You're the friend everyone comes to when they're having car trouble. You can look under the hood of a vehicle and name every single part. You can make most repairs with your eyes closed. And since the saying goes "never do something you're good at for free," you've decided to start a car shop. The only problem is, as good as you are with cars, you're less certain about the business side of things. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind when starting an automotive business.
It's not just about the cars
Unlike some other businesses, car shops pretty much have to operate out of a brick and mortar space. That means you have to decide between buying a building, leasing one, or developing one yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Buying a building can be expensive, especially if you intend to remodel it after the sale. However, it's one of the quickest ways to establish ownership of a space. Leasing a building adds up and those monthly rent payments aren't the prettiest, but it lets you start running your business much more quickly. On the downside, depending on your lease terms, you might be restricted in terms of how much you can alter the space. Developing a building offers you the greatest amount of creative freedom to build up a space as you see fit, from the style of building to details like which commercial doors you install. However, this is definitely the most expensive, time-consuming option.
You also need to make sure that you have enough space to service vehicles and a large enough lot to store cars overnight in the event of lengthy repairs. Based on your market, finding the perfect space might take some time so you need to get started on this portion of being a business owner sooner rather than later.
Consider customer service
The majority of car shops run with fairly small, tight crews. This means that, unfortunately, some owners tend to get a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to staffing. Oftentimes, a car shop prioritizes hiring mechanical talent, leaving customer service by the wayside. Even for a beginner business, there are ways to put a greater emphasis on customer service without stretching your staff (or your wallet) too thin.
For instance, contact center software can help you easily direct calls to the appropriate staff members without needing an in-house representative. Some software has callback features that can acquire some pertinent customer information and place the caller into a virtual queue that allows you to reach out to them on your own time and also speed up the overall call process. It makes scheduling easier and helps you focus more on customer service without detracting from the core mission of your business: servicing cars.
Remember to be patient
When you're looking for a place to take your car, what's the first thing you do? For many people, they reach out to friends and family for recommendations. They want to go to someone who has a good reputation and is trusted. Naturally, building up a reputation, customer trust, and word-of-mouth referrals takes a good deal of time. Long story short: it's not going to happen overnight. While a slow customer flow can be frustrating, especially when you've invested time and money into your business, this is a great time to focus on outreach. Ask your friends and family to refer your business to others. Offer new customer discounts or special service bundles to attract clients. Consider a simple marketing campaign to spread brand awareness. There are lots of ways to start building a following, as long as you're willing to be patient.
Starting a car shop isn't easy and there's plenty to being an entrepreneur that you might not have even considered. As long as you're willing to put in the time, money, and elbow grease, however, you could become the next go-to shop in your town. It's simply a matter of taking your business ideas out of "park" and putting them into "drive."