You’ve heard the saying many times before “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. Yet still, most auto repair business owners do no forward planning to set priorities and goals that would see their businesses thrive well into the future.
Over the past few months I have facilitated over three dozen Strategic Planning days for clients with their teams, resulting in an annual plan, broken down into quarterly priorities, weekly goals, and daily tasks.
For many, this was the very first time they had properly constructed any kind of document that set the intention for the future direction of their business.
That is scary.
Why? Because many of those business owners had been in business for 5-10 years. They had been flying by the seat of their pants for 5-10 years!
As the business owner if time management is an issue, and it is for most auto repair business owners that I know, you will be spending your workdays being busy, but not necessarily being productive. Come closing time, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is staying back, or staying up to work “on” your business.
As a result, a vision for the business is never thought through, priorities are never created, goals are never set, and the tasks that are needed to be done to achieve those priorities and goals are never executed on.
This creates a catch 22 situation for you as the business owner, or so you think. Because you are so busy working on the tools and don’t plan, your business settles on a plateau….your business ends up neither growing or shrinking for a while, even years. You think you are doing ok. There is just enough money to get by. “Why change?”, you think.
But then something happens….a change in life circumstances, or the loss of a major revenue producing customer causes you to panic.
Faced with needing or wanting to spend more time at home with your family, needing medical treatment, or needing to replace that lost client, you realize you don’t know how to make the changes necessary to create either the space you need, or the money that will keep you afloat.
It’s at this point that you wish you had kept up or acquired some business planning and business building knowledge. As each day passes this creates a level of stress that causes you to wake in the middle of the night thinking about work, or it leads to you displaying less than desirable leadership at work, or grumpy behaviour at home.
This affects the culture of your auto repair business, and can have a detrimental effect on your relationships with family at home.
So how can you avoid falling into a crisis situation with your auto repair business that dictates you take action you don’t know how to carry out?
By carving out and keeping time to work on your business through effective strategic planning, you can ensure that you will help to create a vision for your business that can actually be achieved.
When you create effective and actionable strategic business plans, you are creating a pathway, or set of instructions for your business to grow, that can be easily followed by anyone in your team that you would like to include.
If you are a one man band, that would obviously mean that you create and execute the plan yourself, but if you have several technicians and an office person, you might want to consider their inclusion in executing the business vision.
A key element in the process is the engagement of all team members. Team member engagement generates additional input and helps build their commitment to the end plan. Team member input will:
- Provide insight into issues, challenges, concerns, and opportunities which may not have been known or fully understood.
- Ensure their “buy-in” to help execute the strategies.
What should your strategic business planning process look like?
Your forward planning should take place 4 times annually: Once for the creation of your annual plan, and 3 other times for quarterly planning.
The annual and quarterly plans can then be broken down into priorities, which in turn can be dissected into goals and tasks for each week.
A key feature of the success of a strategic plan is your ability to delegate out the priorities, goals, and tasks that do not suit your skill set, leaving you the time to execute on the things you are good at and enjoy.
This could mean you no longer try to create engaging social media, but hire a Facebook management business to look after your page and any ads you would like to run. You might also decide to stop doing your own books, or stop leaving that to your spouse, and bring in a bookkeeper 10 hours per month.
Delegating these tasks that you neither enjoy or are good at can mean you have created an additional 20 hours per month that you can spend on business building activities like networking or dropping in on businesses whose cars you would like to service.
This in turn can lead to increased clarity for the direction of the business, and increased cash flow from your new business building activities.
Alternatively, your plan may dictate that it is time to hire a new technician, for you to move off the tools into a service advisor role, or it may show that it is time to let someone go. It might also provide the direction to know when it is time to purchase new equipment, or to change premises.
Of course there are many other benefits to creating a business plan that actually helps to propel your business forward by encouraging action and execution. To find out more about how these plans can help your auto repair business, and your team to thrive, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Strategic Planning”.