Ensuring your business is a success and makes enough money to keep you and your staff going seems like a relatively straightforward concept, but in many ways it isn’t, as behind the scenes a lot of intricacies shape the overall outcome of how a business will fare.
Graham Gent, Owner of MOT-A-CAR, knows all about that, which is why he takes great pride and care in developing his business and marketing plans to guarantee his business continues to be profitable and adaptable.
He says: “If you have a business plan and do all your costings from the beginning, then you can work out your hourly rate from your fixed costs. If it is all done properly, you should be able to open the door to at least a half decent garage with a reasonable hourly rate and do a decent job at a reasonable price.
“My business is not based on price, and it will never will be. I have this conversation several times a day with different people who see our hourly rate and say ‘I don’t get paid £52 an hour’, which I reply with ‘I don’t get paid £52 an hour either’. They don’t understand, they just assume and that is just a customer’s point of view. But if you do your business plan properly, you can budget for new equipment and training.”
Gent has developed the plan with the future in mind as the plan is to expand the business to become a saleable asset and a brand of its own. He adds that it is very easy for owners to see a garage as a lifestyle business, but having a progressive set of objectives can help avoid falling into the trap of not being able to sell the business on.
“If you don’t have marketing plans or business plans, you will just carry on plodding through the day,” Gent explains. “And then you won’t ever budget for more equipment, more staff, moving premises or anything.”
Gent’s meticulous nature is key for the success MOT-A-CAR has seen and will see in the future, and the desire to constantly re-invest in training, apprentices and ensuring his equipment is updated on a yearly basis underlines his commitment to ensuring the garage keeps up with ever-changing practices and technology.
One of the current projects is to set up a training programme with Bosch or Delphi, which he accepts will also mean buying their garage equipment.
“We want to implement a Delphi or Bosch training programme, for the lads in the workshop so they can work through the various modules and know they are getting something out of it as well.
“All of your staff needs to be able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and that is why you need to train them. If they struggle with certain items, then we send them on the relevant course. That is why we want this training programme in place, so we can pick our lads out and say you are good at that, let’s get you on that course.”
Another area the garage focuses heavily on is its customer service, which has been acknowledged through several business awards. Gent sees a good customer experience as integral part of inspiring future business no matter what his hourly rate is, as the majority of his customer base look at the standard of work and the service they receive.
“If you are not willing to put a dedicated receptionist in and have dedicated staff, then you are not going to survive,” he adds. “You need staff who will happily go on a training course, learn about the technology and make you more money by doing the job correctly first time. You also need staff that can deal with customer complaints.
“You need to deal with customers on an individual basis all the time. If it wasn’t for customers, you wouldn’t have a business, and you would be out of a job, and you need staff who understand that and know customer’s needs and know what they’re doing and then it will all come together.”
MOT-A-CAR, underpinned with a solid business plan and good customer service, is currently the biggest independent in Sittingbourne, and this has led to a number of fleet contracts being won including for Kent Ambulance Service and Fire Brigade, Swale Borough Council, Anglian Windows and Fed-Ex.