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Software For Your Auto Service Facility In 2018 Part 4

Software is a tool, using the wrong one, costs more time and money!
It’s funny, that the article we thought would be the easiest to write, has been the one that is proving to be the hardest. I mean, we make some pretty awesome auto repair software… so, what else do you need? Well, after some serious thought, we all use A LOT of software at our auto repair facilities each day. So we are going to touch on some of the most important aspects that each software should have and how to make the best decision for you, your business, the team at your service facility, and your customers.So to start, let us think about all the software that you use right now and how much it might be costing you.Desktop Operating Software:
Sadly most outdated vehicle repair software requires Windows in order to work. While there are strides being made in advancing access from Windows programs to Web applications, many repair facilities NEED Windows because of the vehicle repair software they are accustomed to. So, the majority of shops relying on that outdated infrastructure are running Windows PC’s. We’ve seen some shops still running unsupported versions of Windows, like Windows XP, but we’ll touch up on that in a later article.
Within each desktop, regardless of their actual setup, each shop needs the following to function at minimum: web browser (Firefox & Chrome – free), calculator (included), basic word processing (Microsoft Office – not free for anyone or Google Docs – not free for business, but there are free options available).

Basic Windows PC’s – $400 gets the job done, albeit slowly with outdated hardware and likely a refurbished machine. But, a savvy shopper can get something decent for that price point with an updated version of Windows.
Chromebooks – $300++ Not a bad option, but it means you must not rely on any Windows software to run your shop.
Mac – Starts @ $800 and if you want to run Windows software, it’s going to get more expensive… fast.

Now that you have the basics, let’s discuss what you need to operate effectively and what you can expect to pay.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.
Today’s auto repair businesses need to worry about the following:
Advertising
Can be expensive and very confusing. The best method to start is to get your feet wet with small budgets that keep your name in front of your potential customers, constantly.
Can be expensive and very confusing. The best method to start is to get your feet wet with small budgets that keep your name in front of your potential customers, constantly.
Employee Advancement
Providing an environment where employees know they can grow with your business, whether financially or moving up within the organization, is the key to keeping and securing talent.
Providing an environment where employees know they can grow with your business, whether financially or moving up within the organization, is the key to keeping and securing talent.
Employee Engagement
Keeping your employees as interested in your success as you are is critical to the elements that keep people returning and employees from leaving.
Keeping your employees as interested in your success as you are is critical to the elements that keep people returning and employees from leaving.
Location
Securing a proper location and the authorization to conduct business there over the long term ensures survival.
Securing a proper location and the authorization to conduct business there over the long term ensures survival.
Marketing
This is the most complicated element in today’s world. It involves a mix of a strong web presence, good advertising ethics, social media profile, and following up with customers.
This is the most complicated element in today’s world. It involves a mix of a strong web presence, good advertising ethics, social media profile, and following up with customers.
Software
Without good software, it is difficult to run any business. Good software is and always has been subjective. Our experiences indicate that good software saves you time and builds trust with your customers. Most importantly, it should work for you and not against you.
Without good software, it is difficult to run any business. Good software is and always has been subjective. Our experiences indicate that good software saves you time and builds trust with your customers. Most importantly, it should work for you and not against you.
Tools
Without the proper tools, we just can’t work on today’s vehicles.
Without the proper tools, we just can’t work on today’s vehicles.
Training
Without the proper training, we put ourselves and our customers at high risk.
Without the proper training, we put ourselves and our customers at high risk.
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.Vehicle Repair Software:

All Data – Minimum of $160 per month for Repair Information
Mitchell – Minimum of $160 per month for Repair Information
Identifix – Minimum of $160 per month for Repair Information
Motor – Minimum of $100 per month for Repair Information

So all of the above items are the largest players in the field of repair information, without them you can’t get a broad swath of repair information to be prepared for anything that comes into your shop. You can however, prepare differently if your shop has a narrow focus. For instance, if you only work on General Motors vehicle, you can buy their Service information separately. Direct from General Motors that subscription can cost you $150 per month or $1200 for the year. You can read more about manufacturers and their independent subscriptions here.Auto Repair Software:
So after learning how to fix each vehicle, you still have to invoice your customer for the work you’re doing. If you’re anything like our founder, you want accurate records to avoid potential liability nightmares in the future. Accurate records means that the very least you have to be able to take pictures of problems areas and perform a digital vehicle inspection. We are setting the bar pretty low here, but we want you to see what this does financially.
For nearly all non cloud based auto repair software, and even some cloud based systems, you MUST have an additional component like Bolt On or AutoVitals added to the already existing subscription to get pictures and digital vehicle inspections. Both Bolt On & Auto Vitals are Shop Management Enhancement Suites, neither of them are invoicing platforms and each of them requires a separate invoicing platform, you can not bill a customer with either of those platforms. You can only use them as an “add on” components to existing shop processes with already bloated software options, in our opinion. Neither All Data Manage or Mitchell Manager are mobile and utilizing one system is difficult enough sometimes, let alone using one system to invoice and another to add bells and whistles.

All Data Repair & All Data Manage with Bolt On OR AutoVitals – Starting @ $700 per month.
Mitchell On Demand & Mitchell Manager SE With Bolt on OR Auto Vitals – Starting @ $700 per month.

AutoVitals & Bolt On are amazing systems within their own right. Each tackles a specific shop and/or consumer aspect that All Data and Mitchell ultimately fail at. However… you’re paying more for ancillary parts of the business, than you’re paying for everything else. A pretty steep price if you ask us. With CAR, you get a good mix of each system in a single platform. We are constantly working to advance our service suite but we feel we have a strong offering that is completely mobile.Our auto repair software, CAR, tackles the following elements at a base price of $50 per month:

Invoicing
Digital Vehicle Inspections
Integrated Parts Ordering
Vendor & Resource Management
Overdue Reports & Payment Reminders
Direct Email Marketing
Built In Reviews
Full Mobility From ANY Internet Enabled Device – That $200 Samsung Tablet? WORKS PERFECT. No special hardware requirements other than updated software suites.
Appointment Bookings
Customer Authorization

For $100 a month you can add:

Employee Management – Complete with time tracking abilities for each and every job
Individual Logins
Complete Employee Control Over System AccessAs you can see, we feel that we offer a strong and competitive product that enables you to grow your business and can grow with your business. Everyone reading this presently pays more for their cell phone bill than you can pay for software that runs your business and communicates with your customer.
What are you waiting for to adapt at your shop? The future is now and failing to adapt only seals your fate as a business owner.In case you missed how we started this 4 part series, we wanted to open your mind to what it’s like to run 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
7 Basic Steps Of The Auto Repair Process