Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2010   by Auto Service World

Surviving the Recovery

Okay, folks, the recession is over. By all metrics, like it or not, that is the truth.

And the more personal metrics–the amount of activity in the market and the industry–bear this out.

There has quite literally not been a week since early spring that an event, a business imperative–must-do’s like last-minute demands for proposals and quotes ( “We need it today, before lunch”) has not dominated all or part of the work day, and then some.

It’s not that I’m complaining. Much of what I have been party to in the industry is a direct consequence of a returning confidence in the economy and in the aftermarket.

But even if the trends can be judged to be positive and are welcomed, it has also put stress on many organizations that are still recovering from the precipitous drop in business only two short years ago–who are focused on climbing back to the surface, but doing it with less rope than when they were shoved in.

With this as the backdrop, and drawing on input I have received over the past few months, here is some advice on how to survive the recovery.

Use Your Technology to the Fullest: You may be driving your staff to the brink of madness when you could lighten their load by using all of the capabilities in your business system, or adding a function or two.

Review Your Staffing: Are you limiting your growth by being understaffed? Are you waiting? These are important questions, but under current conditions it is wise to go slow, but also to be honest about what you need on this front to secure growth. Do you need experience, or do you need youth? More counterpeople, or more drivers? Things are not as they were before.

Upgrade Your Personal Technology: It’s time to get plugged in. Smart phones–Blackberry, iPhone, Android–aren’t just for kids to update their Facebook status. They are valuable business tools. Evaluate your options and make the leap. Lesson One will be how to turn it on. Lesson Two will be how to turn it off. Everything in between is learn-as-you-go.

Perform a detailed Customer Services Review: What are you doing for customers that they love, and what could they live without? Everybody needs to streamline operations and legacy programs–things that you are doing because you have always done them–are the enemy of efficiency.

Recognize that Rapid Change has Occurred: Your competition’s customers, the ones you were desperate to attract two years ago, may show up on your doorstep looking for options. Ask yourself if you know enough about their current situation to warrant jumping through hoops. The same goes for staffing. Is that great counterperson still as good five years after you desperately wanted him? You owe it to yourself and your existing staff to make the right call, so be sure to include them in making those decisions.

The basic theme of all of this is that as your business rebounds, and your resources return, don’t blindly allocate to the same areas you did before. Things are not as they were. It is a great opportunity to transform your business today for a better tomorrow, if you are prepared to make the effort.

One last note: Put Plans to Sell on Hold. If you were planning on selling your business, consider delaying those plans. My crystal ball tells me most of you with viable businesses will get more for them if you hold them for a couple of years more. At the very least, consider adding the rebounding market to the valuation of the business if you must sell.

But I hope you don’t, because this market is going to be a lot of fun over the next little while. You should stick around.

Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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