The Best Methods for Building Garage Loyalty

As a specialty garage, you give your customers handiwork that they can’t get anywhere else. Your technicians know how to build those engines, make those exhaust, wire those gauges, wrap the toughest body panels, and so on. You customize cars, which means you’re constantly trying to push the envelope and make your customers happy with special creations. Your team has the skills and experience needed to make that happen over and over again, and that is incredibly valuable. You’ve come to depend on your team to deliver for your customers.

Driven Performance Advisors typically deals with shops that have between 5 and 25 employees. Working with companies of this size has taught me the importance of every single individual to the success of the whole business. The team is your other family (or maybe your real family) and you spend hundreds of hours together every month. The relationships you build with your team members will be deep and complex – working in a small company brings people together much more often than working in a big company.

As mentioned above, you depend on your team to create and sustain a successful business. That team will do their best work if they are skilled, able to build experience, and loyal to your shop. That last point is often overlooked, and not thought of as an intentional set of actions you can take to ensure your team is happy to work with you.

When Driven Performance Advisors conducts a Pit Crew Upgrade, one of the points we assess is whether employee incentives and work is aligned with the goals of the business. If people are happy and recognize that their work is part of a larger picture, their job satisfaction is hugely improved. This theme of employees being empowered to do their best for the company brings us to two recommendations for building garage loyalty.

1) Give your team whatever they need to be successful

2) Show your team their clear path for growth in the company

What does your team need to succeed?

Go to your team today and ask them this question: “What is/are your primary responsibilities in this company?”

Do you agree with their answer?

If not, agreeing on each team member’s responsibilities is the first step in understanding what they need to succeed.

Let’s say you have a fabricator, whose primary job duties are to build custom chassis, body panels, brackets, mounts, exhaust, and whatever else pops up. They might think their responsibility is to build what they’re asked to build.

As your shop grows, however, you may not be able to make the request every time a project needs something fabricated. How can you make sure that your fabricator knows what to do? Agree that their primary responsibility is to ensure that customer projects leave your shop on time with safe, strong, secure, beautiful metalwork.

Your fabricator’s level of responsibility just jumped and this will create a much higher level of loyalty and work product. They own the metalworking in your shop. Don’t feel as though you’re losing too much control. You of course have control over the end product, and should quality-check and review every project that involves complex fabrication for your own style.

Now that your fabricator knows exactly what they need to do for the company, ask them: “what would help you be more successful in this role?”

Perhaps they need a new welding wire storage system. Maybe an auto-dimming welding mask. Add a scissor lift or jig system to their space in the shop. Their lunch break is too late in the day. They need somewhere to store additional, less frequently used supplies. Does their request make sense? Is it reasonable and attainable? If yes, then whatever they need, get it for them. If it’s expensive but reasonable, develop a plan to get it for them. Show them the plan and agree it with them.

The request could be something that isn’t really your responsibility. Maybe they have a 90-minute commute that drains them because you moved locations. The nearest lunch spot doesn’t do takeout so sometimes they skip lunch and hunger affects their productivity.

You do not have to solve personal problems, but your employees will be loyal to you if you show them that you care. One way to show that – give them the help or suggestions for personal problems that you can. Here’s a recent Instagram story I came across from a shop owner in California:

This shop owner cares about his team. Enable your team to be successful and they will be successful for you. That is loyalty.

Clear paths for growth

Don’t let good employees stagnate. Yes, in a shop, your technicians might do the same thing day in and day out and a path for growth is hard to define. Regardless, come up with a path for growth in your company and share that path with your staff. See suggestions below.

What does this path accomplish? It provides:

1) Recognition for good performance

2) A challenge to strive to complete

3) A sense of progression

4) Acknowledgement of a person's individuality as a contributor to the whole

5) A mission

Grow responsibilities (as with the fabricator above), grow compensation and perks (increase company-paid track events), and grow leadership (your senior mechanic gets to hire a team) as you grow the business.

There are two directions you can go with growth. Depth and breadth. You can grow your team deep into a single responsibility. With this strategy, build a reputation with your shop as the consummate experts in your chosen specialty (think Hank Iroz with 5-cyl Audis, or Texas Speed with LSx engines). If you’re reading this article, you might be known on a smaller geographic scale, but nevertheless you’re deep in what you do and you’re the best at it. People in your area know you.

Alternatively, you can grow your business and team in breadth. If you serve a larger customer base with more products and services, you will need to hire more people to meet the demand. This allows your earlier hires to grow upward in the company. Maybe they want to educate the next generation of vinyl wrappers, or manage the performance side of the shop as their team of techs put out 7 coilover installs on any make and model every day. Their responsibilities and leadership will grow, giving them new challenges and a sense of ownership and contribution every step of the way.

In either growth case, your team will be loyal to your shop. They are deeply specialized and take pride in what they do, and they get to build your company with you. You can confidently depend on them to be successful together.

In Conclusion

Driven Performance Advisors works with shops and manufacturers to build the best teams that get your business running strong. The two points described above are a big part of our assessment and work. In small businesses, your team is everything. Keep them equipped to be successful and focused on their path for growth along with company success. Watch your business performance improve and your stress levels wash away.

If you want to talk about how you can upgrade your pit crew to improve performance and value while eliminating business-related stress, get in touch. Send us an email at


Subscribe to receive the DPA Weekly, a weekly article discussing consulting insights in the automotive aftermarket, sent every Friday, and other updates from Driven Performance Advisors

Thanks for subscribing! You will receive your first DPA Weekly soon.