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Three questions to ask yourself today

August 27, 2008
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Here are three important questions you should ask yourself today if you want to improve operations at your detail shop, courtesy of

Are you equipment poor?

A lot of equipment is needed to run a modern repair/detail shop. Poorly equipped shops are often pointed out as an industry problem. While this is certainly true, there are also many shops that are over equipped for their needs, often because the owner is a tool and equipment junky.

Discipline yourself to do an ROI (return on investment) calculation for all equipment purchases, and use realistic amounts in your estimates. If the numbers do not work, then consider a lesser version or used options. In some cases, it still may not work and you may be better off spending those funds elsewhere.

There seems to be an increasing number of ways to spend money in a repair/detail shop today. Make sure to leave enough for all areas by not overdoing it with equipment.

Is this the right location?

We've heard it over and over, yet often we still do not fully comprehend how critical this is. It's tough to find a great location and it can have its drawbacks, so it's easy to convince ourselves to take the larger shop, better deal or easier route of a less than great location. Then we spend massive amounts in marketing trying to get people to come in.

The fact is that, in most cases, the average or below average business person will do better in a great location than the excellent business person will do in a weak location. This business is difficult enough without adding the location hurdle to your list of things to battle. Avoid weak locations and make your business life significantly easier.

Is it time to start over?

You've been in business for a number of years and you've accumulated a lot of knowledge about how to do things and not to do them. One problem may be that you are now saddled with the baggage from a lot of less than great decisions. It might be your building, your staff, your business model or a host of others.

While constant adjustments are critical, sometimes adjustments simply aren't enough. Just like with cars, sometimes it's best to take what you have learned, junk most of what you have now and start from scratch instead of trying to tune up something that is destined to never go very fast regardless of what you do.

Pretend you have no shop and write out your plan for opening one, taking into account all that you have learned. Maybe you will literally start from scratch, or you might find it is at least time for a major overhaul.

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

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