Four Ontario shop owners shared some of their shop secrets at the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s annual Ontario Service Provider Forum in Toronto last week.
More than 200 automotive service professionals showed up for the conference, which promised to “unlock the secrets to a profitable shop.”
Alan Beech, owner of Beech Motorworks in Hamilton, Ont., focused on customer retention, explaining how value-added services like car washes, courtesy shuttles, and rewards cards have helped keep his customers coming back.
“It’s a struggle to get enough cars in the bay,” he said. “These programs are designed to keep them coming.”
Beech, one of the founders of the national tire storage company Tire Hotel, also told how tire storage is a tool that can increase a shop’s profitability.
Roy Hinbest, owner of Roy’s Service Centre in Orangeville, Ont., discussed his unique approach to preventive maintenance. He and his son Michael stressed the importance of keeping clients on a detailed maintenance plan, and offering full inspections at every visit.
He said that involves keep close track of the time it takes to not only repair a vehicle, but to inspect it.
“When our technicians pick up the invoice at the front counter, they know how much time we’ve sold, and that’s the length of time we expect the vehicle’s going to be in the shop. Part of that is a time allowance to do the inspections properly. We’ve built in time for them to check that vehicle,” he said. “If there’s a problem with our estimated times, they come back to the front and let us know.”
John Edelman, owner of Haldimand Motors in Cayuga, Ont., gave a passionate presentation on retaining skilled employees. He explained why it’s important to invest time in your employee’s lives, and inspire them to see “the big picture.” He said giving employees an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives, creates a tight-knit team.
“I believe that we have to allow our employees to work for something bigger than themselves,” he said. “They need to be given opportunities to see past the small world of themselves, and when they do, the idea of leaving you for a couple more bucks an hour becomes unthinkable.”
Leroy Martin, owner of Leroy’s Auto Care in Elmira, Ont., he shared his experiences figuring out the best way to measure and improve shop efficiency.
“It wasn’t until I realized I needed some good training on how to run a productive shop that we started to see progress,” he said. “As owners and managers, it falls on us to develop systems and procedures to allow the shop to be profitable, and we need to give our techs the credit they deserve for their skills.”
He concluded his presentation with an uplifting reminder of how important it is in this industry to overcome negativity.
“We have to stop placing blame on the people around us for the problems we see,” he said. “We have to start thinking about we can each do to make a difference.”
The Ontario Service Provider Forum also featured keynote addresses by Carquest Canada’s training manager James Shields who discussed “the car of tomorrow” and Charles Seguin, president of Seguin Advisory Services, who discussed the latest business strategies being employed by automotive dealerships.