Auto Service World
News   March 2, 2023   by Adam Malik

The shop owner’s self-esteem problem

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The typical shop owner doesn’t put enough value into themselves, which is why they don’t charge enough to their customers, according to automotive aftermarket leaders.

“I think our industry has a self-esteem problem,” said Chris Cotton. owner of AutoFix-Auto Shop Coaching. “I don’t think we value ourselves enough to be able to charge that much but because we see ourselves — or some shop owners see themselves — as just mechanics or just technicians. And when you say that about yourself, gosh, it makes me feel sad.”

Along with Cecil Bullard, chief executive officer of the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence and RLO Training, and Diane Freeman, executive director of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario, Cotton was speaking as part of a webinar hosted by AutoLeap. The discussion of self-esteem branched out from the trio discussing the need for shops to raise labour rates.

“There’s so much work to be done here on our own self-esteem and our value of ourselves as an industry, as an individual within the industry and what we contribute,” Bullard agreed.

The experts noted that many shop owners are so scared of the guy down the street who will undercharge and potentially steal customers away.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re where we are. We just don’t get it as an industry,” Bullard said. “We are so afraid of the guy down the street that’s charging $90 an hour. And that guy is putting himself out of business. Why are we following that guy?”

Instead, go the other way, he added. He used the example of one of his clients who charges $135 per hour in an effort to be less than the nearby dealership. But the dealer charges $215 an hour. Why such a big gap?

“I said, ‘Why aren’t you $210? If you want to be less, why are you why are you $80 less? Why aren’t you $5 less or $10 less?’” Bullard told him.

The problem, according to Freeman, is that many shop owners don’t see themselves as professionals.

“Yet, we’re the ones who do the most training — the tools, the equipment that’s spent just to run a shop. And yet, we’re afraid to push the envelope,” she said. “If we need to attract more qualified, skilled people in our industry, I think we need to pay more. And if we need to pay more, we definitely need to put the labour rate up.”

There will always be those who charge less, Bullard noted. Shops can’t worry about them in a race to the bottom.

“We’re always going to have guys in our industry … that are going to charge less. There’s always going to be that guy down the street that will work out of his house or work out of his garage.”

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2 Comments » for The shop owner’s self-esteem problem
  1. Tim Blain says:

    i will add this
    dont get too errogant
    ive seen it happen and those shops also dont last long
    they spring up promise the world and are gone in a short time leaving customers with no recourse if anything goes wrong with the repairs or parts warranty ,witnessed it myself many times with my own customers
    in business 25 + years and still here standing my ground
    mostly commercial vehicles but still the same
    covid opened my eyes even more ,and thats when shop rates and wages went up ,and never lost a customer

  2. I agree but I’m not sure I would call is self-esteem but instead self worth. This causes a trickle down effect because the business that doesn’t charge enough won’t be able to afford to pay a top notch technician what they are worth and that technician won’t stay. If that leaves the business with a subpar technician the work quality will suffer causing a reduction in return business. It’s a downward spiral that our aftermarket industry must fight to avoid. There may be room to talk to the shop down the street. Not price fixing but an understanding that makes them both competitive and also allows them to be profitable and attract top quality technicians. We have a huge problem attracting new people into this industry and one (not the only one) reason is pay and benefits. Charging what your services are worth is a step in the right direction.

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