Making the Price Right

June 1, 2023
How to position yourself to benefit business and customers.

Alex Woodie is a numbers guy with a knack for business, a family in the auto repair industry, and a head full of good common sense.

Following college graduation with a degree in accounting, followed by experience at a Big 4 accounting firm, Woodie left to join his father in the business side of the auto repair industry. And there, he got involved in an automotive 20 Group that brings together non-competing business owners to talk over ideas, issues, and strategies.

Quickly, Woodie spotted a much-needed service within the auto industry that he was uniquely qualified to serve.

“I noticed that not many guys at the 20 Group were numbers people,” he states. “They were technicians who started their own shop, but they never had the technical training to be a numbers person.”

From there, Woodie founded his company, Ledge, to handle numbers for auto business owners.

“If you can measure it, you can manage it, is a common business phrase,” he notes. “But if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Woodie helps owners access the numbers they need, running payroll, doing the books and taxes, and providing his clients with reports so they can manage their businesses based on numbers—and grow.

When asked to list the top variables shop owners must consider in setting a price point for their services, Woodie’s answers are both reality-based and, surprisingly, psychologically insightful.

And the Price Is…

“A lot of people look at what their competitors are charging, but that’s not always best,” he notes. “We tell our guys, yes, you have to be in the ballpark with the others and not price yourself out, but you also have to look at what makes you different from the other oil change or repair shops.”

For example, is it the products you offer that make you different, or is there a convenience that you offer that your competitors don’t? What sets you apart from somebody else?

“If you work at a Ruth’s Chris, you don’t call McDonald’s to see where to set your price,” Woodie shares to help drive home his point. There are clearly too many differences between the two businesses for them to charge the same price.

Woodie also advises shop owners to ask themselves to consider their business model: “Will you offer higher value and charge more, or will you offer a bottom-base service and a lower price?”

An auto shop owner looking to move to a higher price point has some things to consider. “You want to come across as a professional service—look at doctor’s offices, dentists, and others with clean, peaceful rooms,” Woodie notes. “A 1970’s-type auto shop with people clanging around doesn’t appeal to the majority of the customer base.”

But for a shop owner to honestly assess the vibe of their own store, they may need to look with fresh eyes, and maybe even pull in somebody random from the outside.

As Woodie puts it, “You get stuck in a rut because you’re there every day. Just like your house, stuff gets worse over time and you just get used to it, because it’s gradual. But it’s a turnoff for the customer.” Read: what’s the floor look like, the carpet, the counters, the places where customers will wait—and the johns.

Perception, he says, is reality to the customer: “If they perceive high quality service, they’ll pay 10-20% more, business consultants say.”

Shop owners looking to charge more must also be mindful of their employees’ appearances. “Do they speak well? Are they loud?” Woodie says to consider.

Take a good whiff too, “Do you smell like a tire shop?” he asks. “A customer would rather walk in and smell fresh flowers than burning rubber.”

A Level Playing Field

“Right now,” Woodie notes, “everybody is having to deal with labor costs and commodity increases.” So these aren’t really factors to consider when making decisions about where to land your price.

“I’d recommend approaching price increases gradually, but don’t be hesitant, either. Offer good service and value, because everybody else is facing price increases too—in every industry,” he reminds.

Despite common challenges all across the quick lube industry, Woodie says shop owners who provide enviable customer service won’t have to worry when they raise their prices.

“Excellent customer service provides value,” the numbers guy notes. “People value feeling welcome and appreciated. And to provide that value, if you must, increase prices.” 

Courtesy of Gold Flat Express Lube & Car Wash
Photo 95696123 © Calvin L. Leake |
Photo 208818763 © Nicoelnino |
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