Ready for Your Next Shop?

Ready for Your Next Shop?

I am one of the luckiest people in the industry, I get a chance to pull together smart people who have a passion for sharing and helping others. In the Town Hall Academy podcast panel discussions we cover the relevant topics of the automotive aftermarket.

One ongoing conversation in the podcast is consolidation. Now and even stronger in the future, competition with national and regional chains will grow. Can you compete? You betcha! Even with a single location you compete by offering what the larger chains are not, a deeper and lasting relationship with a loyal customer base. Alongside relationships, you are also going to need a great culture, dedicated people, well-honed processes, great systems, a culture of training, a professional environment for both customer and technician, great pay and benefits, the right tools and equipment and exceptional marketing.

For many service professionals that have built their well-oiled business, at some point they start to consider growing locations. That leap to your first, is a huge learning curve and if you and your company is poised for growth it may be time to pull the trigger.

Let this post serve up a few key pointers to help you align your thinking and plans on growing locations.

  • Consider growing in one of two ways. Either through acquisition of a competitor or finding a location and starting from scratch.
    • Many say acquisition of another shop gives you a base to work from.
  • Location is important.
    • You may be better off in a two-bay location in the center of town than a five-bay location on the outskirts of town.
    • Demographics are also very important to consider. Think about: what the income of your marketplace is? How many residents are within a five mile radius of shop. What is the average income?
  • Team Building.
    • You need to build your team before you expand.  Decide ahead of time who is going to lead the new shop and have your team train their replacements. You personally cannot run both at the same time.
    • If you have become a great leader and delegator, growth will become easier than if you are a control freak.
  • Confidentiality
    • Loose lips sink ships. The more people that know your plans the more expensive it will become! If you are negotiating an acquisition, the price could go up if a competitor discovers your plans. Ultimately, keep it private.
  • Discussions with your top advisors.
    • You need to listen, but remember they do not know your industry as well as you. Their advice is important, but put it in context too.
    • Your financial house must be in order before taking the plunge. Review your latest Balance Sheet, Profit or Loss Statement and Cash Flow Statement.
      • Cash Flow is as important as a Profit or Loss statement because it shows where your money is tied up and how it flows in and out of the business AND because many businesses, go out of business not because they are not profitable, but because they run out of cash.
    • Lawyers are paid to say no, however they must read every contract or agreement you sign.
    • Lastly, you need a strong relationship with your banker so they can react as fast as you need them too. They may suggest creative ways to finance the deal, but at the end of the day, wins.
  • Negotiations. Challenges. Either business or property.
    • Everything is negotiable and sometimes it is good to buy the land and other times renting will still make you a nice profit. If you do not have the funds to buy the property, set up a deal where you buy the business, maybe owner financing (win/win), then have it in the contract so in 5 years you can purchase the property. There are options.
    • Keep in mind sellers have their blood sweat and tears in their business and feel that their business is worth more than it really is unless the numbers prove it.
  • Due Diligence - a comprehensive process.
    • It is up to you to discover everything about the business you want to purchase. All financial information is up to you. This includes: Balance Sheet, Profit/Loss Statement, processes, procedures, payroll, systems, job descriptions, payroll and environmental issues of the property.
      • Be cautious if you get the information quickly and that it tells you something, if it takes way too much time, that tells you something.
      • Many sellers are overwhelmed with the request regarding the comprehensive nature of the due diligence process.
  • Mentor(s).
    • You need a mentor, you may even need two, but many in the industry are willing to help.
    • Understand what a mentor does, as it will help you see what is around the next corner.
    • You need to take their experiences and blend them into your own vision and talents.
  • Business coaches and consultants can help in a very big way.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help or admit you do not understand something.
  • You will need to have a marketing budget. Retaining and growing customers is a hard cost.
    • If you bought an existing shop, you will need to promote to the existing customers.  Be prepared that you may lose some based on the change of ownership.
  • You will hit the wall.
    • It happens to everyone. Expect it. It will happen. You must be prepared for the wall, so it does not break you.

This is not the exact blue print to create your acquisition strategy, but these pointers will serve to get you thinking in the right direction. For some, adding additional locations is in your DNA, for some it is not. There is nothing wrong with growing a single location by adding bays and remodeling to keep up with the times. For many you are not done building your current business through culture, values, your marketing efforts, perfecting your processes, improving your systems, growing your leaders, improving quality and growing revenue and profits from your single location. Stay at it!

We have talked a lot about growth and expansion on the podcast. I want to direct you to a great Town Hall Academy titled, ‘First Moves When Opening a New Shop’ (THA 051).  We have also done panels on ‘Acquisition Strategies’ (THA 082) with some very successful multi- shop owners. These are two great webinars to sink your teeth into.

 

Carm Capriotto
Aftermarket Influencer and Host of Remarkable Results Radio and the Town Hall Academy Podcasts