Editor's Notebook: Re-invent Yourself To Flourish In Challenging Times

Editor’s Notebook: Re-invent Yourself To Flourish In Challenging Times

Many businesses are still recovering from the economic recession, and their owners are encouraged by sales that are up even modestly over year-ago figures. One shop’s sales figures might make you shake your head in disbelief.

I’d like to introduce you to John Volz, co-owner of Volz Bros. Auto Service (www.volzbros.com) in Grass Valley, CA. In talking with the newest member of the ImportCar Editorial Advisory Board, I learned that his shop’s 2010 sales were up 15% — topped by his January 2011 sales that were up a whopping 36% over last January.

Hopefully, you can glean some best practices as I share some of John’s thoughts — ones that you can hopefully apply to your own business with somewhat similar results.

1. What are the factors that have contributed to your shop’s January sales being up so significantly vs. last year?

“I build relationships, and by this I mean I try to know who my customers are, what they do, etc. I realize you can’t do this with every person, but we genuinely do our best to try and remember something that creates a bond with as many people as we can. I go out of my way to take my customers in the shop to look at their car and discuss what it needs and why, and help them understand the mechanical side.

“Our advertising is never about price; it’s about ‘who’ we are and ‘what’ we do. One thing I really learned last year working with Brook Design Group Owner LeeAnn Brook (we hired this professional design company to update the shop’s logo, ads and website), is that although we are a company that has been around for 29 years, you can always re-invent yourself. This goes back to my belief that remaining status quo is actually going backward. We can all get in a rut as business owners or in our personal life, but change is good and I believe that those who embrace change can flourish even in challenging times.

“Advertising needs to be done with a plan in mind. So, if you want to compete with the fast lube places, then price yourself accordingly; if you want to focus on preventive maintenance, then market in this direction. I feel that many shops are advertising without really creating a monthly or annual business plan that includes marketing. Ask yourself, ‘What am I trying to achieve with my advertising?’ ”

2. Is your shop’s sales increase a ­signal that customers are regaining confidence in the economy?

“I really don’t think people are spending money because of confidence. I think it’s more out of an unwillingness to take on bigger debt. I think the economy is starting to turn around, but many people are not willing to take on car payment debt. Hopefully, something they’ve learned from this past decade of overspending.”

3. Are customers beginning to ­realize that preventive maintenance saves them money in the long run?

“Thirty years ago, it was unusual for a car to go much beyond 100,000 miles and maintain reliability, but, today, many cars are going well beyond 200,000 miles with preventive maintenance playing a big role in this longevity, so we need to educate our customers in that regard.”

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