The forecourt of Broad Lane Garage is varied and busy. Modern vehicles with their bonnets open jostle for attention next to a series of classic cars awaiting restoration work. Under some tarpaulin in one corner of the site sits a 1930 Ford Model A and a 1936 Ford V8 stock car – both in need of some serious love to bring them back to life.
Hobbies, restoration work and modern servicing and repair all collide at Broad Lane Garage. Its fantastic corner location gives it prominence by the roadside, and it’s the site which has kept the business at the same place since it opened in 1961. Managing Director Mike Scotney’s father started the business and still occasionally works at the shop.
This is truly a family business. As well as Mike’s father there’s also his mother, his sister and his son all helping out. While Mike admits working with his family can be tough, it’s also taught him some useful business skills. The family nature of the business means that Broad Lane Garage has good staff retention, so good in fact that some technicians have left the business to seek apparently greener pastures only to find themselves returning months later.
Broad Lane seems to be a member of just about every garage scheme going. While Mike says they all serve a purpose, the Good Garage Scheme is the one that’s bringing home the bacon: “It’s been good for us. We see an increase in sales when they do their marketing.
“I can understand why people do get upset about having to use the Forté products. I was happy with it anyway and I was using it. I don’t think it’s overpriced, and it seems to do what it says on the tin. You can see the difference with our long-term customers.”
Even though Motor Codes now has the gravitas of OFT approved status, Mike still thinks it’s lagging behind in consumer awareness: “I would say the general public are not as au fait with it as they are with the Good Garage Scheme. There are several issues because there are so many different schemes out there.”
While restorations might only count for five percent of his total turnover, Mike says doing that kind of work means there’s always something to do when the MOT or servicing jobs dry up: “It means there’s always work there. Most of the people who are having that sort of work done aren’t on a tight timescale. It means we always have something to turn our hands to.”
Of course, when work does slow down there’s also the opportunity to train, something Mike wants to do more of: “We don’t spend as much as I’d like to on training. My biggest bugbear is that you have to travel so far to get it, so you don’t just have the daily cost of training you also have to get overnight accommodation.
“I don’t think the local colleges are doing enough. I think they should be concentrating more on giving students the underlying technology training. Technicians today have got to be IT proficient, and I don’t think the training we have at the moment is enough. The guys we have are pretty good, but even at my age I’m still learning, and I go to courses.”
Broad Lane has developed considerably over the years from the initial plans. It now encompasses a full bodyshop and paint spraying room alongside four workshop bays.
Expansion in the future is limited, however, by legality. The site is leasehold and has been since the garage first opened. Mike has been trying to secure full ownership of the space for a number of years without success. Until he does that, he’s limited in what else can be done to expand the business.
“If it was our own site, we would have bigger workshops and an automatic test lane. We’d get a better roof height too. We could change the layout at the moment but it’s just not cost effective. We’re on quite a tight lease.”