Auto Service World
News   October 14, 2022   by Adam Malik

Finding the right person to take over your business

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If you’re looking for the right person to take over your repair shop or jobber store, how do you know they’re not already working for you if you don’t ask them?

It may sound like a difficult conversation but it’s one that can work out well in the end if both sides are interested, says a business succession planning expert.

If a service advisor or one of your counter staff looks like they have a knack for the industry and appear to be someone to whom you could successfully transition, have a conversation with them.

You may be surprised by the answer you get, said Bob Ward, owner of Perpetual Business. They may not have thought about it but are intrigued by the idea. Or they may have the idea in their mind but they’re too scared to ask you.

“They’re kind of afraid,” Ward said during his presentation, Succession: The Ultimate Objective, at NAPA Expo 2022. They might think they’re too young or don’t have the money to buy you out. Lack of experience adds to the cloud of doubt. “They don’t have the confidence” to go up to you to tell you about how interested they are.

Bob Ward speaks at NAPA Expo 2022 in Las Vegas

“They’re kind of afraid they might be laughed at,” he said, adding that he was laughed at when he worked at a dealership and brought up the idea of eventually taking over the business. He was 29 years old at the time.

A year later, he was at a new employer, had the same conversation and the owner was receptive to the idea.

“I knew no matter what you’re going to throw at me, I’m going to figure out how to get the job done. Those are the people you want and want to keep,” Ward said.

Even if they don’t want to be an owner, maybe there’s a role elsewhere in the company for which they may be a fit. By asking what’s important to them, their family and their career, you can see where someone may want to end up. You always want to know how you can satisfy your employees.

Ward called these “essential conversations” to have.

“If you know [what they want] you can help satisfy it. If it helps satisfy their needs and wants and their career goals, you can keep them forever,” he said. “If you can’t satisfy them, they’re at risk of leaving on their own or being recruited out.”

The bottom line is to start thinking about who will take over your business.

“Start thinking of potential buyers right now, inside or outside,” Ward recommended. “Make sure your operations are clean, neat, the books are in order the place looks nice and presentable. Basically think: Is it ready for sale today?”