Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2009   by Mark Borkowski

Top 10 Turnaround Tactics

What are you doing to ensure your success?

With the downturn of the economy, I decided that there are 10 things that might be helpful in assisting you in upgrading your jobber company.

You may already be doing some or all of these, but here they are:

1) Ask your customers what’s important to them.

Talk with your existing customers–don’t just assume you know what they want. Pick up the phone or send an email and ask, “What can we do better for you or your company?” In today’s environment your customers’ priorities may have changed, and chances are they will be delighted you phoned. How about doing a customer survey? Using Survey Monkey or Question Pro, and posting the answers on your website, says you are listening to your customers.

2) Be strategic.

In this downturn, many businesses are thinly funded and thinly staffed. Consequently, businesses get into the habit of reacting. Most of us spend too much time putting out fires instead of guiding our businesses’ efforts. Make every action create the business you want, not the business that happens. Set objectives with your employees, not just your managers. Bring in your team and write down some strategic objectives, and visualize them in action. Tack them to the bulletin board and ask the team if you’re on track. It will help your company get focused.

3) Differentiate your business.

Even if you are in an age-old segment of the jobber industry, you can differentiate it from your competition. This exercise should be done by writing down the phrase “our company, a business known for__________.” Trying to come up with a new definition that distinguishes your company for its uniqueness in 25 words or less will help you in your task. Share this information with your managers and employees. Remind them what makes your company unique.

4) Partner with others where it makes sense.

The phrase “no man is an island” is especially true in business. How can you work with suppliers, customers, or complementary companies to achieve your common objectives? If the partnership of efforts cannot be articulated in a few bullet points, do not spend time on it.

5) Learn a new technology.

The sheer number of applications available for the jobber business, especially online, is now so great it feels impossible to keep up with. Do not give up because you feel overwhelmed.

Pick one new thing. If you have been holding back from learning how to design a brochure or how to upload video from your camera to YouTube, now is the time to learn. Pick just one thing at a time. Get good at whatever you picked. You will gain confidence that will help you tackle other technologies and software applications later on. Encourage your staff to do the same.

6) Start an e-newsletter.

Do whatever it takes to get a newsletter started. You can have multiple newsletters from different departments in your company sent to customers. Remember that email is best used for communicating with existing customers and contacts. Use a simple email marketing program like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, or Campaigner to manage your subscriber database and compose professional-looking emails. Just get started. Remember, “out of sight, out of mind.”

7) Cement relationships with key customers.

It is far less expensive to get a new sale from an existing customer than to go out prospecting afresh to close a new customer. Make sure your relationships are strong. Work on them. In a recession, customers are your life vest. Consider holding an annual customer conference.

8) Automate a process.

We are always running into issues when it comes to accounting and invoicing that take up more time than we like.

9) Spruce up your working environment.

A cluttered workspace leads to a cluttered mind. Cleaning it up will make all of your employees feel better about their environment and themselves.

10) Network, network, network.

Online networking has replaced more than 75% of in-person networking. You can reach lots of people you have never met and start up a relationship. You would be surprised how effective Twitter, Facebook, and LinkdIn can be for creating more website traffic.

So, what things are you going to do to improve your company this year?

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