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The Logistics of Acquiring a Shop

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A few months back, my company acquired Spruce Park Auto Body, which had been in operation in Alaska for nearly 60 years. Exciting times, without a doubt. 

Of course, the coronavirus crisis quickly threw a wrench into our plans. 

We learned a lot as we brought Spruce Park Auto Body into the fold. For instance, the painters that I acquired had sprayed a different paint line than we spray at Able Body Shop locations. So, they needed training, and we had to have our employees train them, which they had to be compensated for. There were a lot of logistical issues like that, complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also had to do several Facetime calls with our IT company and have them walk us through how to set up our shop technology. 

It made for some crazy times. But I know one thing: if I ever acquire a shop again, it’ll be a smoother process, thanks to the lessons I learned back in March.

Dedicate employees to aid the transition. 

The first key step we took during the acquisition process was to have our main marketing employee take care of social media accounts such as Google My Business and Facebook, as well as sending out press releases and our website. We had her make sure all of that was ready very close to Day 1 that the business transition went into effect. 

Because we wanted there to be as little confusion as possible. 

Stick to the script. 

Once we took over Spruce Park Auto Body,we had to answer the phones a bit differently, of course, letting customers know that the facility was now Able Body Shop. So, we spent time coming up with verbiage, to let people know what was going on. We didn’t want to lose any repair work because of the transition, so we made sure our whole admin staff and all our CSRs were on the same page.

And, we wanted to show customers that the transition is a good thing. So, we talk about our OEM certifications, and our DRP relationships.

Now, when someone calls in and says ‘I thought I was calling Spruce Park, and I thought I was working with USAA, we say “Yep, we’ve already squared that away, and USAA has already sent us everything that we need.” 

We called all customers on a Friday and let them know what was going on. That way, we made sure that that first Monday morning wasn’t complete chaos.

Focus on team-building. 

All the Spruce Park employees have stayed with us. We even honored their original hiring date. If they were hired 10 years ago, and we have things in our employment agreement that says “After 10 years you get this,” then we honored that hire date as if they started working for us 10 years ago. If they had a commitment of vacation time, we honored all that stuff, so they entered the transition with peace of mind. 

We also told employees that, at least for the first month, they would get paid the same or better than they were in the past, to ease those concerns.

Embrace consultation. 

Before acquiring Spruce Park, I spent a ton of time on the phone with friends that either bought shops or had sold shops. 

I also hired a consultant. I hired Mike Anderson to come up and put his blessing on the deal. I did all that so that I didn’t make an emotional, irrational decision. I wanted to make sure it was a good business decision. These deals often become very emotional, and your pride can get in the way. So, if Mike would’ve told me not to do it, I was 100 percent prepared to walk way. 

But, fortunately we did our homework. And the customers seem to be on board ― what the customers cared about was if their car was going to get fixed, and were we going to keep the commitments that Spruce Park at made, so we made certain that we did that. So far, so good.

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