates an attractive offer, but you need to remove as many barriers as possible. Change is scary for most, especially if they have been with the same shop for years, so you need to be well aware of their fears. No matter how good a tech or an advisor is, one of the greatest concerns they’ll have is that you’ll be unable to deliver. A method I’ve used over the years is providing a really attractive guarantee for a number of months. Most shop owners are hesitant to do so because they fear that if the employee doesn’t produce, it will cost them a fortune. What they don’t realize is that if they do a better job of qualifying the candidates, and if they accept the fact that they can always terminate an underperformer, their concerns should diminish dramatically.  As business owners, we need to both set our fears aside and reduce the fears of the candidates. At Elite we are open and upfront with all candidates by telling them that on a predetermined date the hefty guarantee will be reduced to $XXX, and that we have every expectation that by the predetermined date they will be earning well more than the guarantee.

4. We should never forget the rule that says, “When we hire Larry, we get Mary.” Simply put, if the candidate has a significant other in their life, with rare exception, they will be involved in the decision making process. This is why we strongly encourage you (whenever possible) to meet with the significant other as well as with the candidate. If Mary is sold on you and your company, then there is a really good chance that she will sell Larry on joining your team.

5. Last but not least, you should let the candidates know about the culture of your company. The stars you are looking for may have well-paying jobs, but there is a good probability there is a vacuum when it comes to the culture of the company they are working for. If you let them know that you are committed to ethics, and that you and your entire team live by a principle that you will never put money ahead of people, you will discover you are able to hire the superstars you’ve been looking for.

For additional help building a more successful auto repair business, learn more about the 1-on-1 coaching and customized action plan offered through the Elite Coaching Program.

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