By Bob Greenwood, AMAM
With service intervals changing due to advanced vehicle technology, holding onto standard methods of doing business can become a major barrier to continued prosperity.
Today, management must look at where the business is going, not where it has been.
Having the correct balance of business is critical for bottom-line performance. What I mean is that you must ensure you have a diversified business – with both retail (consumer) business and commercial (small fleet) business – in order to be financially healthy. These are very different kinds of accounts, with different needs and accounting requirements. And both have to be managed properly.
Diversification can provide the stability your business needs, evening out the peaks and valleys.
So, what is your plan for attracting the right amount of commercial business to your shop?
Going after local commercial fleet business allows you to have a face-to-face contact with the owner or manager. When you go into that meeting, are you ready to offer a solid explanation for what differentiates you in the marketplace? Can you point out unique things that you do that can save fleets money? Remember, at the fleet level it’s not just about price. Price should not be your key differentiator. Rather, they’re looking for someone that can manage fleet maintenance for safety, efficiency and, most importantly, reliability. You have to pitch a plan that acknowledges the way they use their fleet vehicles. You need a plan that matches their expectations for each vehicle.
You have to do your homework! Know what questions to ask, and what buttons you have to push in order to prepare an attractive proposal for them.
provide the stability
your business needs,
evening out the
peaks and valleys.
This is going to require a time commitment on your part. If you’re trying to build your fleet business, you’ll want to set aside a minimum of one day a week to do nothing but set up appointments and do field research on potential clients. That means you won’t be in the shop at all that day, and your staff needs to know that. You’re on calls, promoting your business, cold calling fleet managers, and attending appointments you’ve set up ahead of time. This is time well spent.
Do you see why you can’t be an in-the-bay owner? Only you can work on the business rather than in the business, selling yourself and your services to potential new clients.
When you consider the relationship you’ll have with local fleets, don’t forget about your payment policy. This always seems to be an issue with fleet accounts. This important facet of your business relationship cannot be dictated by the fleet. You will end up with an account that pays every 45 to 60 days or worse. That’s not good for your business. That doesn’t work for you.
Using your most professional business demeanour, you need to pitch a mutually beneficial payment system. This will be a critical part of your presentation package. Of course you’ll accept credit cards, cheques or direct online payments, but you must establish a proper payment schedule. Is it going to be a weekly flat sum? Will they be required to pay the balance in full twice a month? Will you set up a retainer that must be topped up monthly?
Remember, you are not your client’s bank. You require adequate cash flow to continue operating professionally, servicing their fleet effectively , and employing a staff of well-trained knowledgeable service technicians.
Not only that, but you’ll need funds to equip your shop and subscribe to the many information and software services you depend on. Your client must understand that adequate cash flow is critical to ensuring their fleet is managed to their expectations. They need to know that it ensures that they’ll never be let down.
Discussing payment policies is part of normal negotiations between companies that respect and rely on one another.
Take ownership of your business and your processes when diversifying your company. You won’t get every fleet client out there, but the ones who sign up will be great clients indeed, because they respect how you approached them and how you do business.
Bob Greenwood is an Accredited Master Automotive Manager (AMAM) who offers personal business coaching and ongoing management training for aftermarket shops, focusing on building net income. He can be reached at 1-800-267-5497 or email@example.com.