Think Your Auto Repair Business Isn’t Going to Change Dramatically?
All great companies have one thing in common: They realize industries and consumers need change, so they follow their customers. Apple provides a great example. As we all know, when Apple started they were a computer company, but when that industry began to decline, Steve Jobs was able to see that his targeted customers were investing in music. This is why Apple Computers became Apple Inc., is why they reached a point a few years ago where their online music sales exceeded their computer sales, and why today they are in the mobile device business. In essence, they transformed to meet the needs of their customers. IBM and American Express are other great examples.
I’d like to offer some auto repair industry analysis that explains why your business is no different. Over the decades the auto repair business transformed from a “we fix anything” business that rebuilt every component into an industry that installed remanufactured parts. We then transformed from a repair industry into a maintenance-driven industry. If you bring hybrids and electric cars into our discussion, the change becomes even more dramatic. As this progression continues you will be seeing your customers, and repairing their cars, far less often. Interestingly enough, most shop owners are not too concerned because they simply believe that all they will need to do is ratchet up their marketing efforts to bring in more new customers. Unfortunately, there is typically a finite number of potential customers in any marketing community, and your competitors have the same plan in place. So rather than fighting the inevitable changes, or doing business the same old way until your business is out of business, here are my recommendations…
First of all, shop owners typically diversify for one of two reasons: They do it out of desperation, or out of inspiration. The ones that do it out of desperation are the ones that take the leap when they are struggling to pay their bills, and are scrambling to find any way to bring in a few more dollars. The ones that diversify out of inspiration are the ones that see the change in the wind and take the necessary steps to ensure their continued success.
However, there is no one road that is right for everyone. If you are in a specialty business such as transmissions or suspension, you may want to consider transitioning into general repair. You already have the most important part, which is your customer base. Another option is to consider the exploding world of infotainment. As I am sure you will agree, if you walk into any new car showroom today you will find that just about every new vehicle has a wealth of entertainment features, along with navigational and communication features. So the question is: Who is going to not only be servicing these components, but who is going to be offering upgrades, and handling the installation of the newest state-of-the-art components that the drivers of older vehicles would love to have? Someone is going to do it, so why not you?
I would like to leave you with a story that has a powerful message. It is argued that at one time Bill Gates said, “If Santa Fe Railroad would have realized that they were in the transportation business, and not the railroad business, today we would have Santa Fe Airlines.” This is a message we should all take to heart because the one thing that is certain is that our industry is going to go through many more dramatic changes. The first to embrace this reality, and make the necessary changes, will become the industry leaders for decades to come.