Opportunities to Improve Your Business Are Everywhere: Are You Prepared to Spot Them?

Sept. 29, 2021

This MTD exclusive was provided by industry veteran Jeff Morgan, executive director of TEN (Training and Education Network), including the DSP (Dealer Strategic Planning) 20 Group.

I know you have heard this old exchange at some point in your career:  “Knock, knock!"

"What’s that?”

“It's the sound of opportunity knocking.”  

If only it was that easy, right? 

Well, the reality is that often opportunities can be right in front of you. It’s your job to pay attention, recognize that they are there and find a way to act upon them.  

These opportunities may not be huge and glaring. In fact, some of the most beneficial opportunities may seem small at the start.

Think of it like a plant in your garden. With the right amount of care and nurturing, it can grow into something spectacular!

Some of the biggest opportunities that you have right now are already within your dealership. For example, many of the vehicles that roll onto your lot every day have needs that are going unrecognized.  

Now, understand that I am not trying to suggest you start hard selling everything under the sun to the customers that you already have. What I am suggesting is that you expand yourself to become a better partner with your customers in helping to maintain their vehicles.

For example, if a customer is coming to you for a set of tires, we know it’s important to talk about an alignment. But do you proactively ask if there are any maintenance services - like an oil change, a coolant flush or wiper blade replacement - that they would like to have done while they are there? 

Would it be more convenient for your customer to take care of these things while they are already at your dealership?  

You might be thinking that your technicians would automatically pick those services up when performing a free, courtesy inspection. And I hope you are thinking this way! And if you’re not, that’s a huge opportunity in and of itself.  

Secondly, are you sure that your technicians would flag these items? I am confident that many times, these opportunities are missed.  

By proactively asking, you’re at least letting the customer know that your dealership offers these services, as well. (Too often, we assume that they already know we do.) 

Even if customers decline these extra services, you have sown the seed about them if issues crop up during the vehicle inspection.

The same goes for someone coming in for a specific maintenance service, like an oil change. Proactively ask if there are any other  scheduled maintenance items they would like to take care of while they are there.

Again, if nothing else it raises awareness.  

Most customers know that they need to change their oil every so often, but do they know that they need to do the same with coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc.?  You might be surprised.  

If they ask what those services are, you now have an opportunity to become their partner in maintaining their vehicle by pulling up and sharing their vehicle's maintenance schedule. Even if you do not get the add-on service now, you will likely in the future.

Also, as I alluded to earlier, performing courtesy inspections of tires, fluids, filters, belts, hoses, lights and wipers is a huge opportunity to improve your business if done consistently and accurately. I have discussed this in many previous articles, so I will not dwell on it further here.  

However, I would like to point out just one piece that I am sure is an untapped opportunity - and that’s tire inspections.

Too often, I simply see a tread depth measurement and an air pressure level reading - neither of which typically look very accurate. On top of that, I rarely see that the tires are truly inspected.

I once worked with a business leader who stated that he could go into any shop with six or more bays and find a nail - or another object - in a tire of a vehicle currently in the shop. When challenged on this,  he typically delivered.  

Granted, not all objects were causing leaks, but what this did demonstrate is that careful inspection would reveal more opportunities.  

How many potentially damaged tires are found in your shop each day?

What about tire age? Is your staff looking for and documenting if tires have Department of Transportation numbers that denote advanced age?

While this does not necessarily always lead to a required replacement, it is something that your customer should be made aware of. Perhaps it could generate tire sale discussions that may not have occurred otherwise?

For those of you who are heavy in the commercial tire business, how about leveraging some retail opportunities? Those fleets that you deal with have employees who own personal vehicles.  

Why not create some special promotion to attract them to do business with you? Perhaps it’s a special buying price for their employees or maybe it is a special service offer?

Regardless of what you do, you have a great opportunity to generate loyal customers from an already-loyal source. And as more of their employees do business with you, the loyalty of the commercial account will grow, as well.

For those of you who are more geared to the retail tire business, how about leveraging the value of doing business with small, local fleets?  

Local florists, plumbers, carpenters and other small businesses can be great boosters for your own business.

These operators typically have a small fleet of two to five vehicles. You may have some of those employees getting their personal cars taken care of with you. Are they in a uniform or being picked up in a company vehicle? If so, strike up a conversation about who is in charge of taking care of the company vehicles.

Use this exchange to gather some information about the size of the fleet, what their needs typically are, who is currently servicing them and more.

The bottom line is that someone outside their business is probably servicing these vehicles. Why can’t that be you?  

Other opportunities that are currently in your dealership could be related to your shop equipment. 

I am not suggesting making huge purchases and upgrading everything you have. What I am suggesting is that you use a critical eye to determine how your existing equipment can help make your people more efficient and help you gain new business.

You may have some machines that have been limping along for some time. If you look back, you may see that the money you spent to keep those old things going would have paid for new, much more efficient versions.  

Research what technology is out there regarding some of the equipment that you currently have. Perhaps an investment would be off-set by significantly better productivity?

In addition, is it time to invest in equipment that can set you ahead of the competition or make your technicians better-equipped to take care of more of your customers' needs?   

Let’s look at advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), for example. Many excuses have been made for not investing in equipment that can service ADAS-equipped vehicles:

“The equipment is just too bulky.”

“The selection of equipment is too limited.”

“It’s not what we need right now.”

Well, these things are not the case anymore. There are many products out there that are able to service the majority of systems in a more confined area.  

Also, let’s be honest with ourselves - ADAS is not going away. In fact, it’s growing. More and more of your customers are coming in with vehicles that are equipped with ADAS.  

Not only are you missing revenue opportunities if you cannot service them, but you are driving your customers to competitors that can. Just like you, these competitors will do everything they can to gain more of that customer’s business moving forward.

The last - but not least - opportunity in your shop right now is your people. Your employees are a great resource!  

Ask them for suggestions on how to improve operational procedures and your service offerings. Ask them for customer retention ideas. 

Empower them to help drive the business forward and you will see great things happen. Not only will great ideas come forth, but a much more loyal, dedicated employee base will form.  

Your people will feel like they are more than just employees. They will feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.

When your employees feel this way, they can be your best recruiting service. Word gets out that your business is the place to work.

Not only will your need to hire people be reduced, but the quality and quantity of the available candidate pool will rise.

Your current employees will recommend you to other good people, as they will not allow poor performers to enter into the business that they are now invested in.

Yes, opportunities are everywhere. Are you prepared to see them?  

As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”  

If you do not believe opportunities exist in your business, you’re right - not because that is the case, but because this is what you believe.  

However, once you open your eyes and ears to the possibilities, you will begin to recognize them. “Knock, knock…”

About the Author

Jeff Morgan

Tire industry veteran Jeff Morgan is the executive director of TEN (Training and Education Network.) He can be reached at [email protected] or (651) 846-9871. For more, see www.mtdten.com