The Shop Ops Toolbox

Jan. 30, 2024
Keep your inventory full of these strategies for operational success.

A properly prepared technician walks into the workday with confidence in their skillset and an understanding of the tools they need to succeed. Shop operations can be thought about in a similar way. A shop sees success each day thanks to an organized and dependable business approach that the owner/operator, the team, and the customer can all rely upon.

As a shop owner, here are some elements of business management that you should keep track of to establish smooth sailing in your daily operations. Keep reading to learn more from industry representatives.  

Supplier Relationships 

Vendors and suppliers are an important consideration for running a shop. When NOLN columnist Adam Tatum added his insights to the August 2023 Case Study, “Building a Relationship with a Supplier,” he emphasized several qualities to note. For example, as a shop owner you need to consider the size of the vendor and their offerings to make sure it’s the right fit for your business and to avoid any potential bumps or delays. Additionally, communication is key. Do your research to understand what you need from a supplier and how to best get in touch with them—and foster that relationship.  

"Now if you are the best supplier in the world and if I can't talk to you, you won't be my supplier. A big issue that sometimes comes up is when you have a product issue that causes a claim, and the vendor is dismissive in helping with the solution. This will make someone leave a vendor in a heartbeat." 

-Adam Tatum, director of operations, Virginia Lubes  

Prices for Services 

Knowing your numbers seems like an obvious avenue toward success, but sometimes it isn’t as straightforward as it appears. That’s why it’s worth your time to sit down and truly evaluate your pricing. Do you have the right pricing strategy in place? Alex Woodie, founder of Ledge, spoke with NOLN for the June 2023 story “Making the Price Right.” Woodie is not only smart with numbers, but he also has a family history in the automotive aftermarket. Woodie shared that customers value great service and a well-kept shop environment. When it comes to considerations for price increases, he acknowledged that many industries have to navigate this, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once.  

“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.” 

-Alex Woodie, CEO, Ledge  

Profit Centers 

Shops with multiple profit centers, such as a quick lube with a car wash, are scattered all across the industry. Perhaps you’ve considered this sort of combination before or are currently running a multi-profit center shop yourself. Even though there are a lot of operational considerations for these business structures, it doesn’t need to be one big juggling act. For the October 2023 story “Managing Profit Centers,” Shea Perkins, general manager of Gwatzilla Wash 'n Lube in Jacksonville, Arkansas, spoke with NOLN about his perspective on this type of work. He said convenience is a big consideration. It’s about offering less stops for the customer and giving them access to more car care options. It’s also an opportunity to bring in a variety of customers—from those who visit to change their oil to those who simply want a car wash, or perhaps both! Having the car wash and the quick lube has served Gwatzilla well.  

"I honestly can't think of a downside of offering the two services; nothing that you would not deal with if you had just one of them on their own. If you find yourself slower than normal, which happens anywhere, that is your opportunity to get the wash cleaned and maintenance done."   

-Shea Perkins, general manager, Gwatzilla Wash 'n Lube 

Awareness of Competition  

As is the case with any other industry, competition is unavoidable. But having competition does not need to always be looked at as a negative thing. Competition, in its own way, fuels business. In the March 2023 issue of NOLN, Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide offered insight for the story “Know Your Competition.” Having an awareness of what your competition is doing is healthy, but copying is never the answer. It’s informative to know what sets shops apart, and even what you as a shop owner can be doing better to bring in the right crowd. You need to know what you’re missing, and what opportunities you may have. At the end of the day, Marconi said it’s the customer experience that truly makes a difference.  

"This about bringing something different to the table. You have to do something more than the guy down the street. Once you simply copy them, you will lose credibility and customers aren't going to come back."   

-Joe Marconi, executive council member and industry consultant with Elite Worldwide, Inc. 

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