Everyone is becoming very aware as to the many challenges that lay ahead for the independent HD aftermarket. Challenges can turn into incredible opportunities when approached properly. We are now moving into a new era where the “Trade” days are coming quickly to an end and our “Profession” will step out into the economy and WOW the commercial client. It will also attract the millennials when they see the exciting technology and opportunities for them to be involved in moving our sector forward. As a Profession we will finally elevate the HD aftermarket to an income level that mirrors other high end economy segments. Exciting days are ahead but detailed planning is now required to make sure we can embrace the future.
Consider this list and address how each one affects your business and list the solution required so the shop can continue to move forward.
Business Opportunity Audit:
1 We face increased competition from the HD Dealerships and/or shrinking margins so our focus must shift within the business to selling our knowledge. Billed hours must be our focus. To achieve this it must be recognised that client relationships and earning their trust is so important. Educate as to the value and importance of investing in at least two comprehensive inspections on the HD vehicle each year. The purpose of the comprehensive is to have a full picture of the condition the vehicle is in for safety, reliability and efficiency. You then counsel the client the timing of the required work, based on how they use the vehicle and their annual mileage as to what is in their best interest to insure vehicle safety, reliability and efficiency are properly maintained.
2 We need to better understand our target clients…who they are, why they buy and what they really want. Analyze your data base as to who are your top commercial clients. What type of work do they have done on their vehicle meaning are they a break down and repair client or a vehicle preventative maintenance client? You have a solid relationship with all these people so have a conversation as to why they come to your shop specifically and what are they looking from you moving forward? These are the people who most likely will recommend you so listen carefully, take notes and improve the service level where required to meet their total expectations.
3 Some of our current and target clients are not aware of all the value we offer. Have you educated your clients as to what makes your shop “uniquely” different? This should be where your advertising/marketing dollars are spent. Differentiate yourself from the HD dealership arena “in writing” and make sure clients and potential clients “experience” that differentiation when they come into your operation. Differentiation can mean strong value to a client if you work on and remember that EVERY visit for them is about their experience with your business.
4 We don’t charge as much as we should, because of a lack of confidence in our value, or for some other reason. Have we got our emotions in check? Do the real math and establish the right labor rates for the competency and value we bring to our clients. Acknowledge that your labor rate represents your shop’s competency. You are in a knowledge based business and competent staff, from the technicians to the front counter are worth more. Review your structure to make sure you have the right rates in place for maintenance, diagnostic and re-flash labor. Once again proper education of the client is critical here. Think about this example….introduce to the client the lead technician that will be working on the client’s vehicle. This is all of a 2 minute introduction. Have a small training session with the technicians as to how the technician should handle him in front of the client and why this is important. This can build incredible relationships and trust when a client actual can put a face and “personality” to the person working on their vehicle. Remember as I said before, it is about the “experience” on each visit.
5 Our industry faces trust or image issues that we must overcome to create client confidence. This is a great opportunity for the HD independent sector to embrace. To create client confidence, you must slow down and actually make time for the client so you can engage in a constructive and positive conversation with them. Review all the facts you have on that client file proving you understand their situation. You know whether they own or lease the vehicle, how they use the vehicle (city, highway or a lot of off road driving due to their physical location) confirming they drive X amount of miles per year and understanding their expectations with their vehicle. MANAGE the vehicle based on their facts and remind them that your recommendations are for safety, reliability and efficiency to achieve the client’s ultimate expectations.
6 We need a clearer Vision for the future of our business…and a written Plan to define it and how to get us there.
This is one of your greatest exercises in an opportunity audit because you now confirm the 5 building blocks required for a successful culture and building a profitable business. All these should be fully written out and properly documented in detail. The 5 blocks are 1. Vision – what will the business look like in 3 years? From facility appearance to staff appearance to work flow management to maximize bottom-line profits. How will it differ from today? 2. Do we have or understand what talent do we require to fulfill the vision? Have you got the knowledge depth on your team that is required today? If not do they have the desire to learn what they must know to be part of this business? Where is the right training available? 3. Does the team “believe” in the vision to be achieved? In other words are they motivated because they like the direction the business is going and want to be part of it? Never ask the team to “buy into” the business, you want and need them to “believe” in the business. 4. Provide all the resources to achieve the vision. This relates to on-going and specific training the team needs, equipment and software upgrades where required and an efficiently laid out facility to maximize productivity. 5. A proper measuring document. This means to have a proper measuring document to confirm the journey is going in the right direction or point out where attention must be paid to keep the business on track.
The above six examples are but a few opportunities in the audit process but as you can see when you approach the business with a positive mind-set you are in control of the future because you are thinking of where “opportunities” lay within your business. Get the team involved as well, especially millennials who love to be part of the building blocks. Listen carefully to them; you may be very surprised as to what great in-put they can give form “their” perspective, your future customer and client base.
2019 is the start of the future. Lay down a solid foundation of thought and planning now and the next 3 years will be a start to an incredible and exciting journey.