Note: This is the first of a new feature in SSGM where you, the shop owner get to sound off about issues that matter to the industry. Last Word kicks off with Randy Skinner, owner of Skinner's Auto...
Note: This is the first of a new feature in SSGM where you, the shop owner get to sound off about issues that matter to the industry. Last Word kicks off with Randy Skinner, owner of Skinner’s Automotive Service in Beaverton, Ontario.
In Beaverton, Ontario, Randy Skinner’s shop, Skinner’s Automotive Service, is something of an institution. A major part of the tradition is Randy himself, who enjoys the business of auto service.
“It’s something different every day. It’s never the same old, same old”, he declares, noting that the vehicles have changed significantly since the early ’80’s when he started.
“It’s the complexity of the cars today. Most of them aren’t designed to be worked on. You can’t get your hands into half of them. It’s the engineering; they’re not mechanic-friendly. And a lot of it has to do with new cars. If you can get a new car at no interest, why would you fix it?”
Randy is bullish on the industry in general, and believes that it is possible to do well.
“If you’re building a shop and paying for it, it can be a little more difficult, but if you’re running and managing, it can be a pretty good living.”
Randy is quick to recognize the key factors in the success of his operation.
“Good people. I think the building and location helps increase business and being involved in town is a factor. We have good customer relationships.”
Getting there was an incremental process for Skinner.
“I first started in a small rental shop. When you’re starting you can’t build a larger operation; building a better shop adds to your business. When you’re starting on your own it’s about building a good customer base and you can only do that when you treat them with respect. You can’t go out as a young guy and build a shop, then expect the customers to just walk in. You build it by doing the good work you’re supposed to be doing.”
Randy notes that young owner- managers need to be careful with a new service business today.
“People start out without an established customer base and without a plan to build a customer base”, he notes, adding, “people are skeptical of mechanics; they can end up with customers who are just looking for a deal. And location is important.”
When it comes to the shortage of trained technicians, Randy has definite opinions on the causes and cures.
“I think it comes down to training. The people in the trade now need to be willing to take on apprentices. It’s difficult for kids to get into the trade if nobody’s willing to take them on. Some shops are slow, so it’s a rough situation for them, but how are they going to get busy if they don’t have techs to do the work? The government has programs, and that’s good, but people need to be willing to train.”
And what would he change about the trade if he could?
“Probably the image. We don’t have a good image with the general consumer. It’s an expensive trade doing expensive work. It’s unfortunate, but we rank just ahead of lawyers.”
About Randy Skinner
Married, Wife: Irene, Daughters: Heather, Jamie, Robin
Years in trade: 25
Years in business: 16
About Skinner’s Automotive Service
Location: 465 Mara Rd., Box 219 Beaverton, Ontario
5-bay, general repair operation
Affiliations: Tech-net, Bridgestone-Firestone
Primary Jobber: Carquest, Beaverton, Ontario
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