Successors Share How to Run a Successful Auto Repair Shop
Cary Car Care’s owners have learned how to run a successful auto repair shop based on know-how from two generations. It thrives by keeping the shop’s old-school personal nature, while using the latest auto shop software.
Paul Lambdin started the shop with Doug Wilson in 1990. Nowadays, the shop serves second and third generations of clients in Cary, North Carolina. As Paul spends less time in the shop, he shares ownership with his daughter Kelsey and his nephew BJ.
“In the transition, we want to make sure we incorporate his character into every step,” BJ says.
“Before, Paul was involved in the day-to-day operation, writing the estimates and fixing the cars so one person touched everything. We have similar traits and want to pass them onto employees, so customers get that same experience.”
At the same time, Kelsey and BJ have modernized how the shop runs, including the addition of Shop-Ware’s automotive shop software in 2019.
Carrying on winning traditions
Right from the start, the shop’s slogan stated: “If it’s not right, we’ll make it right.” A plaque bearing those words sits on BJ’s desk to remind him to protect the shop’s good name.
At first, BJ started out training as a mechanical engineer, but he missed the hands-on work of fixing cars. After community college, he started working at his uncle’s shop in 2015.
“Quality is part of our fabric and how Kelsey and I were raised,” he says. “Everyone does the same thing even if Kelsey and I are not at the front counter. “We’re fortunate to have found people with good character who relate well to our customers.”
The shop employs:
- Six technicians, including the first one hired when the shop opened in 1990
- Shop foreman and trainer
- Service manager
- Two client care staff in the lobby
- Two service advisors
BJ focuses on systems, processes and auto parts inventory to deliver the same quality that the founders did. Meanwhile, Kelsey applies her long-time retail background to the shop’s marketing, human resources and bookkeeping.
How to run a successful auto repair shop
After four years in the shop, BJ and Kelsey decided to switch to Shop-Ware’s automotive repair software.
“Looking back, it changed things that we seemed to have done for 100 years,” BJ says. “We just hadn’t thought about how these processes didn’t work well before. You cannot be a prisoner of the past.”
For example, techs used to put a list of parts in a plastic sheet and throw it on the floor of the car. Now, they track parts digitally. It helps now that the shop has grown to 12 bays in 15,000 square feet, taking over most of the building where it began.
These days, BJ is focusing on processes to lower the shop’s car count and boost its ARO. So far, they are making good progress:
- Car count – 100 per week (with a goal to drop that number from 50 to 60)
- ARO – $400 and rising (with a goal of $700)
- Parts GP – 51-52% (up from 47-48%)
Software tools to power a shop’s profits
Within the shop, the staff automate as much as they can to work more productively, while:
- Exchanging messages via Slack after connecting it with Shop-Ware via Zapier
- Using the Digital Vehicle Experience (DVX™) to document every client interaction in one thread
- Integrating with Service Intelligence to offer a full menu of upcoming repairs so customers decide without an upsell
BJ also adjusts Shop-Ware’s Parts GP Optimizer for auto parts pricing that hits his monthly targets.
“Before, I was micromanaging a parts matrix,” he says. “Now, I check with the numbers now and then, while it does its own thing. It’s out of sight, out of mind so I can focus on other aspects of the business.”
He also uses a dispatch board to pull information from Shop-Ware and display it to show where techs stand for the week. Ultimately, he aims to make good habits repeatable.
“We make sure we’re taking care of a certain number of clients rather than shuffling cars through the building,” BJ says.
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