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: Chris Dekker
Shop name: My Garage Auto & Tire
Location: Airdrie, Alberta
Number of employees: 10: Two service advisors, one parts specialist, one admin/bookkeeper, four journeyman technicians and two apprentices.
Opening date: May 1st, 2019 at this location.
Do you specialize in anything?
CD: We are very future-focused and have established ourselves as the local destination for service of hybrids and electric vehicles. We have also specialized in a smaller number of vehicle brands; something we think is essential as our industry continues to move forward. This currently includes seven manufacturers, and we anticipate dropping this to five within the next three to four years. We service these brands with OEM scan tools, OEM service information and only use genuine OEM fluids.
Main parts supplier: Napa Auto Parts
What has been your biggest challenge(s) as a shop this year and how have you navigated through them?
CD: For me, it has been the difficulty in planning things—everything from when to hire new employees, to decisions surrounding purchasing new shop equipment. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the local economy and the on-and-off lockdowns, it’s hard to know what the future will bring.
What’s your biggest success story this year?
CD: For us, I think it has been the ability to grow at a fast pace despite the economic downturn. Our revenue is up 36 per cent from last year, and we’ve added four new staff members to our team. I have been very active on social media, and we’ve come up with some creative marketing campaigns (focused around supporting local business) that have worked well. We also put a lot of effort into internal marketing, including cleaning client vehicles; leaving our branded water bottles inside the vehicle after service; etc.
Chris Dekker, My Garage Auto & Tire
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
CD: It has changed things, that’s for sure. While we’ve managed to grow through the year, this has taken an enormous amount of effort. I’m sure that without the pandemic, things would have been easier, and we’d have been able to achieve even more success. With the most recent lockdown in Alberta, many of our clients are again out of work. We’ll probably see the effects of this over the next couple months.
What kinds of digital technology are you currently using?
CD: We were the first shop in Airdrie to offer digital inspections, and to use a digital workflow system in the shop. We use a program to communicate updates to clients via text message, and a lot of our other communication is digital too. A significant portion of our work is booked via platforms like Facebook Messenger, Instagram, etc. We’re also currently experimenting with flight data recorders in client vehicles to aid in diagnosis of intermittent problems.
If you could change one thing about the aftermarket, what would it be?
CD: A lot of the better shop owners/managers are already doing this, but as an industry I think we need to stop focusing on price and the idea that an independent should always be cheaper than a dealership. Auto service is just that: a service; not a commodity. A while back I had a client question an estimate that we provided, exclaiming “That’s as much as the dealership quoted me!” So, I asked him: “Why do you think our price should be lower than the dealership? Do you feel that our quality of work is lower? Are my technicians less capable? Do you find our service to be worse?”
He didn’t know what to say at first. “I guess I never thought about it like that,” he eventually offered. Once I explained that our hourly-paid technicians would likely provide a higher quality repair than a commission-paid technician at a dealership, and the fact that we back our repairs for two years longer than his dealership, he started to see the value in what we offer. Like I said, auto service isn’t a commodity. When I quote a brake replacement, I’m not selling brake pads or rotors. I’m selling how long the brakes will last before they need replacing again. I’m selling the fact we’ll accurately address your braking concern, and you won’t have to bring your vehicle back two or three times for the same concern. I’m selling the security of knowing your family is safe; the confidence in knowing your brakes were repaired properly and completely. I’m selling the fact that if you experience a problem with any of our work down the road, we’ll be here for you.
Tell me an interesting fact about your shop?
CD: We were the first shop in Airdrie to offer complimentary courtesy cars. These have been a huge success and clients love it. We wanted the cars to be a nod to the fact that we offer a little more capability than you’d normally expect from an independent shop, so we selected the Chevrolet Volt range-extended EV. We currently operate three of them, with the intention to add one more courtesy car each year until we reach a total of five or six.
Name a part/product you and your team are particularly enjoying this month and why?
CD: Our whole team is really getting into electric tools like impact wrenches and ratchets. I’m an old-school air tool guy myself, and they’re even winning me over. Some of the techs are using Snap-on cordless tools, but the new stuff from Dewalt and Milwaukee is really good too. And there’s no air hose to trip over!