The Foundation Needed for Expansion
John Yazak is entrenched in the auto body world.
Yazak left his home country of Turkey and has been in the American auto body business since 1986. In 2010, he opened the first location of the New York-based Scotsman Auto Body. In 2016 and 2017, Yazak expanded his business into two more Long Island–based shops.
“I will probably continue to grow up a little more,” Yazak says. “My goal is six shops.”
Yazak attributes the success of his expansions to his willingness to take opportunities when they come along—and the right timing.
“When I first opened my shop about 2010, I started with zero cars,” he says. “I didn’t have anything.”
Yazak’s business philosophy is about risk-taking. If you’re planning on expanding your business, be on the lookout for opportunities—and then take the plunge.
Yazak thinks that other shop owners who want to expand need to search for opportunities everywhere, and embrace them when they come along.
“Everybody wants to expand. As soon as they get an opportunity, they will,” Yazak says. “Keep your eyes open, and look for it.”
If you’re thinking about a shop expansion in the near future but don’t know where to start, here are three key foundational ideas from Yazak’s success to keep in mind.
Play to your strengths.
Yazak credits his ability to expand quickly and successfully to two strengths: customer reputation and positive insurance company relationships.
“I’m good with every customer,” he says. “We have no problems with our customers. They always come first. That’s my main thing that I always tell my managers.”
In Yazak’s experience, the best advertising is word-of-mouth among his customers, along with relying on the support of his insurance companies. Yazak’s shops are on the Geico ARX program, where the company sends him cars on a schedule.
“My insurance companies are always behind me,” he says. “Most of my managers come from insurance companies, and they know the other parts of the business. I always work in the body shop.”
By hiring for expertise and focusing on customer service, Yazak is able to run a successful shop, and that strong foundation allowed him to expand his business.
It’s clearly worked for the best. Yazak says that between its three locations, Scotsman Auto Body has serviced almost 10,000 customers in its near-decade in business.
Find a space that works best for your needs.
For Yazak, location is key to running a successful business, and it’s what he focuses on when deciding on the right time to expand.
“They’re all good locations, that’s important for me,” Yazak says. “They have to be on a main street. They have to be big.”
Yazak’s three shops are 17,000, 16,000, and 21,000 square feet, respectively, located on some of the busiest streets on Long Island. Each shop is able to service 70–120 cars per month.
“I have the biggest shops around here,” Yazak says.
Whether the right place for you is big or small, you have to be prepared for the commitment that a new location requires. Be ready with the time, money and resources necessary for a new place of business.
“It was a big process,” Yazak says about opening his expansions. “Especially when you’re buying someone else’s old shop and you’re getting all brand new equipment.”
Depend on your staff.
“The staff is the most important thing in this business,” Yazak says. “I have six shop managers and one office manager. They’re great, they all look after me.”
Between his three shops, he currently employees around 50 people. He hired seven different managers, two for each shop, plus one office manager.
“Some of them come and go, but most of them right now have been with me for more than three years,” Yazak says.
When it came time to expand, he went to his staff for support.
“I have one manager who has been with me for a long time,” Yazak says. “I always ask him what he thinks about this place, or how we can do this stuff … My staff is my biggest help. When I need something, when I can’t handle it, we come together and we try to solve the problem.”
With three locations, he must rely on his staff to run day-to-day operations when he’s not there. He commutes between all three shops daily, where he spends two hours at each before moving to the next one. The staff has to be responsible for the daily upkeep of each location.
“We all work together. We’re just like a big family,” Yazak says. “I love them, and they love me.”