Four Auto Shop Owners Achieve Big-Dealership Wins for Small Shops
Over a decade ago, four independent auto shop owners started meeting regularly to discuss their business challenges. They had each started an auto shop because of their love of mechanics. But they soon found that owning a garage differed from working in a garage. Their dream was to spend their days working with cars. In reality they spent their days running between managing a technician in the shop and answering phones or talking to customers in the office. They spent evenings and weekends keeping their businesses afloat, doing invoicing, marketing, payroll, and social media.
They saw big dealerships, with their large budgets and extra staffing, investing in dedicated marketing teams, call centres, coaches, training programs, and off-site development seminars. The four men discussed how they, as small ma and pa garages, could have the same opportunities and advantages as the bigger dealerships.
How could they be more efficient?
How could they do more of the work they loved but still care for customers properly?
And how could they take home more profit at the end of the day?
As they shared their business tools and developed solutions, they realised that other independently-owned garages could make use of what they were learning from each other. So together, they founded ShopPros and grew it into what it is today.
The ShopPros Team in 2022. Front row (L-R): Jessica Stoddart, Ashley Steele, Cindy Moore Back row (L-R): Lynda Steele, Kayla Richards, Charlie Taylor, Al Wheeler, Connie Evans, Rex Sarson
ShopPros: NEWT Customer Since 2013
This past summer, we had the pleasure of hosting Jamie Sheepway and Connie Evans from ShopPros. We gave them a tour of our Waterloo and Cambridge offices and learned about ShopPros’ history.
Although ShopPros has been a NEWT client for almost ten years, we didn’t realise just how many services ShopPros offers and how many success stories they’ve been a part of as a result. We talked to some ShopPros customers to learn more about the dealership-level advantages ShopPros offers to smaller ma and pa garages and how much success it’s possible to achieve by working with the ShopPros team.
Jeffrey’s Life Before ShopPros: Seeking Growth and Increased Profits and Efficiency
When Jeffrey Grassman joined ShopPros at the end of 2019, his shop had just hit $1M in gross sales for the first time. He wanted to keep that growth momentum and find a way to increase his shop’s profits and efficiency.
Life before ShopPros was a series of attempts to find a management program to help him achieve those goals. With each program he tried, he gained valuable information. But the result was always the same. His preference for being a technician over running a business would kick in, and life would return to the highs and lows of business as usual.
ShopPros Accountability Groups, Training, Easy Onboarding, and Marketing Support All Helped Jeffrey Grow His Business
The first difference Jeffrey noticed with ShopPros, was the accountability group. “There’s complete transparency, and we’re all accountable to each other. So you have a group of peers, not someone lording it over you.”
Jeffrey also quickly found that ShopPros provides just about every system an owner needs to operate their shop. ShopPros’ technician training, service advisor training, and sales training programs are flexible enough for trainees to take anywhere at any time. And because ShopPros only works with auto shop owners, the learning and content is geared specifically to their industry and learning style. In addition, shop owners receive support through virtual and in-person peer groups, conferences, membership events, trade shows and conferences across North America.
The ShopPros team with clients at a ShopPros event in Mississauga, September 2022.
“You also get a coach who is active in the industry,” Jeffrey says. “And they offered me their unique call centre and marketing services (for websites, social media, print media, text and email blasts).”
Jeff went all in and signed up for ShopPros’ complete marketing package, advisor training, and full member benefits.
ShopPros has an intensive onboarding process, but Jeffrey found it to be “super easy”. The onboarding process involves loading all of a shop’s finances into the ShopPros BusinessBuilder. The owner can see how their shop is doing compared to similar shops and industry benchmarks. Connie Evans, ShopPros’ General Manager, says the report can be pretty shocking, but the software softens the blow by showing owners where they can go, how much it’s going to cost, and what profit will be left.
For example, she says, “They find out that it takes their tech three hours to do a one-hour job. Not because their tech is slow but because the shop’s systems are inefficient. There’s often a lot of chaos between the front and back of the shop. It’s a constant fly by the seat of your pants to get the car out the door. So, their staff is busy, but they’re not making money.
“Shop owners think they need to bring in more cars, but that’s not the case. It’s often pleasantly shocking when new members see where they are, where they can be, and the steps they need to take to get there. That’s when we become a team.”
Connie Evans, ShopPros General Manager
Jeffrey liked that “ShopPros was hyper-focused, but in a good way, about ensuring all my numbers were input into their dashboard correctly – that was new and a big deal to me. All the people they have in their key positions are great choices. They’re all very good at what they do. I’ve never experienced what ShopPros offers the automotive industry, in terms of peer groups, support, accountability, a coach experienced in the industry, marketing, and their call centre. ShopPros has developed a proven way to help make things happen for your business. It’s more than I could have imagined.”
What would Jeffrey say to other independent shop owners about why they should join ShopPros?
“My biggest barrier psychologically was, ‘What if this doesn’t work? What am I going to do?’ But that had nothing to do with ShopPros. That was just me. I realised that for change to happen, I must want to change.
“Most of the barriers are fear or misinformation. But shop owners need to ask themselves, ‘What is the barrier to me having experienced business consultants on my team?’ Because that’s what ShopPros is.
“You get a peer-to-peer network of strategic people who are now on your team. That’s hard to explain because we’re so competitive in this industry. But ShopPros works at a peer level that I’ve never seen work in any other program. Why would I not want a team of people advising and helping me implement strategies and tools that are proven to work? These professionals have been successful in the same business that I’m running. They’re advising me and helping me with my business. Why would I not want that?”
Jeffrey Grassman, Owner, Car Smart Auto Service
But What About the Competition Having the Same Advantages?
We asked Connie about the competitive nature of the business. Wouldn’t having multiple shops close to each other and all trained on the ShopPros system be a disadvantage?
“It’s a common thought,” she agrees. “But we explain to our shops that, as an industry, we all need to be on the same page. You’re better off if the shop down the street is as educated as you are so that customers get a similar experience. If you have a shop charging $50/hour but they’re in debt, and you charge $100/hour and make a bit of money, the customer is likely to go to the other shop even though their service may not be as good. And that hurts your business. If the shop next door to you has the same training, then if you need to be away, another shop owner can run your shop because you have the same systems in place and use the same software.
“We had a shop owner who got sick, and he had three other shop owners who came in on a rotating basis and kept his shop going for months. Another shop owner went on a honeymoon for a month, and we were able to run his shop for him. Our advice is to partner with another shop that has been through the ShopPros program so, at the very least, you can cover each other and keep things going when necessary.”
As Jeffrey says, who wouldn’t want that?
Meet ShopPros Client David Anderson
Owner of Anderson Automotive located in Summerside, PEI
Joined ShopPros in October 2017 & became a ShopPros Coach in the spring of 2022
150% lift in revenue since joining ShopPros
David’s Life Before ShopPros: Building a Business He Couldn’t Sell
In 2015, David Anderson felt pretty discouraged; he realised he had spent 20 years building an automotive business that he couldn’t sell.
“I was scared – 20 years & I’ve got nothing to show for it. No savings. I had a good business, but I knew I WAS the business; I really had nothing if I wasn’t there.”
Like Jeffrey, David had tried various forms of coaching that got him excited, but he found there was little to no follow-up. And like Jeffrey, the systems he worked hard to implement soon fell by the wayside after the programs ended.
How David Quantum Leaped His Business
As a business owner, David wanted to make informed decisions, but he needed someone to turn to for advice. And because everything in the automotive industry is expensive, he found himself holding back on pulling the trigger on significant changes. That all changed when he joined ShopPros.
“Suddenly, I had access to an entire team of people to give me feedback on my ideas. It allowed me to do what ShopPros calls ‘quantum leaping’. Our sales doubled within two years. I hired another technician and another service advisor. We’re in year four now, and our sales have gone up half a million. We got so busy I had to hire a second advisor. Our phone was ringing off the wall, so we signed up for ShopPros’ BDC (Business Development Centre), which is their phone answering service. It takes away roughly 600 calls a month, which allows my service advisor to give our clients a better experience. They can chat for a few minutes and build that relationship, so we appreciate the BDC.”
David Anderson, Owner, Anderson Automotive
What is ShopPros’ Business Development Centre and How Does it Help Shop Owners Grow Their Business?
“Our BDC is where our relationship with NEWT shines. We serve customers all over the United States and Canada, from north to south, east to west. The BDC removes the burden of the phone call from the service advisor. As a service advisor, you want to talk to the customer in front of you. But if your phone is ringing and you don’t have backup, something will get neglected. That’s either the customer in front of you or the potential customer on the phone. And if you don’t answer the phone, then that potential customer will call someone else.”
Jamie Sheepway, ShopPros Director of Service & Coaching
When Jamie started with ShopPros, five customers used the BDC. Now there are 45. “It was NEWT and the capabilities of their [Advanced Call Distribution] system that helped us grow.”
As Jamie explains, many shop owners aren’t businesspeople per se, but business activities such as answering their phones can be difficult tasks to let someone else handle. “They don’t want us calling their customers from a 1-800 number in Toronto when their shop is in Oakville. One of NEWT’s selling features is that we can get a phone number in almost any city. So, when we make calls on behalf of an Oakville customer, the number shows up as an Oakville number with their shop’s name on it. And if the customer calls back, the call goes directly to their shop.
“Many customers have migrated to NEWT just for simplicity because it’s a great platform. They know it works for us, and I act as their beta-tester who can tell them, ‘It works well, and this is why.’ But more importantly, when they have the NEWT PBX, we can peer their phones to our system, making life much more straightforward for our customers. With simple phone adjustments, they can route their calls to me or my team or have them go to their front desk, depending on what their day looks like. They also appreciate that I can be their phone support system because I understand the system and can go in and help them with it. We have customers on traditional phone lines, but I’m not familiar with their systems, so they have to arrange for a rep to come in. The other drawback of traditional phone lines is that they can only forward one call to the BDC at a time, so other calls get dropped. That’s a significant drawback during a shop’s busy seasons. But when it’s NEWT, they can have it peered to our system, and I can take care of them. It’s simple. It’s easy.
Jamie Sheepway, ShopPros Director of Service & Coaching
“We also use NEWT’s Call Detail Records (CDR) for our monthly reporting. We use it quite frequently to show our clients that we’re doing the job they’re paying us to do – that we’re doing what we promised. And we’ll use the CDR for any “he said/she said” issues from a customer standpoint. For example, we had a case where one of our client’s customers refused to pay for a diagnostic because they said they didn’t agree to the service. I found the call record, and the customer ended up paying. Without that kind of reporting capability and ease of lookup, that shop owner would have been out four or five hundred dollars. And it took minutes to find – save it, send it. Very easy.
“One other thing I use daily is the Call Monitor – an invaluable tool. I’ve got three screens showing me the call monitor. Right now, for example, I have 23 active phone queues, and with a turn of my head, I can see which staff are on which calls. It’s a good way to judge how busy we are and plan meetings with my staff when we’re statistically slower. I can also jump into calls if I’m needed or use it for training. We all use softphones, so we all have them loaded on our computers – it’s beyond easy to use; I’ve never had any issues with them. We can work anywhere – I can be at my desk, in the backyard, in my kitchen.
“From a support stance, NEWT is awesome. Anytime there’s a problem or question, I get answers from NEWT virtually immediately. I have a complex system compared to others, with eight or nine PBXs all connected, but I speak the language now, so when I have an issue, I can call NEWT’s support team and get help immediately. I’ll get changes done within minutes; they’re responsible with no multi-emails going back and forth – that doesn’t exist. I let them know what I need, and things get done right the first time. With the pandemic, we had to transition our service team from a physical PBX to a cloud-based PBX, so there were a lot of changes needed. Everyone was very attentive and helpful and made it happen very quickly. I never actively look for another provider because I don’t need to – I’ve got everything I need, and it works.”
Jamie Sheepway, ShopPros Director of Service & Coaching
What would David tell other independent owners in the automotive industry about ShopPros?
“My stomach was sick when I joined up. I was worried I’d look like a fool; that was my biggest hurdle. But nobody judges you at ShopPros. Instead, they’re there to help you succeed.
Because many of the members of the ShopPros team run their own shops, everyone at ShopPros is intimately familiar with the specific challenges that face independently-owned garages, which is hugely valuable to David.
“I’ve been in programs where the trainer and coaches may have owned a shop – but it was 15 years ago. We techs have the attitude that if you haven’t done any tech in 2 years, you don’t know anything, so it’s hard to trust someone who hasn’t done it for 10 or 15 years. With ShopPros, you have that common ground with people. After I signed up, my coach came to my shop for two or three days, and I felt 10x more secure with ShopPros. My coach could visually see my shop and understand my stresses. He talked to my staff; everybody could buy into the system and what we were trying to do. My coach owns a three-bay shop doing $1.4M. He runs roughly the same operation as me, so I said, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ Within six months, I knew that it was working.
David Anderson, Owner, Anderson Automotive
Scott Eccles, Ashley Steele, Cindy Moore and Mike Brown at a NEWT-sponsored dinner at the end of a three-day ShopPros conference in Mississauga, September 2022.
NEWT-sponsored dinner for ShopPros conference participants in Mississauga, September 2022.
Through ShopPros, David Created a Saleable Business
“It was after my second year with ShopPros; I realised my business was now saleable. I could work in the business because I chose to, not because I have to, which is a whole different mindset for me. So I decided to open a second business and use ShopPros’ SOP program. It allowed me to document all the systems I learned and mirror that onto another shop.
“When I first signed up, I told them my goal was to become a coach with ShopPros. I achieved that a few months ago, and it brought it all to another level. I love helping people achieve the same success I’ve had.”
Through ShopPros, David has gained friends and colleagues he can visit whenever he wants. “If I have a problem, I’ve called other members for advice, whether for business or personal life. When you join the group, you open up and get support with issues like balancing home and work. There are other things in business besides just business, and they’re aware of that.
“The team at ShopPros genuinely cares about your well-being. If you’re struggling, they’ll help you. They do great things for people; they’re there for the good and the bad. They don’t run when you’re having trouble.
ShopPros Helps Their Customers Grow. NEWT Helps ShopPros Grow, and NEWT Can Help You Grow Too
Thanks for stopping by, Connie and Jamie. We loved getting to know you and ShopPros, better.
And to our existing or potential customers, if you’re ever in Waterloo Region and want to drop by our Head Office in Cambridge or our satellite office in Waterloo, we’d love to host you and give you a tour. It brings us so much joy to get to know you better and learn how we can help you achieve your business goals. Our management team has experience in entrepreneurship, workplace culture and community building, and sales and marketing, and sharing our knowledge makes us happy. We’re not just a telecommunications company – we’re people who love to help others in whatever way we can. So stop by for a chat and a coffee. Let’s help each other achieve even more success!