Dusty car covers. Puddles of coolant left on the ground. Cars stacked up against the back wall. Blown engines stuffed into the corner next to the old exhaust. A yard full of non-runners.
These are symptoms of a common problem that faces independent garage owners. Especially those that work on long-term projects like wraps, big performance builds, and restoration.
When you open your garage in the morning, do you spend the first 10 minutes moving cars outside? Are your customers and staff not guaranteed to have somewhere to park? Are you held up by your cars blocking each other from moving around the workshop? Do you then repeat the morning procedure at closing time and second-guess yourself when you think you’ve got all the cars behind the locking door?
There are a number of reasons that could explain why your garage is too full. At Driven Performance Advisors, this is one of the first issues we often need to address with frustrated garage owners.
A clean workspace is an efficient workspace. Organization and cleanliness are viewed as professionalism. Customers equate professionalism with quality. Quality leads to higher prices. You’ll save time moving cars, you’ll know where your tools are, and you’ll have easy access to spares and storage. More profits for less frustration.
Here are some of the common reasons why your garage is too full and some ways you can fix it.
If your garage handles both short- and long-term projects, long-term projects have a tendency to move slower, no matter what mitigating measures you put in place. If you do both tints and wraps, your wrap cars won’t always move out the door as quickly. Wrappers are likely to get pulled onto tint jobs to make the quick money, while wrap cars collect dust.
A technical engine swap may sit on the ramp for weeks with a half-finished wiring loom while downpipes and coil overs get fitted day after day.
Long-term jobs require a certain amount of comfort to say “no, I don’t need immediate cash flow today and I can focus on the big job.” Don’t have that comfort? Push through anyways and make time for the big jobs.
One strategy to push the big jobs through quickly is to make deadlines with your customers and set up a payment plan.
Rather than just taking an upfront deposit and then the balance on collection, set up a big job with your customer like this:
1. Customer drops off the car and pays for the materials you’ll need to complete the job.
2. You agree with the customer that the car will be picked up in two weeks’ time. This gives you plenty of time to wrap the car and fix any imperfections, do the tints, and refurb the alloys; or swap the engine and troubleshoot all the running issues.
3. The customer agrees to pay you half of the balance after one week and the remaining balance upon collection.
This structure keeps the cash coming in and holds you to a deadline, while also leaving you a buffer to address any issue that comes up. Your customer is happy they get to pay in instalments.
Maybe you have a garage project car that hasn’t seen the light of day in a year. Maybe a customer stopped responding to calls and simply left their car with you. Either of these cars unfortunately doesn’t represent a lot of value to your business.
They do, however, represent a cost.
They are costing you space and costing you time. As property becomes more expensive and there are more and more demands on your time, having an extra dead car on site starts to add up your losses.
It’s understandable, however, to see the pain of pulling out the car and dealing with it as greater than the pain of leaving it in place.
Eventually, however, the pain of letting it sit will grow and you will work on the car. Don’t let it get to that point. It’s still costing you in the meantime.
If your labour rate is £60 per hour and the dead car in the corner takes up 10 minutes of your time per day (in blockage, moving cars, and searching around it for parts), it’s costing you roughly £2,500 per year, just in time.
If you’re paying roughly £7.50 per square foot in rent per year for your unit and storing a car with a footprint of 90 square feet (15 feet by 6 feet), the cost of storing that car in your unit for one year instead of using that space for something else making you money is £675.
If you can move that car off your site (sell it, fix it and use it, or scrap it) for less than it costs to store, it’s worth it.
If you’re good at what you do, customers will be pushing their cars onto you.
If you struggle to say no, your garage will quickly become full.
This is one of the most common causes of an overflowing garage. Customers are waiting for you to work on their cars so they can drive them proudly. In the meantime, they don’t want to look at them, so they’d rather just hand it off to you.
While you see that your garage is comfortably booked, you might be tempted to get the car in as quickly as possible so the customer doesn’t go to your competition. Once the car is in, the customer is ok to leave the car with you for awhile. Win-win, right?
Overbooking not only leads to a full garage. It shows disorganisation, poor planning, and a lack of confidence in your value.
If you are delivering high value and customers are eager for you to take their car, they can wait and they will wait. A waiting list signifies high quality and high demand. If you plan your working days properly, taking the patient approach will not cause idle time.
You planned out your bookings meticulously, you didn’t overbook, your waiting list is well-managed, and you have taken action on all the dead cars sitting in the back corner. There are still situations where your garage can get too full.
When a supplier is on back order, one of your techs calls in sick, or there’s some unforeseen damage on a car, it can become impossible to meet your deadline. If you don’t have a contingency plan in place, your upcoming bookings will get dropped off and the backlog will begin to fill your space.
You need to have a plan in place for when jobs get delayed. Here is a generic example plan:
1. Establish a new deadline as quickly as possible. Work with suppliers, make sure your team is healthy, and estimate how long the damage will take to fix.
2. Communicate with your future bookings. If you need to push back by a day or two, let them know. Seeing as they’ve already booked, they’re likely ok with a slight adjustment.
3. Switch work around if needed. If a supplier can’t get you a part for a month, ask for a refund and find an alternative supplier. If there are no alternatives, can the customer take the car as-is? If the car won’t drive away legally and safely without the missing part, you can store that car. In that situation, shift your bookings forward. Don’t forget to plan time to complete the stored car when the part arrives.
It’s possible we’ve let things get away from us. As car enthusiasts, “too many cars” isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have. At the end of the day, however, you’re running a business. Having too many cars on site is a costly issue that can be a challenge to solve.
Driven Performance Advisors helps clients to create strategies to reduce the number of cars on site and maintain that lowered level. The space unlocks mental capacity, physical capacity, and financial potential to act with more discipline, professionalism, and quality. The business runs smoother and our clients enjoy higher sales and profits.
Free your space, free your garage.
Want to learn more? Contact Arun Coumar at firstname.lastname@example.org.