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Reduce costs at your detail shop

September 10, 2008
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Here are three tips to reduce unnecessary waste and expenses at your detail shop, courtesy of

1. Training: Needs increase while excuses diminish

Most would agree that both management and technical training are becoming more critical each year. Not too long ago this often meant significant planning, travel, cost and lost production.
Today with the increasing availability of on line options things have changed. Set your own schedule while making the most of employee down time. Travel only as far as your desk or lunch room. Costs are typically low and sometimes free.
What most of us need to do first is to change our mindset and create systems within our shops to take advantage of these new methods of learning.
Search on line, ask your vendors, watch your email. Come up with incentives for your staff while setting goals for hours per month. Then watch as skills and profits increase.

2. Get a handle on health insurance costs

For years, the approach to purchasing health insurance for many shop owners has been to see what several companies offered, discuss it with the employees, chose the one that seemed to offer the most for the lowest cost, then figure out how to pay for it.

Maybe it's time to try something different. Spend some time figuring out what the shop can afford for this expense. Set a non budget killing maximum. Then ask potential insurers to put together the best package they can.
Discuss the options with the staff and select the one that works best for your shop. What works for your budget may not be the most deluxe plan that everyone desires, but remember that a shop that is closed because expenses got too far out of hand supplies health insurance to no one.

3. What are the trends at your shop?

What has been happening to your GP (gross profit), car count, average RO, expenses and other key numbers over the last few years, quarters and months? You probably have some idea, but do you have solid data at your fingertips?

Take a few minutes at the end of each month to place your key numbers on a simple spreadsheet. This will allow you to look at the trend of each one over time, to catch weak trends before they get too bad, and take advantage of good ones.

Tom and Deb Ham are the owners of Automotive Management Network, an online forum to exchange information about the management of all types of vehicle service facilities, independent auto repair shops, car and truck dealers, franchises, fleets, body shops and more. More information can be found at