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Liability Isn’t Something To Roll Dice With

These are some pretty trivial words, “reduce liability”. Whether or not we realize it, we avoid liability all day long. Whether you avoid the accident on your way to

Ignoring liability gives you speed — recognizing it gives you foresight.

These are some pretty trivial words, “reduce liability”. Whether or not we realize it, we avoid liability all day long. Whether you avoid the accident on your way to work or you avoid a catastrophic failure by fixing a leaking lift… either way, you’re limiting your liability. You may never have thought of it in this light, but every customers vehicle you touch, is essentially a liability. An element of their life you took over and in doing so, you and your employees have assumed liability for their safety, through the foreseeable future.In order to address these liabilities, you must first recognize them. There are several distinct levels of liability here. First, any damage the vehicle presently has. Second, anything that is wrong with the vehicle that the customer isn’t aware of. Third, problems the vehicle has that you are already aware of. Lastly, proper documentation should you need to test drive the vehicle.
Does the process at your shop work with you or against you here? Most of us don’t even think of these problems till it’s much too late. By that point, we are reacting and doing damage control, not running our business.So how do you limit your liability with the 4 scenarios mentioned above? Let’s take a look at how to break them down. We welcome your comments, sharing with us, how you’ve adapted to limiting your liability in your shop.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. 
We are going to lay out the challenges, that we are aware of, that ‘soon to be shop owners’ may face and need to consider.  Please note that our experience, is from a densely populated area, local laws might make it harder or easier to accomplish some or all of these tasks.  This is meant to be used as a guide on what to expect and the type of research to do when trying to open a shop in your local area.
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… ask 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.
FIRST LEVEL – EXISTING DAMAGE
This is easy, take a picture and put it on record that the vehicle was inspected with existing damage as you check it in.
This is easy, take a picture and put it on record that the vehicle was inspected with existing damage as you check it in.
SECOND LEVEL – UNKNOWN PROBLEMS
“Hey, my AC doesn’t work, it wasn’t like that when I brought it in here!” Several years ago, this was a difficult problem to tackle, in today’s world or scanners, this is easy. Perform a complete vehicle scan with an Autel scanner and save the pdf… there your proof will likely relinquish your responsibility.
“Hey, my AC doesn’t work, it wasn’t like that when I brought it in here!” Several years ago, this was a difficult problem to tackle, in today’s world or scanners, this is easy. Perform a complete vehicle scan with an Autel scanner and save the pdf… there your proof will likely relinquish your responsibility.
THIRD LEVEL – KNOWN PROBLEMS
You’re thinking, the customer already knows this is a problem… how can I possibly be liable for this?! Well, is it documented? Did you accurately convey to the customer the level of severity? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. But advising a customer accurately of their potential for creating an unsafe scenario for themselves, their vehicle inhabitants, and those around them… IS OUR JOB. Failure to do so properly, has resulted in jail sentences in extreme cases.
You’re thinking, the customer already knows this is a problem… how can I possibly be liable for this?! Well, is it documented? Did you accurately convey to the customer the level of severity? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. But advising a customer accurately of their potential for creating an unsafe scenario for themselves, their vehicle inhabitants, and those around them… IS OUR JOB. Failure to do so properly, has resulted in jail sentences in extreme cases.
FOURTH LEVEL – DOCUMENTATION
Ever been pulled over in a customers vehicle? Worse yet, ever been in an accident in a customers vehicle? Even in the event that neither of these have happened to you, how comfortable do you feel getting in a vehicle where you don’t know where the paperwork work is, if it even exists. Need we say more about this?
Ever been pulled over in a customers vehicle? Worse yet, ever been in an accident in a customers vehicle? Even in the event that neither of these have happened to you, how comfortable do you feel getting in a vehicle where you don’t know where the paperwork work is, if it even exists. Need we say more about this?
Your Team

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.Software is the tool that is supposed to help control this process, helping to ensure your business is meticulous in every part of the repair process. This helps you build both strong and organized business records so if a problem were ever to arise, your liability is diminished greatly.
CAR was designed with all of these elements and many more in mind. We didn’t just build a way to bill your customers, we built a system to help you run your business. With our mobile platform, everything from the initial vehicle inspection to making the customer aware of the state of their vehicle, is what helps you manage the day to day in a manner that reduces your liability exposure.Follow through with this article by reading about our other experiences in the auto industry, where we pass on lessons about running a business in 2018. This is focused on the auto repair industry, but there is plenty here that can be applied forward to help other businesses get off the ground and noticed locally.  Even though the businesses may differ significantly, the challenges of getting noticed and operating efficiently are similar.

Part 1 – Challenges Of The Auto Repair Business In 2018 Part 1
Part 2 – Auto Repair Business Marketing Challenges In 2018 Part 2
Part 3 – Advertising For Auto Repair Businesses In 2018 Part 3
Part 4 – Software For Your Auto Service Facility In 2018 Part 4
7 Basic Steps Of The Auto Repair Process