Though still a fairly rare occurrence, mechanical repair and basic maintenance offerings are starting to pop up more in collision repair operations.
In many cases, it can make a lot of sense – there are a lot of mechanical operations and repairs that need to be performed. If your shop has the staff, capacity and skill to do it, it can save a lot of time and effort as opposed to sending a vehicle elsewhere for mechanical repair once the bodywork has been done.
Mike Schoonover, winner of the 2022 FenderBender Award and owner of Schoonover Bodyworks and Autocare in Shoreview, Minnesota, says his shop has been offering some form of mechanical repairs and services for the last 20 years. Though the number of offerings were limited in the beginning, Schoonover says the shop saw success fairly quickly, which led them to expand those offerings.
“As things evolved, we realized what a great service it is to offer customers the ability to get service while their vehicle is already here,” he says. “We began introducing tires, brakes, oil changes and other regular routine maintenance-type services.”
With proper planning and execution, adding mechanical repair to your shop’s offerings can be a boon to business and drive in more revenue.
Set Up for Expansion
Schoonover’s shop has been in his family for more than 80 years. Located in a northern suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the physical space of the shop was admittedly small by today’s standards.
Despite that, the shop have been ahead of the curve in terms of adding mechanical services – a full-time mechanic has been employed there for nearly 20 years. Working out of two stalls, that mechanic has allowed Schoonover Bodyworks to offer basic services.
The combination of the lack of space and already having a mechanic presented a unique opportunity.
“We love what we do … but we realized we needed to do something,” Schoonover says. “We decided to expand and renovate to offer more of these (mechanical) services.”
Expansion seemed to be a no-brainer. Adding nearly 8,500 square feet and renovating the existing 14,000 square feet of space would help keep customers flowing through smoothly and keep both guests and techs comfortable throughout the repair process.
Still, even with a strong customer base, the decision to expand from basic offerings to a full-service mechanical garage through the process of the renovation was potentially risky.
“Going from running a collision repair facility that happens to have a mechanic to the next level of actually being a service shop and keeping service technicians busy five days a week, every week, was scary,” Schoonover says.
Schoonover and his team worked around the clock to make sure that their efforts would prove to be successful. Through that, he says there were several key factors that helped the shop transition smoothly.
Branding and Need
As with any transition or additions to service offerings, making sure that there is a need and desire for those first is essential.
Schoonover says the community where his shop is located doesn’t have that many repair shops, which presented a natural growth opportunity.
“There's not a whole lot of competition around us,” he says. “Not that I'm afraid of competition, but there's a big hole here for the service work that needs to be done. We wanted to plug that hole. It made sense for us to do it. Having service offerings just to have them doesn't make sense.”
Throughout the entire process, Schoonover says he and his team were getting advice from and asking questions of other shops that had made similar switches in their offerings. They would ask service shop owners for their numbers, how many technicians they, the ratio of office staff to shop staff, the software they were using and a lot more. Schoonover also got help from Shop Fix Academy.
“From the beginning, we were asking for others’ help,” he says. “You may not use their advice, but at least you're learning and getting their feedback.”
The best asset that Schoonover Bodyworks & Autocare had through the transition period was its reputation. Through decades of hard work and quality customer service, the shop has become well-known throughout the area. Schoonover says it was a tremendous help being able to lean on that and know that customers trusted he and his team.
“We wanted to use our strength there to build upon our business that we already have here to serve others,” he says. “We want to be able to leverage the quality workmanship and service that we provide to those customers that are looking for that additional service work.”
Still, more than just reputation alone is needed to make a move like this successful. Schoonover says his team decided to rebrand the shop from Schoonover Bodyworks and Glass to Schoonover Bodyworks and Autocare through the process to better reflect their new services and more effectively communicate to customers what all is provided at the shop.
“We decided to pivot and realized that it's significantly easier for a collision repair shop to now offer services as opposed to a service shop trying to provide collision services,” Schoonover says. “We are a one-stop shop for everything, and we felt that the brand change encompasses that.”
So far, Schoonover says the new offerings have been a welcome addition for customers. Throughout the process, he says his shop has strived to keep the quality of service high and make the shop a destination for both customers as well as current and potential employees.
“We just are investing into all of our assets,” he says. “Not just the building and equipment, but our people, too.”