Get Serious If You Want to Succeed
I am entering my 35th year in the automotive repair profession, with the last 22 of them either owning or managing independent service facilities. I guess you could say, “I have been there and done that.”
After selling the last service center, I am teaching full time in an automotive training center until 1:30 p.m. I then perform mobile diagnostics for the rest of the afternoon. About three nights a week, I teach advance driveability diagnostic procedures to technicians already in the field. In my present position,
I observe two things repeatedly:
• One is the shop that calls me over and over for related problems. I’ll say, “Did you know that next Tuesday and Thursday I’ll be doing a class on these particular problems? Maybe you should call and reserve a space.” What I hear back is, “What time is it? Oh no, there’s no way I can make it by 6 p.m. I’ll still have three vehicles to work on by then.” What I can’t seem to get across to them is that they will always have three vehicles to work on at 6 p.m. if they don’t begin to completely understand the circuits of the modern vehicle’s computer system and how to analogically approach them.
• The other problem I see a lot is the shop that realizes it needs a first-class technician with all the skills to diagnose today’s vehicles, but tells me they can’t afford to pay technicians what they deserve. I know of service facilities that are paying their top diagnostic technicians in the $70,000 range, and I know of others paying their top mechanic $20,000 a year. I can also tell you that the ones paying good money are not having a hard time finding the money to pay those technicians. Why? Because you have to have a top-notch technician to make the money you should. But you will never be able to generate the sales volume required for that top technician if you don’t understand the need for training and understanding today’s vehicles.
’ve heard over and over, “I can’t raise my hourly rate any higher.” Most times this isn’t the problem. I tell the shop owner to divide the total number of hours that he and his techs were at the shop last week into the total labor billed out. What they usually find is the labor rate is actually half of what they thought it was.
Remember, the most important product we have to sell is our time. Twenty years ago when Customer Smith came into my shop and told me about a strange noise under the hood, I would walk out to the vehicle, open the hood and feel the play of the fan blades. I would then have the customer start the engine and hear the water pump bearing making noise. I would tell my customer to come in tomorrow for a water pump replacement. I had just given away the diagnosis, and the following day I made my money on the physical replacements of the water pump. Today, when Mr. Smith comes in and tells me about a “check engine light” on, once I correctly diagnoses the defective part it may just be a matter of removing two screws to something like a throttle position sensor. So where and how we now make our money on today’s vehicles has reversed.
If you’re serious about this business, you have to get serious about the proper equipment and the proper training. The days of when we could just take something apart and figure it out are gone. Vehicles are complex and to service them properly, you need the right training and tools.
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