Hello. Thanks for stopping by and looking. This is the first post on our new website and I though it appropriate to republish this article. Originally written and published in NJ Automotive Magazine a long time ago in another galaxy it talks about the importance of a relationship in auto repair. It never grows old or out of date does it? Enjoy, Ron.
Welcome to my world this month; thanks for stopping by. If you are a little bit older (and it seems like we are all getting some gray) you notice the cycles of business; in all areas. One month you’re so busy gross sales rise 20% and the next month for some reason you have time to paint the lifts and the floor. The cycle of business or the swings and mood of it change constantly. One of the key weapons to fight the swing is the relationships you have. With employees, clients, vendors and the technology we deal with daily. Recognizing that can help you realize that you are achieving goals even when the gross dollars are off. As I sat down to write this month’s column I could not get it together in my head until ; well, read till the end and you’ll see what my inspiration was.
Not sure why but this has been a quiet summer; one of the quietest on record as I can recall. Since July 4th it seems like everyone has gone on vacation; our business has slowed down some and from what I can tell by the chatter we are not in the boat alone. If you have taken notice of repairs bays lately mechanical work is off on all fronts. From my dealer contacts to those in the independent marketplace there are not many reporting growth. Some tell me they are making numbers but to do so they have to either spend more on advertising OR give it away cheaper than they can afford to but “it beats standing around”.
I have spent the summer working on other projects; looking around at the shop and its appearance; throwing out things in cabinets that are old and outdated; moving tools from the front line of my tool box into storage on a shelf (let’s see I think the carburetor adjustment tools for GM feedback controls are no longer a hot item to mention just one) in case we need it. My (not sure how old it is ASE sign on the front of the building)(30 years plus?) was faded and weathered (out) and the front office carpet needed to be updated. In order to be in a relationship it is important to make good impressions. When it pays off you realize the value of your effort.
We had a new customer this week that came along from Queens Village, NY; about 90 minutes away; he requested 4 tires, a front end inspection and wheel alignment. As the saying goes, nice work if you can get it. The repair went off without a hitch; very straightforward and successful. We noted that he was coming due for front brakes in the fall and in general the 155,000 mile 17 year old Nissan was in pretty good shape. The real success came today; in the form of an email that he wrote; and it struck me that the relationship is still the key. Edward wrote (and I am clipping it for brevity)
“I’d like to thank you very much for the wonderful first time experience at your shop yesterday getting new tires on my 1998 Nissan Maxima, alignment, and front end inspection. From one hard-working small business owner to another, I couldn’t have been more impressed with your shop, your work, and your co-workers. After four years of listening to the Car Doctor on radio and greatly increasing the little knowledge of cars that I had by at least 10 fold, I was amazed at how honest, down to earth, and detailed oriented you were at looking at my car and telling me your honest, expert opinion. ( I use the word honest twice because as small business owners we know all too well how dishonest this world is, and it’s not getting any better).
THE BOTTOM LINE IS…
The relationships you keep, the way you run your business will reflect on your success; through good times and bad. And yes, I know I cannot put Edwards words in the bank account it pays dividends to us in other ways that cannot be measure by normal means. We reached someone, serviced them correctly and filled a need. From there, as he indicates, the tree will grow and branches will spread. I wrote him back thanking him for the kind words and pointed out that I have always tried to run the shop as my late father in law told me to in 1981 when we started to grow. “Take care of your customers, your vendors and employees; the rest will happen by itself.” Pretty strong and accurate words from 30 plus years ago and they are on my mind more and more. The technology side of this business is forcing us to change our approaches to running a shop; there are things that may at first seem off limits or out of reach; how we approach that relationship will dictate our future success, in both good times and bad. I’m already thinking down the road where his words will take me; are you? As long as I am in the business I am also in a relationship….