By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
The chances are good that you know one of these guys, or somebody like them. Both are reliable workers, excellent diagnosticians, quick with the tools and careful in their work. They know the subtleties of every vehicle they touch and learn something from every new model that enters the bay. Customers love them and so does the boss. One is going and the other is coming.
“Yeah, I used to have my own shop,” one will tell you, “but I gave it up. Too much work, too many hours, too many problems. I’d rather work for somebody else and have regular hours with a regular paycheck.”
“Sorry to hear that,” says the other one. “Someday I want to have my own shop and be my own boss. I know I can make it work, but I just don’t know how to get started.” Two apparently opposite positions, but also two people saying the same thing in different words.
They can fix a car, but they don’t know how to run a business. Though few will admit it, that is true for way too many independent repair shop owners. Often, the owner has followed a dream and opened the business based on his own strong repair skills. But a hidden truth often emerges quickly: you can’t run your business from under a car.
Repairing cars can be rewarding, but it takes time. Our owner-technician discovers that he spends all day turning wrenches to pay the bills, and then spends some long nights at the shop paying the bills. And paying the taxes. And checking the shelf stock. And repairing the heater. Other routine office work, like comparing health plans or looking into new equipment, gets put off until Saturday or Sunday. The forty hour week quickly blossoms to sixty hours or more, and the joy of being your own boss fades sooner than expected.
Of course, this doesn’t have to happen. While few businesses make it big out of the box, the right approach and the right knowledge can help a new or existing business prosper, expand, and become a staple of the community. There’s a lot of help out there for anybody willing to ask.
The American Management Institute (AMI) Northwood University, and the U.S Small Business Administration have offerings for entrepreneurs. Check them out online.
And don’t think about excuses—this gang has you covered. “I can’t afford it”… the SBA programs are free, and they can connect you to local mentors who provide day to day help. “I never went to college,”…take some AMI courses, one at time. They’re held all over the country.
“I already went to college.” Did that liberal arts degree in English really teach you about financing a shop expansion? Probably not, but graduate work through Northwood University might help. “I don’t have the time and it’s too far away.” Oh, please! Everybody’s on-line now, and a computer course is as close as your keyboard. You were just going to watch mindless TV tonight anyway.
Don’t be afraid of going back to school. Education isn’t memorizing facts, it’s gaining insight and understanding and concepts to carry with you. The same rules of “personnel management” apply to a shop with three employees as they do to a factory with three hundred. Suppliers and vendors watch your payment history and credit rating like a hawk watches a rabbit—one wrong move and you’re recent history. Not all bank loans cost the same. Skilled negotiators come out ahead. Time management is as important as money management. Good marketing works. Partnerships usually benefit all the parties. None of this is news, but you need to know it to succeed beyond just fixing the car.
What are your dreams? Do you want to open a new shop, another shop or a bigger shop? Would you like more employees, more stock, or more sales? If you only take one course, and come away with one new idea that helps your business improve, it was worth it. Each of our contributors will tell you that their courses more than pay for themselves through improved business, better customer relations and happier employees.
Only you know what you want to know. Maybe you just need a few questions answered – call the SBA Hotline. But if you want more, whether it’s one course, a program, or a full curricula leading to a degree, specialized automotive business education is available from people and institutions who understand this crazy industry and its special requirements.
Are you and your business coming or going? How can you tell?
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.
You can E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/cf7az8 to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit http://bit.ly/9FxwTh to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.
The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.