If you are done with car dealerships and want to go alone in the motor trade, running a repair shop might be just the thing for you. Of course, unless you want to be a mobile mechanic operating out of your van, you need to find suitable premises. You can always find MOT garages for sale, but not all of them have suitable facilities such as parking space for customers, reception and waiting area, payment counter, restroom, etc.
Many pre-existing garages for sale will include much of the equipment, such as ramps, tools and diagnostic equipment, as well as standing relationships with suppliers, but from there, the reputation of your startup business is in your own hands.
An average day
Arriving an hour early will give you enough time to focus on the following day’s work, while the garage is still closed. This is the perfect time to check whether there are enough parts in stock or if any have been delivered and catch up on paperwork. During the day, expect to deal with your customers on the phone often and try to create the technician’s work schedules.
Another share of daily phone calls will include suppliers, as you order the necessary parts for vehicles, as well as oils, workshop consumables, etc. It’s realistic that you’ll be dealing with more than 30 different suppliers and receive anywhere between 5-10 deliveries a day, so you need to be prepared logistically for all those deliveries.
It’s important to have all the purchase invoices and outgoing invoices archived and in order. In an ideal scenario, you’d be able to update the accounting system daily, but more often than not, you’ll probably have to take some work home.
The importance of accounting
Many small businesses use cloud-based software so that their accountant can access the numbers anytime and offer advice when needed. The unseen part of the repair shop business is a ton of paperwork – over 100 purchase invoices a week, so falling behind is not an option.
With so many suppliers and customer accounts, knowing how much you owe and what is owed to you is essential for cash flow. The best strategy would be to update software daily so you are always on top of paperwork. Also, your accountant can provide you with valuable advice on how to improve your business.
Many garages start small and later expand the space they’ve rented or built from scratch. Traditional construction and remodelling can be expensive, so many owners turn to steel buildings that are very customizable. They allow you to place doors, windows, clear spans and work bays according to your needs and preferences.
Also, consider your flooring options since your floors need to be able to withstand stains from oil and other fluids. Motor oil can weaken concrete, which can make hoist uprights misaligned and unstable. With this in mind, make sure you use a durable slip-proof garage paint that can withstand heavy foot traffic.
What keeps customers returning?
The most important aspect is the service you provide your customers with. Make a habit of keeping the parts you have replaced in the reception area, so you can always show what you have done, and what that part does. This is especially appreciated by people who don’t understand cars very well. Your technicians should follow suit and, if needed, even take a customer to their car on the hoist to show them exactly what needs to be replaced. Also, having a few courtesy cars always comes in handy.
For a skilled and motivated mechanic, working for someone else may feel like a waste of time. When running your own business, you dictate your own rules and make money at the same time. Aside from good knowledge of workshop equipment and supplier streams, operating a car repair shop also puts you in charge of your business paperwork, accounting and PR.
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About the Author
Lillian Connors believes that the question of business goes far beyond the maximization of profit through different money-grabbing ploys. Instead, she likes to think that ethical principles should be at the core of every commercial venture, paving the way for a much more balanced distribution of wealth on a global scale. You can check her out on LinkedIn.