December 1, 2008
Chuck Serhal, Owner Of Chuck's Auto Inc., Etobicoke, Ontario
Success Through Specialization
When you drive by most automotive repair shops today, it is almost certain you will see emblazoned on their banner somewhere "We repair all makes, models." It seems a pretty sound business decision, a...
When you drive by most automotive repair shops today, it is almost certain you will see emblazoned on their banner somewhere “We repair all makes, models.” It seems a pretty sound business decision, as you attract a wide-range of vehicles and owners, thereby generating revenue for your operation.
So what are the advantages of having an independent service business that specializes in one brand of automobile? Since 1993, I have specialized in the maintenance and repair of BMW vehicles which has allowed me to run a successful business, even during these tough economic times. What specialization has allowed me and my two technicians to do is to use our resources and time to their maximum benefit. We can hone our training more effectively since we are only repairing one kind of vehicle make; we do not need to train to repair or maintain many different kinds of vehicles, scrambling to stay on top of the changing technologies of dozens of different makes and models.
As well, this particular focus also allows me to control our costs more effectively. For example, in an all-purpose shop an owner would have to invest in a wide range of scan tools and diagnostic equipment, costing many thousands of dollars, in order to stay on-top of all the vehicles out there and which could come into the shop; and then there is the on-going upgrading and support for those tools that has to be factored in as well. And the reason one needs multiple tools is there exists no single universal scan tool that can handle all makes and models of vehicles.
Because my shop specializes in one kind of vehicle repair and maintenance, the tools we purchase are limited to what we need for BMWs. We don’t have to buy every scan and diagnostic tool in order to do our jobs; we just need those for the BMW brand. As well, specialization allows us to offer some unique value-added services, such as tire and wheel sales and service, and accessories such as spoilers, for example.
So does this mean there are no problems in specializing? While we at Chuck’s Auto Inc. avoid some of the problems other shops experience, specialized shops have their own unique set of problems. The most common is finding technicians. While our industry has an ongoing problem attracting young people to the industry, many who do enter often want to work on a large variety of vehicles. That variety offers challenges and opportunities to develop a wide skill-set. Because our shop specializes in only one kind of vehicle, it takes a certain kind of person to work here: someone who is passionate about this type of vehicle and wants to become an expert in its repair and maintenance. While attractive to some, it is often not for many others, so we struggle to attract and keep skilled and motivated technicians. We have been fortunate that the technicians we have come with the passion and desire to work on BMW vehicles.
Another challenge is the economic crisis we are all now facing. While vehicle owners will try to save a few dollars by foregoing some maintenance and repairs, we can still succeed in this environment by emphasizing quality service and the value-add of having expert and high-trained technicians. We can educate car owners that foregoing maintenance and repairs is more expensive in the long-term than in doing the work when needed. But if we have developed a long-term relationship with our clients based on quality of service and technical expertise, for example, it will be easier to convince people to regularly maintain their vehicles, even in tough economic times.