Years ago, after fish were caught, they would get packed into ice-filled barrels and then taken to market. If a would-be shopper pulled his six-shooter, he would be guaranteed to hit a fish. It was just that easy!
The same can be said for business growth in the post-COVID years.
A healthy and sustainable benchmark growth rate is 6-8% per year. The past couple of years, shops all across the country have experienced unprecedented growth rates of 20-30%. Customers are waiting weeks to get their cars into the bays. The schedules are packed, sold hours are super-high. Simply put…we are all busy.
Sir Isaac Newton, mathematician, physicist and philosopher, surmised using the Law of Gravity the simple fact that what goes up, must go down.
Seasons are like gravity; they come and go. We know if we toss a ball in the air it will plunge to earth. Likewise, when fall subsides we know winter is right around the corner. We prepare for cold temperatures, long nights and, depending on your location, snow. As the seasons progress throughout the year, we prepare for each to come and go, and we are not surprised that summer is hot and winter is cold. Why would we be? All of us have seen the ebb and flow of seasons.
Which drives the question: with growth rates and demand so high, where on the horizon will that demand begin to contract?
Is there doom on the horizon? For well-run shops with a plan for intentional growth, there will still be great days. Your systems, processes and procedures will guide your actions.
Doom only befalls those who are unprepared!
If you’ve participated in Scouting, you know the motto: “Be Prepared.” Being prepared means you are always in a state of readiness.
In the business world, understanding and maintaining growth is easy – be intentional and don’t get lulled into a state of complacency, thinking peak demand seen today will last into perpetuity. Farmers and gardeners know there are times to cultivate, plant, grow and harvest, after which it’s time to begin again.
What Does Intentional Growth Mean?
Here are five steps to help you recognize the challenges that may be lurking over the horizon or behind the bend.
Step 1 – Maintain a keen awareness of your operations.
You may have been lulled into a false sense of security. Know where your belief sets are formed. Remember the early days of COVID, lockdowns, phone traffic slowing to a crawl? Many shops shut down the first few weeks, but by mid-summer these slow days were a distant image in our rearview mirror.
Panic swiftly turned to elation the busier your shop became. Look back to 2019; how did you market your shop?
Step 2 – Look ahead
As the captain of your ship, one of your duties is to “read the winds” as you look forward from your “Crows Nest.” Being aware of current events, local and global economic events, along with political events that shape the behavior and buying decisions of your customer. With that information, make your decisions proactively vs. reactively. Continue to follow your processes that made you the business you are today. Stay true to your course and focus on the clear skies past the perceived or real storm.
Step 3 – ABM
Always Be Marketing! Led Zeppelin’s tune “Good Times Bad Times” comes to mind. No matter how high your car count, sales and ARO are, don’t take your foot off the marketing “gas pedal.” When you do, the sales curve that unquestionably develops looks much like a sine wave. Busy days, slow days, busy days, slow days… Let’s be honest, the only roller coasters that are fun to ride are at the local amusement park!
It may be tempting to pull back and save a few bucks because you’re already scheduled weeks out, but there is a reason for your bookings. In most cases, it’s because your marketing plan is well executed, firing on all cylinders.
It’s no coincidence that the Number 1 soft drink, Coca-Cola, is also one of the top spenders in advertising dollars. Coke’s 2021 10-K filing shows that they spent $4 billion dollars on marketing that year. With Pepsi’s ad spend a distant second, Coke maintains its position and forward momentum as a direct result of its messaging.
Step 4 – Digital marketing
Murray Voth, of RPM Training, stresses the importance of staying on top of your digital marketing footprint. Murray says that the shops he coaches who have a great website that is mobile responsive; SEO dialed in; has an up-to-date, accurate and active Google profile; and regular activity on multiple social media channels are always busy, regardless of how slow or busy other shops are.
Step 5 – Be careful what you listen to
As important as it is to be aware of your surroundings and factors that may impact your business, remember that prognosticators of doom have walked the earth since the beginning of time. The famous adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” is at the foundation of our 24-hour news cycle!
If you aren’t careful, your thoughts that ultimately drive your decisions can quickly sour. It’s easy to follow popular thinking; before you know it, you’ll start to agree that the economy is in the tank, and nobody has or wants to spend money on car repairs. So, you pull back your marketing and stop recommending maintenance and repairs. The results – production drops, income slows, then your best talent starts to look for a job elsewhere!
In the end, remember that no matter what, money is always flowing. Positioning your shop to be on the receiving end of that river will ensure that you will have some great days.
Execute your marketing plan with military precision. Inspect EVERY car, estimate EACH service the tech found, and allow the customer to make the CHOICE on what they’d like to have serviced. Book a future appointment for services not performed around 90 days in the future.
Lastly, keep your thoughts and outlook in check. By following these few steps, you are sure to stay on the path of intentional growth, regardless of how busy the shops are nearby!