Menefee: The Future of the Small Shop

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With more and more technology and advancements in vehicles, I find myself wondering if the days of the small mom and pop shops are numbered? I find that I have been asking myself that often and it sends me down a rabbit hole of questions: Should I expand? Should I put more money into equipment and technology? Should I think about specializing? Should I think about selling? Should I just stay as is and see what happens? 

I know one thing; I don’t want to miss the writing on the wall and end up missing the boat and being stuck. We all know the story of Blockbuster and I don’t want to be the next Blockbuster! Adapt and keep up with the times but it's hard to know what to do when all we can really do is make a best educated guess. 

When I go down this rabbit hole of questions I always end up weighing three options: invest, specialize, or sell.  I weigh my options on investing in upgrading equipment and buying more equipment and technology.  With this option I always end up a bit overwhelmed because it seems that the more I buy, the more I need. Technology seems to be changing and advancing at a speed with which is hard to keep up. Ultimately, I feel like my pocket book and credit will run out and the technology and equipment I need will still keep coming with no end in sight. I don’t think advancements will plateau anytime soon. When I go down this option, I always end up feeling like the only ones that will be able to keep up are the large MSOs and dealerships, which makes me come away with the feeling that I should hold tight and maintain my current equipment as best as I can and only invest in what I absolutely need. 

Then I wonder, should I specialize in my shop? Should I pick one thing and ignore the rest and specialize? There are so many things that I could specialize in that I feel conflicted in what to consider because I am used to being a one-stop shop really. I don’t think I want to do calibrations because I run into the same technology issue as I went into depth on before. Do I become just a glass shop, a detail shop, a paint-only shop, an accessory and customizations shop, PDR-only, the list goes on and on. 

One benefit is most of the specialty shop ideas I can think of have the benefit of not having to deal with the insurance companies. But on the flip side, it has the drawback of not having the consistency of insurance claims and collisions. Let's be realistic, our collision shops thrive on the necessity of people being mobile. Their cars aren’t driveable and they have no choice but to repair them and repairs backed by insurance companies are pretty much guaranteed work. 

When we go into specialization we battle want over necessity. A lot of specialization is going to be things people want but it isn’t something they have to have. Then we battle a different beast: driving customers into our businesses, rather than against the insurance companies to pay for a fair and proper repair. Ultimately, once I get this far down the rabbit hole I’m saying heck with it all, and let’s just sell this ship while it's still afloat and looking like the beast it currently is. 

But selling is a different rabbit hole and one that is scary and intimidating. All research shows it takes two to three years to sell and this is if you can get someone to buy your shop. All the questions that will be asked are your books in order, are your numbers good, can the new owner plop you out and put them or someone else in and the numbers stay the same? Are all of your personal things and projects out of the shop, because let's be realistic, we all have our own projects in the shop, even if it is just one. Are you actually ready to move on? How do you even go about selling a shop without freaking out your employees and customers? Should I offer owner financing? Is my land and business separate? Do I keep my land and just sell the shop? What should I sell for? All of these questions race to my mind. 

Ultimately whichever option I choose to go down, it's going to have its own rabbit hole of questions I will need to answer and tackle. None of the options will be easy, but in the long run, it’s better than just staying still. I mean, sure, I could stand still and not change and adapt with the industry but I would rather see the writing on the wall and know we can never stand still in business and those that do end up like Blockbuster—a distant memory in our pasts.

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