For Justin and Nicole Barrett, attracting top talent at their Cornelia, GA, Confidence Plus® Certified Service Center repair shop is as simple as providing high-quality repairs and a top-notch environment for staff and customers alike.
“To recruit the best candidates, we focus on maintaining our reputation of being the best shop in the area, along with having a great facility to work in,” says Justin, who opened Barrett Automotive in February 2009. “None of the top-tier guys or gals wants to work at a subpar shop or in a dirty, disorganized facility. By focusing on that, we keep a stack of resumes of highly qualified prospects on file for the future.”
As the owners and operators of Barrett Automotive, a Confidence Plus® Certified Service Center and Bumper to Bumper customer, Justin and Nicole have built a solid team that includes two technicians who, along with Justin, work on all makes and models of vehicles. The shop now boasts six bays, up from two, since construction of a new building was completed in July 2017.
“Shop appearance is crucial to a successful business in more ways than one,” Justin says. “Not having a clean and tidy shop inside and out is a pet peeve of mine that drives my guys a little nuts sometimes, especially in the beginning when I went from a one-man show to hiring help.
“But if you don’t take care of your shop, how can you expect the customer to trust you to care for their vehicle and provide them with the best service?” he continues. “Maintaining a clean and professional appearance also helps attract the right clientele to your business. The appearance of a facility tells the customer a lot about what kind of service they can expect.”
Partnering For Success
Providing that first-class service is due in part to the high level of continuing education offerings available to the technicians of Barrett Automotive as customers of the Slack Auto Parts Company, LLC, a Bumper to Bumper® member.
“Slack Auto Parts, our first-call supplier that I would consider a partner, does a great job of putting on training classes throughout the year, and we attend all of them,” Justin says. “In addition to those, we also do a lot of online training, and we have plans to attend the Vision KC Expo and Automechanika this year. We are also extremely excited to attend the Aftermarket Jackpot Convention hosted by the Alliance in Las Vegas at AAPEX this year!”
Other collaborations have also proven advantageous, including partnering with Auto Profit Masters for business coaching. The benefits, Justin says, far outweigh the cost.
“Having an experienced business team in your corner who knows the ins and outs is priceless,” he explains. “We’ve been with them for only a couple of months now, but have already seen improvements. For example, by initiating a vehicle inspection process, it’s amazing to see how much your average repair order improves when you start doing a simple inspection on every vehicle.”
Justin also gives back to the automotive repair industry by serving on the Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper/Confidence Plus Certified Service Center Advisory Council and on the local advisory committees for the auto tech programs at Habersham Central High School and North Georgia Technical College. He is also a member of the Auto Care Association’s Young Auto Care Network Group (YANG).
The benefits of being involved in these organizations and committees are almost too numerous to mention, Justin says. “Being on the Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper/Confidence Plus Certified Service Center Advisory Council, and having the opportunity to meet and talk with nine of the best shop owners in the nation and learn from them, is amazing. And at the ripe old age of 30, there is plenty to learn. And YANG helps connect me with other young auto care professionals seeking to make a career in this industry.”
Meeting Customer Expectations
While you’re likely to see a Barrett Automotive billboard in a high-traffic area in Cornelia, customer retention is about more than just keeping the business’ name and logo in front of current and potential clientele.
“Attracting and retaining customers is the same as recruiting top talent: Maintain a reputation of doing the best job possible,” Justin says. “Do what you say you’re going to do, and have it done when you say it’s going to be done.”
In addition to a clean, modern facility, Justin says a good website is crucial in today’s marketplace, since it’s usually a customer’s first impression of your business.
“I don’t see how any business can be successful without one,” he says. “The benefit of a web presence is that the website is never closed. Our hours may be only Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but if the customer has a question on the weekend, they can fill out our Contact Us form, which goes directly to my inbox.
“From that, I can help them via email, whether it involves answering a question or scheduling a time for them to drop off a vehicle during the week,” Justin continues. “And, sometimes a new customer just wants to get to know your business before they make a call or stop by. I know the first thing I do before going somewhere new is to go straight to the website, and if the website doesn’t look appealing, I will not do business there.”
Customers also appreciate the option to finance their vehicle repairs via Auto Pass (the Confidence Plus North American Warranty program), which is offered to all Bumper to Bumper/Auto Value Certified Service Centers at no additional cost.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve received an email that says, ‘Hey, I have applied for financing on your website, and I’ve been approved for XX amount of dollars. When would be a good time to drop off my vehicle?’”
Justin says he’s learned that a key part of running a successful shop is trusting that the team you’ve hired will produce the results you’re customers want and expect.
“Getting out of the way is hard for me to do, but when you let your team do what you hired them to do, and not micromanage everything, stress goes down and production goes up,” he says.
In addition, Justin says being a perennial student will benefit your business in the long run.
“You can never learn too much,” he says. “One of the hardest things for me when I started my business was that I was a great technician, but not a great business owner. When I started to realize that being a great technician and working 15 hours a day was not enough to guarantee success, that’s when I really started to notice a change in the business.”
Reading and putting into practice the concepts of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth helped Justin to realize that if he didn’t continue to learn and grow, neither would his business.
“When you really start to watch the numbers of your business and keep your finger on the pulse, you can see your weaknesses and what needs attention,” he explains. “But you must be open-minded and willing to make the changes necessary to improve, and that can be the hardest part.”
Partnering with skilled employees and reliable suppliers is also the key to building a solid foundation.
“Being able to find talented team members is a huge part of a successful shop — you’re only going to be as good as the team you build,” he concludes. “And a great relationship with your parts supplier is also critical to success. When you have a great supplier like I do in Slack Auto Parts, you realize that not only do you have a parts vendor, but you have a partner that is willing to be vested in your success.”