Single Shop Success
A pressure that is put on quick maintenance shop owners is to grow and expand to multiple locations. Despite the allure, single shop owners have found some aspects of owning just one shop to be more appealing.
Two midwestern oil stops are run as single location shops, opting for a more simplistic approach. The two shops, owned by Kristoffer Hall and John Brittain, have served as blueprints for successful work in single shops.
Easing into It
Hall’s store, Shelby Oil Stop, in Shelbyville, Indiana, is a shop all on its own, serving the community with little hassle. There’s nothing easy about running a small business, but an advantage to owning a single shop is a lack of some complexity.
“First, I would say simplicity,” Hall says about the advantages to owning a single shop. “You don’t have a large network of a lot of different people.”
Simplicity is not necessarily the best trait in owning small businesses, but it does make things easier. It’s something that can’t be achieved as easily with multiple locations.
As for Brittain, since 2001 he has been working at J. Brittain Express Oil, a shop his dad started in 1986. Brittain has been the sole owner of the shop for the last five years now with the store being based in Elgin, Illinois.
Brittain and his father had similar reasons for remaining as a single shop, with the biggest being their families. Brittain is one of three of his father’s kids and Brittain says his dad was very involved.
Brittain has started a family of his own and for that reason and simplicity’s sake, he has chosen to remain as a single shop.
“I’d feel a lot more stressed out if I had four stores than having one,” Brittain says.
Some things are just easier when you get to be up close and personal. Customers and employees who get to see the owner of the shop often may have a better chance of developing a good relationship with them.
Brittain says getting to know your customers is important, and with one store that’s not as big of a problem as when someone owns multiple shops. This is one of the reasons he and Hall both remained as single shop owners.
Hall also notes the flexibility that comes with owning a single shop. Pertaining to building customer and employee relationships, Hall says Shelby Oil Stop can easily tackle problems with customers with flexibility and without worrying about corporate ownership at all.
It’s easier for the Hall’s employees to be more hands on as his team develops relationships. Hall also believes that it can bring a family vibe to the workplace, with the small group of workers knowing each other and Hall well.
This leaves no barriers in Shelby Oil Stop’s “family” of workers to fix problems or recommend a place that can. It establishes a better relationship with customers.
The ability to build relationships with the shop’s staff is one of the biggest pluses. Whatever leadership style works for the shop owner can work in a single shop business, but Hall takes an approach of building a chemistry with his employees.
“Build that relationship, instead of being spread thin,” Hall says. “You’re not really instilling those family type values into the shop. You have time for that with a single shop.”
An added benefit that Brittain touched on was his ability to be active in the community. Beyond just establishing relationships with customers, he can get his name out there while also giving back to the community.
Brittain had advice for people who were looking to start a small business in this, including what opportunities a single shop can give you as an owner.
“Being involved in your community where your store is located, that’s a big big deal,” Brittain said. “Whether you’re donating to local not-for-profits or something else, it’s a good thing for your image in the community and you can build relationships that way, get involved in the community and find new customers every day that way.”
For a single shop owner, this is an advantage. It’s easier to manage community involvement in one community, just like it’s easier to manage one shop. For Brittain, he has gotten himself out there in his community, helping with important issues.
Brittain says during Christmas time, there is a not-for-profit in his town to help single mothers and domestic abuse survivors through a clothing drive. He is involved with that as well as numerous other not-for-profits around his community.
While it does help get yourself out there in the community, Brittain says it’s a way to give back to a community that he already has been building a relationship with. For some fundraisers, Brittain even says he donates oil changes as silent auction items.
“Get your names out there,” Brittain said. “You can donate something and help out people in need and you build relationships in the community that way.”
The benefits to expanding beyond a single shop exist and many shop owners can do it effectively, but there is a lot to like about staying as a single shop as well.
Brittain and Hall have experienced some of the benefits through ease, relationships and getting involved with the community. For the two shops in Elgin and Shelbyville, respectively, the benefit has been a couple well-run businesses.
While looking to expand isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there is a lot of value that can be squeezed out of shoring up one business first. Especially if that business hasn’t yet dove into some of the things that make single shops more successful.
Hall’s last piece of advice is that focusing on every detail in your single shop is how you can grow the business. Being in just one location will allow you to focus all your energy there.
“Make sure you know how to do everything in the shop,” Hall said. “Whether it’s the computer system, whether it’s changing oil, understanding all your products—have a very good knowledge of how to do everything in the shop.”