Discovering a new revenue stream can be a game changer for shops in a struggling economy.
Guest Column by Nancy Suranyi
In a challenging marketplace, companies often face a ‘sink or swim’ moment.
This can be uncomfortable and frightening… but it can also result in a remarkable success story.
Nancy Suranyi with service advisor Kevin Fitzpatrick (far left) and RV technician Neil Clark at the Edmonton RV Expo.
Forty-five years ago, a snapshot of our Edmonton-area shop would have revealed a mix of agricultural and automotive in our back bays. For many reasons, the days of working on tractors and combines have passed. But thanks to my father’s visionary ‘dream-big’ attitude, our shop has always been able to grow and adapt with the times.
As second generation owners, my two brothers, Roger and Mike, and I may not be as visionary as our father, but we did learn a thing or two from him. So early in 2016, when we saw a storm rolling into the Alberta economy, we knew we had to do something to ensure we would swim and not sink.
Alberta was starting to see some of the highest unemployment rates in over 20 years. On top of that, independent auto repair shops were losing more and more maintenance work to dealerships who were providing it “for free” on new vehicles.
The aftermarket in Alberta was facing a different and challenging landscape. Our thoughts focused on how to keep our heavy duty and automotive licensed technicians busy.
To solve this problem we updated the ‘snapshot’ of our 18,000-sqare-foot facility and saw a considerable number of motorhomes in our back bays.
Not many shops can accommodate a big Class “A” Diesel Pusher, but we could, and had managed to build a solid clientele of RV owners over the years. As most RV dealerships are unable to perform mechanical repairs, this had become a significant part of our business.
We then recognized the most common question we heard from these customers which was, “Can you work on the coach part as well?”
There it was. The opportunity.
“Um… yes. Yes, we can!”
By becoming a true “one-stop shop” for RVs, we would be strategically placing ourselves in a very small, yet desirable, niche market.
After researching what it would take to add full RV coach repairs to our existing business, we discovered that the first and most difficult step would be to hire a good well-rounded Red Seal-certified RV technician. Although coach work includes obvious repairs such as awnings, fridges and slide-outs, there’s also the plumbing, carpentry, and structural repairs to consider. We needed the right person in place to estimate and carry out the repairs.
Then we redesigned the shop, repositioned hoists, and purchased specific equipment to get the job done properly.
And finally, we devised a memorable marketing campaign that would attract the attention of local and visiting RV road warriors.
One by one, we put all the pieces together, and soon we had a solid RV expansion plan.
The decision to get into this work was taken lightly. We were facing an unstable economy and a significant investment. Yes, we encountered some bumps along the way, but the risk paid off.
Obviously diversifying into RV repairs is not feasible for everyone. You need the space, the expertise, and the clientele. But take a minute to update the snapshot of your back bays. Look for your untapped opportunities, and potential new revenue streams.
For us, whether 2016 was a going to be a record breaking or heart breaking year, it just made sense to look outside the box and push beyond our comfort zones.
Nancy Suranyi is co-owner, with her brothers, Roger and Mike of Namao Automotive in Namao, Alta.