The Top 5 Dos and Don’ts
By Emily Kline
SOMETIMES SHOP OWNERS CAN BE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY when it comes to investing in the future of the automotive industry. They make up excuses like they want to understand the product more or they want to wait for the change to stabilize before investing in new equipment and tools. By putting off changes to the shop they are only pushing back the inevitable. The future of the automotive industry is electric and by avoiding the obvious, auto shop owners are only hurting their success.
Pete Liebetreu, the vice president of marketing at Hunter Engineering warns against waiting, stating, “I've heard of so many shops that sort of delayed and ended up having to almost restart their business because they wouldn't deal with [new technology]. I think once you turn a customer away to say, ‘Oh, I'm sorry, I can't work on that type of vehicle,’ they're probably not coming back.”
As the automotive industry continues to evolve at an accelerated pace, many shop owners are wondering what they can do to remain competitive and remain in-front-of technological advancements. After interviewing top experts in the automotive industry, MWACA Magazine compiled a list of the top five dos and don’ts to help auto shop owners plan for the future.
1. DO: SIGN UP FOR DIGITAL NEWSLETTERS AND LOCAL TRADE ASSOCIATIONS.
By signing up for newsletters and local trade associations, shop owners provide a cheap, easy way for their shop to stay up with the latest advancements. Additionally, signing up for local trade associations allows shop owners to take advantage of networking opportunities that will provide support for the shops in the future. Liebetreu believes that networking within trade associations can help “a shop owner get a better idea of what their shop needs to succeed and make the right investments in tools and training.”
Not only does networking help shops stay up to date with the latest trends, but it can be a key part of overall business success, according to Daniel Angelo, a technical support/trainer at Bosch.
“Forming close connections with your wholesalers, other colleagues, and tier-1 suppliers will open new areas of opportunity for your business,” Angelo says.
At this point, signing up for different publications and joining a local trade association should be a no-brainer. It is a cheap and easy way to form connections and help stay ahead of the game.
2. DON’T: HESITATE TO PURCHASE NEW EQUIPMENT.
It’s tough to know when the right time is to purchase new shop equipment.
“Should you replace it because it's worn out or should you replace it because there's better technology for your shop, for your outcomes, and for your technicians?” Liebetreu asks.
The general consensus is that shop owners should replace their equipment whenever it starts making a technician's job more difficult.
“The purpose of a tool is to make the lives of technicians easier, and they should be replaced the moment it makes it more difficult,” Angelo says.
Replacing equipment should not be looked at as a burden, rather, it should be viewed as a way to update one’s auto shop. Jason Matthews, product manager at Vehicle Service Group, says, “upgrading equipment is a great way to increase the types of vehicles that a shop can service and improve technician productivity to service more vehicles.”
As EVs continue to become more popular, shop owners need to prepare/upgrade their shops so that they can be ready for the future. Angelo says that technology will continue to advance, becoming more and more connected with each model year.
EV diagnostic tablets will become more valuable within the next five years as EVs become more present in the shop.
John Forro, Technical Trainer Specialist for Autel, suggests that shop owners invest in EV diagnostic tablets as EV’s and hybrids become more pronounced.
Matthews believes that “the more technologically advanced the vehicle is, the more essential updated tools become.” Therefore, replacing and investing in equipment should be viewed as an essential part of the shop owner's agenda, it shouldn’t be looked upon as a hassle. Liebetreu says, “Just like a painter needs new paints and brushes, a shop needs its necessary equipment in order to be successful.”
3. DON’T: BE AFRAID TO FINANCE THE EQUIPMENT YOU NEED.
It is important to properly invest in the right equipment. Avoiding proper equipment for cheaper equipment that lacks a large nationwide service can be detrimental to a shop. Going cheap on equipment “to save money on the initial price leads to losing far more money through lost service revenue due to extended periods of downtime” Matthews warns.
If a shop cannot immediately afford the best equipment for their shop, financing equipment is always a great option, according to Matthews. Don’t know where to go for financing? It can be attained through the company the equipment is bought from, or a business consultant can point you in the right direction of a financial institution. Business consultants can help find the right plan for a shop owner, whether that be a year lease or something a little bit bigger. Don’t be afraid to finance if a new piece of equipment is needed. Investing in automotive service shop equipment “provides a high return on investment”, an opportunity to remain ahead of technology and it will make a technician’s job easier, Matthews says.
4. DO: INVEST IN EDUCATION.
Investing in technician education is essential to a shop’s success. Forro believes that hands-on training is one of the most important investments a shop owner can make. Staying up-to-date on technician education and training ensures that technicians are properly handling equipment which increases the longevity of the equipment. Additionally, by investing in technician education, owners are helping their shop stay in the present and not fall behind when it comes to newer technologies. Shop owners are also more likely to have the best techs because investing in education attracts the best talents.
“Top technicians want to be trained. They want to have opportunities to be trained,” Eric Joern, CPA, C&AA of the Kaizer Group, says.
When investing in education shop owners need to be mindful of where they are getting their training from.
“Sometimes [shop owners] are tempted by seeking the most affordable training option, and technicians are left with sub-par training,” Angelo says.
This hurts the shop more than it helps because a shop can only be as good as its techs. To make sure shops are receiving the best education Matthews suggests they “partner with equipment and service brands that not only offer local/regional support, but also real-time virtual training and support, like Rotary Virtual Support, where technicians are able to learn from top experts in the industry via a mobile device right in the bay.”
Remember, VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo, taking place March 2-5, 2023, is an excellent place to further your education.
5. DO: PLAN AND PREPARE FOR INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.
After speaking with Joern, it is very clear that planning financially for a shop's future is essential for a shop's success. The more planning and foresight that a shop owner has the more prepared they will be for the advancing future. Joern recommends that shop owners “plan the financial side, plan the logistics side, and the implementation side, and then communicate to their team and make sure they're all on board.”
When shop owners invest in their shop Joern says they need to remember “to be realistic about the change that their shop can handle. The finances in which their shop can support exists. [Shop owners] all want to change right away but normally it is a slower process than expected. The more prepared [they] are, the better off [they'll] be in the long run.” So do invest, but plan it out and prepare for the big changes and purchases that need to be executed. The more that a shop owner plans and prepares the better setup they will be for the future.
As a future full of EV and hybrids in the auto shop industry looms closer, owners need to be smart and view advancing changes as something positive. As Liebetreu suggests earlier in the article, “Don’t be afraid to jump in!”
Changes are not something to be afraid of as long as autoshops are smart about how they go about these changes. The worst thing that owners can do is ignore the future. Changes are coming and the sooner owners acknowledge them the better off they will be.