Tag Archive | "Independent Garages"

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TO TRAIN OR NOT TO TRAIN?


Andy SavvaI want to use this month’s article to share my views on training. During my 30-odd years in the automotive industry I have noticed a lack of training and development of people in most workshops. This is mostly due to the short-termism of the British garage owner, whether franchised or independent. However, I also believe it’s due to an imperfect understanding of how training and development of people, in particular technical staff relates itself directly to the efficiency and profit to the business.

I have always maintained the continual training and development of all my past teams was a way of generating improvements in productivity, quality, first-time fix results, used as a unique selling point (marketing terms), motivational, retention, and the recruitment of personal just to name a few. The benefits hugely outweigh the cost.

My personal outcome has unfolded through time and has been long lasting. I continue to develop my skills and hone my knowledge, I am continually learning, always striving for perfection, even though I know I will never achieve it. That’s the attitude I carried with me in all my previous garage business and currently in my personal life.
Have you ever heard or seen statements like “fully trained technicians” or that they have a fully equipped workshop? What does this mean? How can anyone quantify ‘fully’? I certainly can’t! This is a complete myth.

trainornot

MYTH
You can never be fully trained in our automotive industry, modern vehicle technology continues to advance at such a pace, vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated animals. Technicians today are becoming increasing more like software programming engineers! Today’s technicians must posse, mechanical, diagnostic, communication skill, have solid work practices, take pride in their work and be able to continually learn.

If this is the case, it seems that nearly all franchised and independent service business employ many of these individuals. Well I care to differ, because all I see and hear up and down the automotive sector is the struggle and challenges of finding and recruiting reasonably competent technicians let alone ‘fully skilled’ ones.

As garage owners we must be honest with ourselves, look at the services we are offering in our businesses and make sure we firstly recruit individuals who have knowledge and experience in those sectors, secondly, quickly understand the strengths and weaknesses of that individual and together create a training and development plan aligned to the services and objectives of your business. Training should not be adhoc, it needs to be structured and strategic.

BEST TIME
There has never been a better time in the independent sector to access such a wide range of training and support programs. From specific renowned diagnostic experts Frank Massey, James Dillion and Peter Coombes, parts suppliers like Andrew Page, The Parts Alliance, from our professional body the IMI, to even OE parts manufacturers like Bosch, ZF Services and Schaeff ler that open their doors to share their vast expertise and knowledge and indeed to all the trade shows and seminars hosted up and down the country throughout each year. Many of these are inexpensive in order to encourage and incentivise technicians to attend with many more being totally free. What I am saying here is that there is no excuse for not getting technicians on training courses.

At Brunswick Garage we had a philosophy of continued and training and development for our team members specifically in the area of diagnostics. 20 years ago a modern vehicle would contain severn or eight control units, now they could have anything up to 100. Our training was a combination of aftermarket training from ZF, Bosch and Schaeffler to specific brand training from BMW, Land Rover and VW-Audi direct from the mentioned academies.

However, it’s important to emphasise this was centred around the services we offered, it gave us a unique and
competitive edge within our local market place and beyond, more importantly it offered us the opportunity to charge far more than anyone else and regularly make a profit! Our annual training budget exceeded £35,000 per year which is unheard of in the independent sector.

I was proud of my team at Brunswick and what gave me immense pleasure was to see their development during the five years I had the business, the hundreds of happy customers who had their vehicles repaired correctly, promptly, and efficiently. This was possible due to our recruitment process, continued training plans and of course providing my staff with the correct tooling and equipment.

I always used to say: ‘Equipment must never be a substitute for knowledge’, it should be an aid.

For my final thought, I believe and have so for a few years, that an independent garage cannot survive offering all makes servicing and repairs, vehicle technology and a lack of skill coupled with the tooling and equipment needed makes it virtually impossible. The smart garage will specialise in a specific brand or two, or focus on a particular area on vehicle design, like steering and suspension, climate control, gearboxes, diesel or petrol engines and so on enabling the garage to charge more for that service. In turn, this will increase the opportunity to be appreciated and respected by its staff and customers and more importantly, survive in this ever changing sector.

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SERVING THE COMMUNITY AS AN INDEPENDENT


Kamran Saleem shows us around one of the most modern garages in Solihull

MOT_bay

MOT bay has new kit

Long-term readers of the magazine might remember a report on a venture known as iAuto. Launched in 2012, the owner (who came from outside the motor trade) thought it would be reasonably straightforward to establish a modern garage in Coventry specialising in German marques. Once this was done, a key point of the business plan was to expand through selling franchises.

On paper, this sounded like a wonderful idea. A plan was formed to open several garages in the Midlands and London in the first year with ‘dozens more’ set to open the following year. The first franchise opened in Solihull in a bright, modern workshop lead by a team, spearheaded by Kamran Saleem. Saleem had a motor industry background, having previously worked in PCP and car sales, but it was quickly clear that getting a franchise up and running was never going to be quite the turnkey operation the founders envisaged.

FRANCHISE
“Because we were the first franchise things weren’t ready in terms of market roll out at the time” explained Saleem. “We opened in January 2014 and there were two other [branches planned to open] in Croydon and Guildford”.

“For various reasons, they didn’t open as quickly as anticipated and those branches not being open affected the amount of cashflow coming back into the business”. Saleem and his team had made an investment of around £400,000 into the business.“That money had got ties and had returns that needed to be made on it, so we needed to accelerate faster than iAuto could provide at the time” he said. “So in December 2014 we decided to part company”.

Out of necessity, the newly independent garage was rebranded Motor Serv,but the involvement with iAuto hadn’t quite finished as Saleem’s team were offered the chance to buy the flagship Coventry branch, partly to free up finances for the franchise and partly because the owner realised that the day to day frustrations of running a garage get in the way of setting up a franchise model.

motorserv

MARKET STUDY

After doing a market study, Saleem found that many of the existing customers of the Coventry branch were willing to travel to the larger and newer Solihull branch. The staff were offered transfers, which suited the majority as the facility is larger and newer than Coventry.

Saleem’s next issue is common to many new businesses, namely how to build a customer database from scratch. First of all, a good amount of marketing was done, online, through leaf lets and in the local press. More recently a sales team has been recruited to get on the road encouraging businesses that might have multiple vehicles to give Motor Serv a try.

The next challenge is to keep getting repeat business from these customers. For this, a servicing plan has been introduced, with a number of added extras. “We’ll say to the customers when they pick their vehicles up something along the lines of ‘It was an interim service today, but the next one will be a full service. We can offer you our Gold servicing plan, which is the cost of your next service divided over twelve months – and as a Gold member you get all the following services for free” said Saleem, pointing to quite a long list highlighting benefits, which includes the MOT test, any regular bulbs and wheel alignment among other points such as thirty minutes of diagnostic time and an A/C system check.

Some team members joined from the former iAuto Coventry brand

Some team members joined from the former iAuto Coventry brand

“It’s like a gym membership. We want to create a ‘lock-in’ effect for anyone who brings his or her car along to us. When people come over here, their reaction is ‘ah, it’s massive and I didn’t even know it was here.’ Once we’ve managed to entice people here, we want them to come back” he says.

Of course, another important part of getting people to come back is making sure their vehicle has been properly repaired. To this end, Motor Serv has a head start as the technicians are all experienced and the equipment and facilities are relatively new. However, Saleem has found that investment in front-of-house staff who can resolve customer problems before they become serious issues is a boon.

The commitment has already paid off as the firm recently won a local award for customer service – not bad for a relatively new company. We look forward to seeing how the business develops in years to come.

Front with Golf - LArge

VITAL STATS
MOTOR SERV

SIZE: 10,000 sq ft
RAMPS: 6
SPECIALISM
VAG Group vehicles
TECHNICIANS: 5 (plus two support)

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‘LEVEL PLAYING FIELD CLOSER THAN EVER’ SAY IGA


shutterimageA level playing field in the battle for access to information will leave franchised dealers vulnerable to losing more service business to the independent garages – which is no bad thing according to the RMI’s Independent Garage Association.

The IGA say that it has done surveys that shown independent garages taking an increasing market share of service work, despite the difficulty carrying out certain functions. This limitation will soon be removed, allowing independents to carry out every part of a service and repair for their customers.”

IGA Director Stuart James commented, “The IGA has worked tirelessly to see this legislation through, and RMISC is positioned to be the first certification body for this type of information in Europe.”

“This is the largest change to the current structure of the UK motor industry and professionally run, independent garages will flourish”

“It has been advantageous for independents that the franchised sector has not picked up the gauntlet of genuinely meeting consumer needs in terms of price and quality. This new change will allow independents to seize the opportunity, take the initiative and increase their share of service and repair work even further” he concluded.

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