As a customer and advisor of specialty aftermarket shops in the US and abroad, I have seen a wide variety of appearance, professionalism, and standards in the shops I’ve worked with.
When I pulled up to Miguel Espinoza’s Midnight Garage in Fremont, CA, I was immediately impressed by the clean, professional appearance of his shop. He has parts displayed on the wall, stools made out of crankshafts, a wooden standing desk with a hovering monitor, and a gleaming LS Camaro hiding behind a freshly completed Land Cruiser, ready for pickup.
The shop gave off a seriously professional feel. Considering Miguel is a one-man-band with two bays, customers can feel comfortable knowing their car is being cared for without inflated prices coming from high overheads. For my personal customer preference, this is an absolutely optimal pair of qualities for a shop.
That doesn’t mean, however, that any size shop, with any budget, can’t accomplish the same sort of professional feel.
There are three things that Miguel does well to maintain the professional feel of his shop:
- Designate areas of the shop and stick to it
- Use technology and keep it close to hand
- Separate customer interactions from the dirty work
Designate and maintain areas of the shop
Midnight Garage orders tons of parts for customers. I’ve seen many shops that just let packages pile up all over the place, making storage and moving cars an additional challenge.
Miguel has a different strategy. He rents a storage unit about a block away from his shop. As he accumulates parts for a customer’s upcoming build, he’ll keep them in the storage unit. When it comes time to bring the car in, he’s prepared – he can bring over all the parts in one truckload, and set them to the side in one of his bays. This keeps his shop incredibly clean, with less potential for things to get out of control, even when he’s busy.
That area is designated for parts receiving and staging, only. It’s not for other storage, it’s not to squeeze an extra car. This keeps Miguel organized no matter how busy he gets.
Use technology and keep it close to hand
Miguel made his desk out of scrap wood and metal he had laying around, and installed a mounted monitor arm to compliment his large work surface. He also has an ipad setting on the desk to keep appointments.
This gives a very clean and professional look to the shop. Along with wrenching on cars, Miguel spends his time sourcing and ordering parts and managing the schedules of longer term projects. It shows that he has the tools for the job, whether for the cars or for the office.
Separate customer interactions from the dirty work
Midnight Garage is a two bay, two door shop. This layout is ideal for giving the customers a clean, professional experience regardless of the mayhem of work going on in the other bay.
One bay contains the lift and the tools, while the other bay has a big work bench, the long-term project LS Camaro, the desk, parts wall, and parts receiving and staging area. One bay smells like gear oil, the other smells like fresh tires. Take a guess which is which.
Customer’s of shops like Midnight Garage may or may not know about the dirty work. Maybe they want to see their car on the lift, maybe they’re comfortable leaving it in your hands and coming back when it’s done. In either case, customers will take reassurance in the fact that you maintain a clean and professional work environment, no matter what.
It’s easier to do this when you separate your customer space and your work space.
By focusing on a couple of simple changes to your organization and presentation, you can justify higher prices and profits, present yourself with more confidence, and provide the best level of customer satisfaction. Take the time to do it right, and you’ll be smiling like Miguel.
Driven Performance Advisors
Driven Performance Advisors helps shop owners increase efficiency and improve profitability through our ShOptimizer services. Schedule a consultation at drivenperformanceadvisors.com.