Changing the Building 

June 30, 2023
Expansion requires flexibility.

Rome wasn't built in a day. The "Eternal City" grew slowly and often steadily over time, as it underwent more than its fair share of "expansions." Patience and flexibility were often required as the city grew. The same can be true of a quick lube shop. It is something that can't be rushed, but even once it is determined that the facility is too small to handle the clientele and that an expansion is in the cards, there are still plenty of issues to overcome.

It isn't as simple as updating the signage and adding an annex, however.

In addition to the plethora of permits, inspections, and possible impact studies that will no doubt be required, there is the issue of actually figuring out when to get the work done. One option is close up for a few days while the work is done, but few owners, operators, or managers like the idea of hanging a "closed for renovation" sign in the front window even for a day.Time is always money after all.

Jason M. Russ, general manager of CB Squared Services, Inc., the franchisee of Jiffy Lube locations around Fredericksburg, Virginia, has addressed shop expansion head-on multiple times – and determined one way to do so without disturbing the day-to-day workflow of the shop. He's handled multiple expansions and has looked at the challenges while crafting a solution that involves literally making the best use of time.

The Challenge

Not wanting to close the shop and have unnecessary downtime is a challenge for any business. In the case of CB Squared Services, closing down for three to four days to handle an expansion was a consideration, but it would result in multiple days of lost business and with it the location's revenue.

Employees would likely still need to be paid, customers might head to a competitor rather than another location, and worse if there were delays the problem would only be extended.

"We didn't want to have to close the shop during the day," says Russ.

Instead, during the renovations, the employees still came in as usual, the shop remained open and customers were able to get their vehicles serviced. It wasn't exactly business as usual, and it required everyone to be a bit more flexible.

The Solution

Instead of closing up during the day, Russ tells NOLN, he opted to go another direction. The construction was handled after hours, when the last car had been serviced, and when the employees normally headed out the door. Yet, rather than locking up for the night, the team at CB Squared Services allowed the construction contractors to begin their abbreviated work day.

Shop renovations/expansions were conducted from 7 p.m. until midnight.

"There was no interruption in business, and our locations were able to operate during the day," Russ explains. "It did come down to careful scheduling. The contractors took over after the crews left at night."

It also involved what Russ describes as some "horse trading" to make sure that neither the shop's staff nor the contractors were too disturbed. That meant that some equipment had to be temporarily relocated, and the contractors had to work in the evening and leave the shop ready for work the next day.

But it also meant that there was no economic loss during normal business hours for the shop.

"It required the crew to come in at 7 p.m. and they could only work until midnight," Russ continues. "Having done this a few times now, we've learned what to anticipate and what to expect. It may not always be an option for everyone, but we've seen that no corners are cut when it comes to the expansion, while more importantly, there was no negative impact on the customer experience."

The Aftermath

Handling the expansion and renovation work in the evening hours did extend the length of construction time by double, but Russ says that the ability to be flexible was key in making sure both crews weren't put out – at least too much.

"The construction meant that sometimes there are no ties on the floor," says Russ. "And sometimes there was freshly hung drywall that still needed a coat of paint. Also, instead of three to four days of construction, it could be two full weeks or about ten business days. No matter the footprint, it is generally about the same amount of time – and nothing can be rushed."

Having the work done after hours also presented its own share of "mini-challenges." In some cases, there may not be a bathroom for a day, while the waiting room and break room were also often impacted.

"If you pull up the lobby and restroom on a Friday evening, you are going to have to go through the weekend without it and make due," warns Russ. "However, we haven't had too many complaints from the staff. The customers generally see that this is a work in process, while the staff also knows it will lead to something better."

The Takeaway

Having such major work may not always be an option, and when it is considered there should be managed expectations. As noted, an expansion can't be rushed and corners can't be cut. The contractors will have only so many hours in the evening in which they can do the work.

"We've been very fortunate each time we've gone through it," says Russ. "We have had really professional contractors who are able to do this work in the afterhours. It requires some extra prep at the end of the day and again the next morning. It resulted in minor cleanup, but the contractors were only there after closing time and gone before opening time."

An after-hours renovation may also cost a bit more; something that Russ says has to be factored in for each location. Shops should also be ready for "unexpected surprises," especially with older buildings and facilities.

"The more you dig into those walls, the more you're likely to find something," Russ notes. "Whatever you expect it to cost, it is likely going to cost more. And you need to be realistic about the costs of doing this work after hours. But you win some, you lose some. Just be realistic with the budget."

Yet, as noted, by doing the work after hours, the shop can continue on a normal schedule. It may be a bit unsightly at times during the construction process, but as Russ explains, he's received few complaints from the customers.

"This really gives the impression that you're trying to make this better," he adds. "It can be an eyesore until the work is completed, but no one needs to be turned away. That can always make for a happy customer."