5 Expert Tips For Starting Your Own SMART Repair Shop From A 37-Year Collision Repair Veteran
Whether you’ve been an auto repair technician for years or have been passionate about cars for as long as you remember, it brought you to where you are today. Your entrepreneurial mindset has inspired you to take the leap of faith in starting your SMART repair shop. People are always going to be needing car repair, no matter how advanced cars get in the future. Not to mention, SMART repair has become an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional body shop over the years, so why not leap?
Before you open up doors for customers, it’s important to know that running a business takes much more than being the boss. It’s aiming for the best and preparing for the worst. It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Who better would be to offer advice on opening up your own SMART repair shop than a 37-year collision repair industry veteran? We’re talking about Hank Nunn, and he knows his stuff.
Below are five of his expert tips on starting your SMART repair shop:
1) Location: Find the best location you can afford to make it as convenient as possible for customers. Too many times, people start businesses in the back of industrial parks but fail to see the light of day. Although people are more willing to drive somewhere to get the service they desire, don’t be out in the middle of no-man’s-land.
2) Create a business plan: If you want to get an SBA loan, you’re going to need a business plan. But don’t even think about starting your business without planning out everything thoroughly. Simply conducting research on what it means to own a SMART repair shop is not enough. This is actually where many businesses fail, as they don’t properly plan. “Creating a business plan will help you decide if you should open a business, then guide you as you run the company into the future.” (Hank Nunn)
Here are different sections your business plan should have to secure an SBA loan:
- Executive Summary
- Market Analysis
- Company Description
- Organization and Management
- Marketing and Sales
- Service or Product
3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Most SMART repair shop and body shop owners were once technicians, and that might even be you. Working on cars is one thing, but it’s entirely different working on graphs, spreadsheets, business plans, payroll, etc. Gather a team who can help you craft your business plan. According to Hank, most locations have “…small business assistance centers that can help you. Use them! They can walk you through the maze of permits covering everything from digging a pit for a spray booth to EPA and Hazmat training requirements.” These permits and licenses can be part of your business plan and might even secure you a higher loan.
4) Build a dream team: Who says that you have to be running your business alone? Part of running any successful business is having a team to help you make it happen. Not good with numbers or managing anything financial regarding the business? Hire an accountant who can work with you to create spreadsheets, manage profits and losses, and anything else regarding accounting. You also want a team of technicians who are passionate about what they do and not in it solely for the paycheck. Their dedication is critical, especially when you’re getting ready to open up for business.
5) Greenfield or buy: There are some business owners who started a business and quickly realized that they are in over their heads. It’s one thing to start a business or even be a great technician, but owning and running a business is a whole different world. If you check sites such as Bizbuysell.com, you may find businesses for sale that require no money down. The way this works is you agree to purchase the company and give the owner an earn-out- ( a monthly payment until the business purchase price is satisfied). The advantage of buying an existing business vs. starting from scratch (otherwise known as a “greenfield), you will buy into an existing customer base, tools and equipment, and licenses or permits that are already in place.
In some cases, there may even be some real estate as part of the sale. You could leverage the building asset to secure bank financing on the business purchase. The downside to purchasing a business with a building is that you are now both a business owner and a building owner. You are now responsible for upkeep and repairs to the structure that you are not responsible for as a tenant.
All in all: Have a positive attitude as you go forth into this exciting venture! It’s a risk that requires sacrifice. But with proper planning and preparation, success can be in your future.