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A shop owner’s guide to staying ahead of the competition

Not long ago it was easy to beat your competitors — but those days are long gone

Not long ago it was easy to beat your competitors. All that you needed was more equipment, a healthy advertising budget and the ability to fix cars right the first time. Well, those days are long gone. Today, cars are being built better and require service less frequently, customers have more choices than ever before, and they are able to do a tremendous amount of research online before they even pick up the phone.

Bob Cooper, Elite

Additionally, this industry is experiencing an extraordinary shortage of qualified technicians, and profit margins are being squeezed every day. To top it all off, the dealerships have their eye on one thing and one thing alone: Your customers. So the question is, during these challenging times, how can you stay ahead of your competitors?

First and foremost, you will need to have clearly defined goals in place, and you’ll need to create a plan for reaching those goals. The right goals and an action plan will enable you to make far better business decisions, and improve productivity and profits.

Secondly, your success will be predicated on the caliber of people that work with you. We can never forget that whenever someone buys a product, they will always remember the product, but when they buy a service, they will always remember the people that provided the service. How will the top shop owners find and hire the superstars in the coming years? In addition to having an apprentice program in place, they will create a recruiting plan that contains a well-designed compensation program, and they will market to the superstars in the same way they market to their retail customers.

The top operators will also create marketing plans that target their ideal customers, and they will use the right media. The successful shop owners will be brand builders rather than price promoters, and they will invest at least 4-6% of their total sales into their marketing programs. They will recognize that the Y Gens and Millennials hold the key to their future, so will be investing a part of their marketing budget into campaigns specifically directed toward them.

The successful shop owners in the coming years will constantly analyze every component of their customer process with their crew, and they’ll create policies and procedures that better ensure extraordinary service at every customer touch-point. They will also embrace the philosophy that keeping their superstars happy, motivated, well-trained and productive will depend on their employee management skills. They’ll realize that their brand is their people, so to further develop those skills they will invest in books and courses that are directed towards employee management.

And lastly, the top shop owners in the coming years will not only know their numbers, but will know what needs to be done in order to reach each and every one of their performance goals.

In conclusion, if you want to build a world-class shop you will need to have clearly defined goals with a written plan, and will need to know your numbers. You will also need to have a team of superstars, and a well-designed marketing plan that brings in your ideal customers. If you do these things, if you never forget the importance of the people that work with you, and if you live by the principle that you will never put money ahead of people, then you will not only stay well ahead of your competitors, but you will have a far more profitable, successful business in the coming years.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a team of industry leading shop owners that helps other fellow shop owners take their businesses to new levels of success, reach their goals, and establish a work/life balance that leads to a higher quality of life. The company offers service advisor training, peer groups, and coaching and consulting services. You can learn more about Elite by visiting, or calling 800-204-3548.

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