As the owner of an auto repair business, you will be all too familiar with the tasks required of yourself to keep your business operating.
There is leading your team, ensuring there is enough work coming in, paying the bills and wages, making sure you comply with legislation, keeping up to date with technology and team training, staying on top of your tax liabilities, and servicing and repairing vehicles yourself if you are still on the tools, just to mention a few of them.
The problem with executing these tasks, is that most of them can be done without you taking any time to consider the big picture for your business. You can carry out each one as you go about your day, but give little time or thought to how you might improve things for yourself or your team members.
Instead of using strategic thinking, you just “do”. And you think you are busy while you “do” it. In fact, your days become full of busy. So busy, that you can’t quite work out why you are so busy, and your team appears so busy, but there is not enough money in your account at the end of each month to pay the wages and bills.
Each month you go the tiniest bit further backwards. Because you don’t look at your financials regularly, you don’t notice it at first, but soon enough, you are eating into your overdraft or using a credit card to survive.
Because your bank account gets deposits every day after you settle your EFTPOS machine you can outrun it for a while, sometimes even for a year or two. But eventually it catches up with you, and you now have some tough decisions to make.
You might even start to reflect on how much easier it was when you started out. You had a small team and enough work to keep everyone productive and happy.
You were happier then too because you had less stress, and got home earlier to be with your family….
So what went wrong with your business? How did you fall into financial decline, and why does it feel like you and your team are busier than ever?
Here are 5 reasons why, and what you can do to ensure you turn things around for good.
1. There is no captain and no rudder on your ship….huh?
We are talking about auto repair, right? Yes we are, but the fact is, when your business falls into this type of decline, it’s because not only have you not been leading your team, you’ve barely been managing them either.
You have been so consumed with robbing Peter to pay Paul, with putting out fires and with trying to keep the customers happy, that you’ve actually neglected to inspire your team, share a vision, or create an environment the creates new leaders and a team that is hungry to help you achieve your goals as well as theirs.
You are more than likely holding on to someone right now that you know isn’t a cultural fit for your business, because you think someone in that role is better than no one. It’s hard to find a good tech during a skills shortage, right?. You know it’s hurting your business to have someone so destructive hang around, and the team are noticing the behaviours you are putting up with too….you are setting a bad precedent.
2. You’ve got your head buried in the sand
The reason your finances have gotten steadily worse, and are now at the point where your business needs an urgent financial injection, is because you’ve chosen not to face up to the problem.
Instead, you’ve listened to the little voice in your head that has told you “you’re a mechanic, not a finance expert”, so you haven’t learned how to read your financial reports, or asked for regular strategic meetings with your accountant and bookkeeper.
You’ve also got little idea about your profitability on each job…As a result, you make a small amount of money on some jobs, and lose on others.
You also don’t know how much it costs you to keep the doors open each hour, therefore, your hourly charge out rate isn’t enough, and you make all decisions to purchase equipment and take on new team members, blind.
3. You’ve got your head stuck under the hood as well
Being the most skilled and experienced technician in your auto repair business, you’ve been spending a large portion of your days being directly involved in repairs, parts ordering, and customer service.
This means that you don’t always notice when it takes one of your other guys longer than it should to do a job, or when they are stretching out their jobs to suit the length of the day, rather than getting the cars back to the customer in a timely fashion.
Because you are busy, you aren’t noticing that they have slackened off, and this is contributing to your poor cash flow.
Quite simply, your workshop isn’t productive anymore, and if you aren’t using an invoicing program that utilises continuous time clocking, you are giving your team an excuse to perform poorly.
4. You haven’t invested in training for your team
A team that grows together stays together. By not setting aside time to have one on one discussions with your team members to discuss their future aspirations and goals on a regular basis, you’ve failed to keep them interested in performing at a high level.
You haven’t sought out technical, leadership, or business training for them that may have fuelled their passions in the industry and led to them taking a bigger interest in your business.
As a result, some team members may have deselected altogether to seek employment with a business who makes training and upskilling a priority.
As an employer and leader, you must add value to the lives of your employees. Your team wants to feel like they matter.
5. You haven’t asked for help
And while this is reason number 5, it’s the biggest reason why you find yourself in this situation.
Whether it’s through lack of awareness, lack of understanding, the feeling of shame, or because you are just too damn proud, you haven’t reached out and asked for the help that is all around you.
If your accountant is worth their salt, they can help keep you accountable by teaching you how to read your financial reports and by creating a budget for you and monitoring your expenses. You should be meeting with them more than once per year at tax time. You are a business, not an individual.
If they don’t want to do this for you, change accountants and go with an accounting expert from our industry. (If you need a referral contact me by email).
It’s a well-known fact that light vehicle mechanics and auto electricians don’t get business skills training over the course of their apprenticeships, and unless you’ve had some other type of exposure to running a business, you are probably flying blind running this one.
Even the biggest and most well-known business owners in the world have mentors and coaches, so why haven’t you reached out to speak with one? At some point maybe you did, but they weren’t the right one because they didn’t understand our industry.
If that is the case, I strongly urge you to try again. Help is only ever a phone call or email away.
You probably haven’t reached out to your bank for help either to ease your cash flow burden…while this isn’t a long term solution, it could get you out of short term trouble while you work on the strategies required to overhaul your business and bring it back to firing on all cylinders.
It’s time to “Show Up” as the owner and leader of your business. You can’t afford to waste another day leaving things to chance, with your head either buried in the sand or under the hood, not steering your own ship, and not providing the opportunities for development your team seek.
Most importantly, all of this struggle is completely unnecessary. Align yourself with a mentor who has walked the path before you, and get yourself back on track, acquiring those missing business skills as you go. Embrace this as the start of a new business journey where you will set yourself up for life.
What 3 action items will you execute on today so that you can halt the slow and steady decline of your auto repair business, ending your stress and constant struggle??
Rachael Sheldrick, The Workshop Whisperer is the leading business mentor for auto repair business owners across Australia and New Zealand. Unlike a traditional business coach, Rachael owns a successful and award winning workshop and shares the secrets to its success.
To learn more about Rachael’s mentoring and online business overhaul programs visit www.workshopwhisperer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org