Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2007   by Glenn Colling, president of Eastside Auto Service

Want to grow your business?

Start using shop management software, management training

Eastside Auto Service, located in Oakville, Ont. started out in 1969 as a two-bay service garage and has grown to a seven bay facility. A professional customer service/waiting area, boardroom/training room for employee meetings and training, and a clean, well equipped facility, allows for a great environment for our staff to grow. We currently employ three technicians, two service advisors and provide opportunities for co-op students to come and work at our facility as well.

What an exciting industry we get to play in everyday. The challenge of keeping on top of new technologies, Right to Repair, staffing issues, marketing, providing excellence in customer service and a whole host of other things keeps us on our toes everyday. As challenging as some of these things can be, it is great when something comes along to help keep us on track in managing these changes. New diagnostic equipment, such as Delphi’s DS800 make our technicians more efficient, and new marketing strategies, are all extremely important. However, one of the biggest changes in the profitability of our company came with the implementation of a great garage management system.

I came into this business a little differently than a lot of shop owners. I typically hear about the shop owner that started out as a technician and then decided to launch their own business. They then attend management training to get a better grasp on their company, and grow it into a profitable entity. I started out by attending university and received my BBA Degree in Automotive Aftermarket Management. I then came to work at Eastside Auto Service at which time I decided it would be best to go back to school and get my technician license. This has served me well as I have a very good knowledge base of all aspects of running this type of business. However, the tools of the trade for me are not the latest and greatest diagnostic equipment or tool as it may be for a technician, mine is the latest and greatest in management software to provide an instant snapshot of the financial health of my business.

I belong to a Bottom Line Impact Group out of the U.S. and we did an informal poll with the question being, “If you had to start all over again, what would be the first thing you would implement into your business?” There was talk of well-trained and qualified technicians, the best tools of the trade, great marketers, etc. But in the end, the number one choice of those polled was the implementation of a fully integrated garage management system. There are many choices when it comes to management systems today. We implemented the Protractor system back in 2004 and have found it to be exactly what we need when it comes to providing us with the financial information we need to run our business.

It provides us with key business indicators such as dollars per RO, sold hours per RO, parts and labor gross profit dollars and percentages by department, overall company gross profit, and much more. This system gives us as owners the ability to set up our parts and labour matrixs so that we do not need to micromanage those on the front counter, making sure that they are selling the work at the proper price. The system also has the ability to pre-book the customers next service appointment, and even sends automatic email reminders to the customer when they are coming due. In June 2007, we had 97 customers pre-booked with appointments. These types of systems are money making tools. The first year we implemented the system, it netted us approx. $43,000 in environmental fees alone. Just turning the environmental fee option on so that it gets charged on every repair order provided us with an 887 per cent return on investment. I challenge you to prove any diagnostic scan tool, or other latest and greatest tool of the trade can provide that type of return.

As we continue to grow, and eventually become absentee owners, this type of management software, coupled with ongoing management training and group support will be key to our industries success. Embrace these new types of technologies and programs, and fully implement all they have to offer. It will show huge dividends to your bottom line.