Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Technician's Viewpoint

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of having dinner with a bona fide automotive technician. He had the further distinction of owning his own shop, and a Carquest store. As a result of his experience, he probably has a very well-rounded view of our industry. As we were talking that evening, I said something like, you must be a technician because you love working on cars. The resulting look that he gave me made me feel like I had a big wad of spinach in my teeth, or even worse, something unseemly hanging on my face somewhere.

"No, I do not love working on cars", he said.
Come on, isn't that the driving force behind most people who enter this business at the technician level?
"I became a technician because I realized early on that I had to make a living."

I thought that was an interesting comment, because honestly, I had the notion that the majority of techs are in the biz because they love cars first and foremost, and find that they can make money fixing them.

Joe Remke, is owner of Remke's Garage in Marengo, IL. He's been in the business for many years and supports his family with the living he makes. Check out his website and you'll understand why he is a successful technician, and a successful business owner. On his website, he has a form, a vehicle system questionaire, for the customer to complete before they even walk in his door. It asks them to describe the problem they are experiencing with their vehicle. If the vehicle is making a "noise", they list more than a dozen noises that an abused car might make, including boom, buzz, chatter, chirp, clunk, grind, rattle, roar, whine and whistle.

On his business card, he lists the various jobs that can be performed at his shop: transmissions, brakes, alignment, suspension, driveshafts, hydraulic cylinders. On the back of his card, he continues to advertise some of the things his shop does to differentiate themselves from his competitors: free loaner car, all work guaranteed, credit cards accepted, 90 days same as cash, towing and limited pickup service. There's even a spot for the customer to write down their appointment date and time.

When I think back to his comment that he knew he needed to earn a living, and I consider the information on his business card and his website, I would have to disagree with Mr. Remke. I would say, he is probably making a very good living, because he is running his shop like a business. In my mind I think of many shop owners as being former technicians who make the decision to open a shop because they can make more money. This is probably true, but just because you own a shop, there's no guarantee of profitability and growth.

Based on our discussions, and what I've seen of Mr. Remke's business card and website, he has given a lot of thought to the profitability and growth that he expects his business to generate. I would urge you to check out his website and see what nuggets you can use to improve your own business.

Somone said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I would say that imitation is sometimes the easiest way to improve your bottom line.

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