Steps for Opening Your Own Auto Shop
To be a mechanic is to be a wizard of sorts. A truly great mechanic has a love of all things vehicular, whether it’s cars, trucks, or any other conveyance type. Just the idea that you may be able to find out exactly why an engine won’t run, why an air conditioner won’t blow cool air, or why the transmission continues to be faulty after multiple fixes gets your heart racing.
Often, this love of machinery is lifelong. Maybe you were the kind of kid who took apart the radio and the remote control to try and put it back together or hanging out in the garage while your parent changed the oil and gave the family car a tune-up. Regardless of how you got your original roots as an auto mechanic, your time has come to a stop being an employee. You want to set up a shop and start your own repair business.
This may seem both exciting and fearsome at the same time, and that’s totally normal. That being said, to focus on the exciting part, here are some tips that can help you know that you’re moving in the right direction when setting up your new auto repair shop.
Craft a watertight business plan.
An auto repair shop may realize a childhood passion, but, first, it’s a business. You need to know where you’ll be getting your money from, how you plan to manage customer outreach and customer service, and what your marketing plan will look like. How many employees do you plan to hire? Do you know about all the licensing requirements and how to manage your bookkeeping? All of these items need to be addressed before you pop the hood of the first car. If you’re nervous about PDFs and PowerPoints, consider getting the help of a freelance business consultant for small businesses, or outsource some of the work to professionals like freelance CPAs.
Clear the air.
Speaking of employees, now that you’re hiring, you need to make sure that your worksite is up to code. That means everything from the clean, cool air in the summer and sufficient heat in the winter to break times and fire extinguishers. It’s not enough to rent a space with a built-in HVAC system—you need to know that your air conditioner and furnace are working.
Before you get to work, please take a minute to clear out the air ducts in your HVAC system to ensure they’re not blocked. You’ll want to hire professional technicians for this, but these air conditioning technicians can easily be found online. For example, if you’re in South Florida, Google “commercial air duct cleaning in Miami” finds pros who really know what they’re doing. That will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your employees are cool in the hot months and warm in the cold months.
Keep all your employees, hydrated and caffeinated.
It would help if you also made sure that your employees are hydrated and awake. Please don’t count on them to bring their own water bottles to work or make their way to a drinking fountain a couple of times a day. That won’t do. Adults need to drink between 2.7-3.7 liters of water a day, and for that to happen, you need to have fresh spring water nearby, ready for consumption. If your employees really get in the zone, they may forget to drink and get dehydrated. That can be really dangerous, so it’s a good idea to use a water delivery service like Canadian Springs water that allows you to have bottled water or a water dispenser right on the worksite.
It would be best if you also had a coffee station readily available, even though coffee can cause dehydration. You don’t want any mechanics or technicians falling asleep at the wheel, so to speak. Just make sure that the coffee cups and bottled water are side-by-side, and everyone should be awake and ready to go.
Consider starting with a franchise.
If all this business talk is getting you scared out of owning your own auto shop, take a deep breath. There’s actually a way to start your own small business without technically starting one. If you want to start an auto repair shop but don’t want to take on all the risk and liability, maybe you should consider being a franchisee for a national chain. As the owner of a franchise, you’re still the owner, which comes with plenty of benefits, and you’re still moving up on your career ladder. You’re just not taking on all the financial risk that comes with being a small-business owner.
It can also be easier to find funding for a franchise. Instead of having to put together a whole business pitch and find a venture capitalist who is as excited as you are about your project, you can go to a lender who specializes in bankrolling franchises. For example, companies like Franchise Lenders literally fund franchises for a living. They understand that this comes with risk, but they’re not afraid of it—they embrace it as a way to help small-business owners realize their dreams.
Stay up to date on the latest in automotive and diesel technology.
You need to know what’s going on in the industry. It’s as simple as that. If you trust what you learned when you start or rely solely on your instincts, you’ll fall behind and lose customers. In fact, it’s a good idea to invest in your employees’ education and enrichment as well. You want to have the sharpest, most up to date mechanics in the business, which means looking into enrichment seminars and online courses, such as an Automotive and Diesel Technology program, that you and your employees can attend. In as few as 60 credits, you and your employees will be certified in both fields, which you can add to the qualifications listed on your website and business cards. You’ll likely see that drawing new customers into your auto repair shop pretty quickly and keep them coming back as well.