Shop of the Week is a weekly column devoted to showcasing the efforts of automotive shops and their teams across Canada. Want your shop to have a turn in the spotlight? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Donnie and Elaine Lysons
Shop name: Lacombe Auto Service Centre – NAPA AutoPro
Location: Lacombe, AB
Number of employees: 10
When did you open your shop? Bought from existing owner in March 2018.
Do you specialize in anything? Light duty auto repair on all makes and models.
Main parts supplier: NAPA Autoparts, Lacombe
What has been your biggest challenge as a shop this year and how have you navigated through them?
EL: We actually feel pretty lucky in comparison to a lot of other businesses in town in how COVID-19 has affected us. Yes, we have had slow downs, but as soon as things started moving, business would bounce back even stronger. The biggest challenges were worries over staff getting sick, keeping our customers safe, and learning about government programs available to us and if we should apply etc.
What’s your biggest success story this year?
EL: We have a few developments. The year started with a front office renovation in which we expanded and updated the space for our frontend staff. We finally added tire sales and service to our business model and invested in new tire equipment and a larger lift for the shop to handle larger vehicles. We hired a young fellow with years of tire experience and he bounces between the front desk and the tire equipment. It’s great to have that versatility. We also joined the NAPA Autopro network in September, allowing us to offer a two-year warranty on repairs and access the mentorship that group offers.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
EL: It has added extra work in terms of sanitizing vehicles, the shop and doing vehicle pick up and delivery for high risk customers. We also added a new key drop with four key lockers which allowed contact-free service and afterhours key pick up.
What kinds of digital technology are you currently using/implementing?
EL: We have been using digital inspections since 2018 and absolutely love them. We also have a recently added client relationship manager (CRM) program for texting customer reminders and follow ups. That has been a very positive addition to our service. We use Protractor for our shop management program and it integrates with both the CRM and digital inspection systems. We are set up to accept appointment requests on our website and customers can apply for vehicle repair financing through our website as well. Customers can text us if they prefer that over phone calls as well. We have extensive social media coverage: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Google my business etc. and customers message us through these platforms as well.
If you could see one change in the aftermarket, what would it be?
EL: We would love to see a better system for training and developing new technicians. We love the German model which starts with one year of multi-trade technician training during high school then once you pick your trade you shadow an assigned tradesman for several years while also taking in class training. The apprenticeship program we have is pretty good is pretty good, but it would be even better to have these young techs come into the apprenticeship program with a stronger knowledge base and experience level right at the start.
This would also help with the consistency in training. We are finding a huge difference in the skill level of third and fourth-year techs depending on the training they received from former employers. Alberta is good about requiring techs to be licensed, and from what we understand, other provinces are a bit looser about that requirement, or were. Our industry is going through a major shift in technology in vehicles, so the pressure to adapt will be put on our technicians over the next 10 years. If our young techs come into the Trade with a good base knowledge in modern vehicles, it will help the older technicians adapt faster.
Tell me an interesting fact about your shop?
EL: We were awarded Shop of the Year in 2019 by CARS Magazine!
We have a very collaborative team here. Everyone brings a special skill or knowledge base to the table. We have a lot of experience in the shop. So, we don’t run the shop with an iron fist but rather set the stage for everyone to carry a part of the load. We rely on our staff to ensure we are always meeting customer expectations and doing our best for them. As still fairly new owners (three years in now) we have introduced a ton of changes to the staff, and they have adapted willingly. In fact, we get good support from them. They understand why we are evolving and appreciate the direction we are going.
Name a part/product you and your team are particularly enjoying this month and why?
EL: The recently added Client Relationship Management software, My Shop Manager, has been a great addition. It has increased conversations with our current clientele and gives us the opportunity to ask for a Google review! Since adding that software a few months ago, we have received more than 30 five-star reviews.