Looking To Open Up An Auto Repair Facility?
We’ve all been there, tired and frustrated with our boss. You get the feeling that you can absolutely do this better than they can… and you want to do this better than they do it. So you start to dream about what it would be like if you ran your own auto facility. Funny thing about our dreams, they don’t account for the brick walls you’ll run into. Lucky for you and your dreams, we account for quite a few of them in this article.
Where It All Starts
- Budget: All of this costs money to start. The less you plan for, the more expensive things get. You can save significant time and money finding an existing facility that is abandoned or is for sale already and has the equipment you need to get you started.
- Patience: Nothing happens at the speed of light these days, unless you’re using CAR on your mobile device. A lot of time is spent waiting on the input or response of others. Pick a method to manage all of the tasks. We outline how to build a team with your gmail account. You can also organize everything in your plan to open a business with Gmail using the same logic to track tasks, save documents and have mobile access to everything.
- Research: You want to survive the first 5 years? Get used to asking a ton of questions, to anyone who will help you or hear you out. Ask questions about everything, and most importantly… as yourself and do your own homework.
Questions to consider asking yourself, others, and/or Google:
- How many shops are in a 4 mile radius?
- What’s the population in the 3 surrounding towns, plus the one I’m in?
- How many households?
- How much money do I have for this investment into my future? The sub questions here are insane. What’s my projected monthly expenses? How long can I survive after having setup the business?
- Are there other people I can partner with in this endeavor?
- Does this location have parking?
- What’s the crime like in this area?
- What’s the traffic like? Go there, morning, noon and night… get to know your potential new neighborhood before you sign on the dotted line.
Now that the easy stuff is out of the way. Let’s dig in.
What To Consider When Wanting To Take The Plunge
You need to advertise and market your business and/or yourself. The choice is ultimately up to you. A combination of the two is usually a good way to approach.
How can you advertise and market yourself?
Talk to people about what you do and what they do, everywhere you go. Especially locally. You never know who you’re talking to and the buying power they can represent in one way or another.
Participate in local activities. Don’t push your business onto people, show up… be a part of the community. Build the relationships with people.
How can you advertise and market your business?
We explain the challenges we see in marketing an auto repair business today and we discuss several of the basics you need to survive the landscape. Remember, this is the minimum.
- Facebook Business Page
- Google Business Page
We also discuss some advertising models to contemplate trying out at your auto repair facility.
- Adwords Campaign through your Google Business Administration Page
- Local Paper Advertising
- Yext (Marketing & Advertising in this service)
- Where are you looking to start? 2 lifts? 4 lifts?
- Will you be performing wheel alignments?
- Mounting and balancing of tires?
- Are you doing oil changes? Because if so, where are you storing new oil? Then, where are you storing old oil?
- Going to weld anything?
You have to take an indepth look at what services you want to offer and then outline the equipment needed for it.
For new equipment, installed, you can come to expect at least a $30,000 price tag for 2 lifts (10,000lb and 12,000lb), wheel mounter and balancer.
As of late, this has become an interesting barrier in many areas with a population larger than 50,000 people. Every state and city is different, but under most circumstances your shop needs to be in an area of town allowed to have a repair facilities. We have first hand knowledge on what it takes to get zoning authorization to move into a new facility.
It’s not cheap and it’s not easy, and if you want a very specific location, this may be a requirement.
This is the most important aspect of opening any business. The location where you want to conduct business, should be one of good visibility and more than average traffic flow. Why is this important? If you’re just going to start out and don’t have a following, how will you survive?
Every location has a relative expense that goes along with it, your rent or mortgage. The better the location, the more you can expect either of those to be.
Please note, none of this accounts for any outside variables. Like having the soil tested to make sure your facility isn’t contaminated. This also doesn’t account for any work the location may need to suit your specific purposes and vision.
How are you going to receive them? Cash, Check, Money Order, Barter, Credit Card, Debit Card
How are you going to make them? At minimum you need a checking account, the standard for today is a checking account and one good credit card.
All that waste, where’s it going?
- Tires - Do they need to be recycled?
- Oil - Does it need to be recycled?
- Daily Waste - Dumpster that gets hauled weekly?
- Precious Metals - Scrapping yourself? Have someone else?
It’s weird to bring this topic up, you may know… we make some pretty awesome shop management software. But we’re not here to talk about us, we’re here to talk about the elements involved in taking the plunge, and surviving it.
We're written a really great guide on all things when starting to consider the amount of and type of software available at your disposal. Please don't hesitate to share your feedback. Even though we have our own product, we try to be as unbiased as possible.
Along with equipment, you’re going to need a little bit of above average tool collection to start.
If you’ve been a tech for at least 5 years, you probably have a good amount of tools built up. Starting a business, means you will inevitably need more tools or a network where you can share tools amongst other local owners.
Well, if you have a good parts vendor, like Buy Wise Auto Parts… Getting training for you and your shop is a relatively easy and painless process. You can also become part of an association, like the National Pronto Association. Their programs help bring a lot of the tools you will need, to your shop at a reasonable cost.
Let me start by saying, they are not your employees. Treat them as such and they will treat it as a job not a career. I can’t stress how important this aspect it. The world is changing at an alarming rate and this industry is no exception right now. If you want to ensure longevity you need to prepare to share the burden and some of the benefits, in order to attract employees that build a team.
A lot of people let their ego drive their initiative to do more. Sometimes it can work out but more often than not, it burns people out and you’re left alone wondering why you can’t “find good help”. As a business owner, I made the choice to involve our team members in all company decisions. This doesn’t mean they have the final say, this means they have a say. When your team members have a say, they are more vested in everyone’s success.
In addition, we are going to make an assumption here. We need to in order to provide a good example. We are going to assume that you, the person reading this article, have technician experience and you want to open a shop because you can and will do things better. First, congrats. That feeling is amazing. Second, research till you question everything…. THEN, execute.
If you are the good technician, you are going to need at least ONE more team member to start. That team member will inevitably become the shop manager if you can do this correctly. Here are the responsibilities that you are NOT aware of as a technician.
- Who’s going to answer phones?
- Who’s going to monitor your social media?
- Who’s going to deal with happy and/or irate customers?
- Who’s going to follow through on parts orders?
- Who’s going to make estimates and get customer authorizations?
- Who’s going to keep your paperwork in order so you can review it on weekends?
If you’re a technician and you’re serious about opening up a business in this industry in today’s world… the very first hire needs to be someone who is going to keep the business moving, according to your vision. You can not focus on being great at repair and running a front office. You can try to do both for a while, but you will eventually burn yourself out. The amount of mental energy it takes for you to switch from one role to the next, is exhausting beyond measure.
Your team and your vision to build this team… is your greatest long term asset. Please note, this is not the definitive guide on how to open an auto repair business. This is merely a guide to get you to start thinking about the things you will need to worry about to run a successful business in nearly every industry… but especially the auto repair industry.