By Brie Ragland
At a Saturday morning Early Bird Roundtable, Darrell Amberson, AAM, president of Lehman's Garage in Minneapolis, Minn., and ASA's Collision Division director, led a group of his peers in a thorough discussion of multi-shop ownership.
New to NACE this year, the Early Bird Roundtable discussions brought together industry peers in a comfortable and free-flowing format that allowed for attendees to hear how others handled similar situations regarding various industry topics.
The multi-shop ownership roundtable started off with Amberson discussing his background as a multi-shop owner and the questions that need to be asked when thinking of opening another location of business. Questions such as, "should I buy an existing shop or go with a brand new property," and "should I purchase the property or just rent or lease it," got the conversations off to a good start.
Attendees talked about the importance of checking into every aspect of the decision to open multiple shops before coming to any conclusions, including geographic market statistics, company overhead, and overall potential for profit.
"It's always good to look at the positive side of the situation, but we have to remain aware of the 'worst case scenario' in order to make an informed and profitable decision," said Chip Rowley, president of One Stop Auto, in North Town, Va.
The topic of multiple-shop locations and culture generated quite a conversation leading to a comparison of small-shop integrity versus the "corporate America" feel of bigger shops.
Amberson cautioned attendees about the tendency of multiple shops losing the culture of the original business. He suggested bringing over some of the experienced employees from the original shop and let them cultivate the type of work environment and integrity that customers have become accustomed to.
Maintaining the integrity and culture of the newer shops brought up many questions. Attendees pretty much agreed that random walk-throughs, daily reports, and a constant awareness of business practices are the best way to maintain shop integrity. Also, highly trained technicians and knowledgeable office staff were mentioned as having a significantly positive effect on overall company growth and stability.
Amberson also discussed being an owner versus a manager. "The higher up you go in this industry, and your business, the more time you must spend growing the business and the less time in making the business," he said. Jobs must be delegated and you have to make sure that you have high quality managers to continue the growth of the company in the way you started out.
Marketing shops, training technicians, providing a quality, cultured environment, and maintaining integrity throughout each shop, were the key factors mentioned in the multi-shop ownership Early Bird Roundtable.
Amberson left the attendees with this summarizing thought: "Nurture your shops. Cultivate your business. Be successful."