Owner Mitch Schneider is adamant about running a tight ship where profitability hinges on policies, procedures, structure and systems. While Mitch contends that the implementation and execution of those business-building strategies can be the most difficult part, he keeps his eye on productivity, training, customer service and shop appearance as the cornerstones of his success.
Starting with bay productivity, an important yardstick to gauge profitability, Schneider’s boasts 95% to 105% service bay productivity (averaging all techs). “We do that by allowing our techs to do what they are good at, and ensuring they have everything they need when the vehicles appear at the shop,” explains Mitch.
Schneider’s employs three techs plus Mitch. Three are ASE Master Automobile Technician certified and one is ASE certified in Brakes & Suspension. It’s a small, but mighty, team with longevity in the business and at the shop.
“As far as retaining techs is concerned…I was one for most of my adult life. I try to ‘love’ them to death and work to create the kind of environment I would have liked to work within,” remarks Mitch. “We have paid vacation, holidays, personal days. Whatever I’m doing must be working: two of our techs have been with us for 20 years and the ‘new guy’ has been working here for almost seven!”
Mitch is also big on tech training — as often as possible, whenever possible, but mostly at local community colleges. “We do have online training available, but as of yet haven’t seen it achieve much traction,” he says.
Mitch reasons that properly trained techs are a shop owner’s most valued resources. They play a critical role in a shop’s overall customer service experience and their expertise allows them to deliver quality repairs that are done right the first time.
Retaining customers is also a priority at Schneider’s Automotive. “After trying a number of different advertising venues and vendors, we decided to focus on cultivating word-of-mouth referrals through our regular customers,” remarks Mitch. “We do this through rewards programs and our newsletter, which seems to be the best resource for word-of-mouth and client referrals to date. We just started the rewards program and the jury isn’t in yet. There is a very fine line between rewarding customers for referring you and making them feel like they are ‘selling out’ their friends or family members!”
Once new or existing customers enter Schneider’s Automotive, it’s not difficult to keep them coming back. Besides expert repairs efficiently done with highest-quality parts, there’s attention to detail in terms of shop appearance and a “welcome factor” that caters to a clientele that’s 70% female. “Enough said!” exclaims Mitch.
“The place had better be clean, presentable, have someplace comfortable to sit, a restroom that won’t give your wife, sister, mother or daughter the shivers, have no calendars of ‘questionable taste’ on the walls or fall short of someplace you would be proud to park your mother-in-law (or, mother)! Anyone who doesn’t ‘get it,’ isn’t likely to!”
Mitch also believes that Frank Martinez, his Service Advisor/Manager, is an incredibly important part of the shop’s success. “His customer service skills are unparalleled,” proclaims Mitch. “He stays calm, where I would be more volatile, and our clients love him to pieces!”
Schneider’s also boasts a user-friendly website that’s rich with content, but easy to navigate. It’s an “evolving” process of keeping it fresh and updated, but a task that pays dividends.
Comments Schneider: “We are rebuilding our website…again. We’ve finally come to the realization that it doesn’t matter what I think or how ‘cool’ the site is: all that matters is whether or not it works for our clients or potential clients. That means finding what they are looking for quickly and easily with the fewest ‘clicks’ possible. Simple. Fast. Content-rich.”
Association membership has also helped build business. A member of the Automotive Service Association, Automotive Service Council of California and a number of service center programs through various vendors, Mitch explains that benefits are primarily gained through networking and shop aides. “But the real value comes from contact with other shop owners,” he proclaims. “I participate in a 20-Group through ATI and I think I can honestly say that participation at this level has resulted in the greatest benefit in the shortest time. There really isn’t anything as powerful as ‘peer review’ when it comes to motivating higher achievement.”
There are many factors that are integral to a shop’s success. And, while certain strategies work for some, but not others, it requires a commitment to excellence, and a tolerance for whatever trials and tribulations come your way, as you strive each day to keep America running.
Mitch sums it up this way: “Guts, perseverance, indomitable spirit, ability to tolerate change (and insecurity), confidence (sometimes false confidence), vision, an unselfish spirit, willingness to put your clients’ needs first, optimistic attitude, genuine concern, commitment to the industry…you get the idea!”