So you’re ready to take the plunge – you’ve raised the capital you need, you’ve found a space to house your business, and you’re ready to get down to the nitty gritty of opening an auto repair shop in New Jersey. It’s going to be a difficult yet satisfying road for you as you work to establish your footing and get your name out there, but once your first paying customer comes through the door, all that hard work will be worth it.
However, opening an auto repair shop, especially in the saturated New Jersey market, isn’t as simple as selecting (or building) a storefront and hanging a “We’re Open” sign in your front window. Here are some important things that you should know before you open up shop.
Know Your Budget
Even if you’re taking over an existing building, you will always have costs associated with maintenance, upkeep, and upgrades. For instance, if you’re hoping to make it through a New Jersey summer without melting (or at least keep your customers comfortable if they need to wait at the shop for repairs to be completed) you’ll need to find a reliable HVAC contractor.
As for the upkeep, if you’ve ever been through one of the East Coast’s infamous hurricanes, you’ll know what a pain it can be to have your roof redone. This is even more important when you’re running your own business, where appearance can be everything to the discerning customer. Make sure that you’ve got a Northern New Jersey roofing contractor on hand to take care of any pressing cosmetic or structural issues so that you can keep your focus on your customers’ cars.
All of this is going to come with costs, which should be padded in to your overhead. Make sure that you have emergency funds tucked away before you open up shop because, as the saying goes, “there’s always something.” You never know when you might need a little extra financial assistance, and it’s important that you come prepared.
Research the Competition
New Jersey has some fierce competition when it comes to mechanics and auto repair shops. If you want to succeed, you need to know what your competition is doing at all times.
By keeping one eye on your business and one eye on your competitors, you’re able to see how well you’re performing. This can help you answer some important questions about the health of your business. Are your services comparable to those at the shop down the street? How quick are your turnaround times when viewed against the rest of the market? Do you offer adequate customer service?
One of the biggest questions you can ask about both your competition and yourself comes down to cost. Are you pricing your service correctly and competitively for your market? This will vary by location. If you’re in Newark, you’re probably going to have steeper prices than if you opened up shop somewhere like Cranbury, a smaller market where prices are typically lower.
However, a shop in Newark may have to add extra value to their services, such as complimentary oil changes. Perhaps you’ll partner with a warranty company and offer a Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep powertrain warranty to mitigate costs for your customers. Methods you use to add value help to entice customers over the myriad other options within the area.
Keep It Current
You must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to modernizing your business and offering the latest technologies. Each year, cars make significant technical advancements, and you don’t want to be that repair shop in Hoboken that couldn’t keep pace. The easiest way to lose customers is by being unable to cater to their needs. This becomes especially true when it comes to technology and advancement. If you’re not properly equipped to service newer makes and models, you’ll find that your valuable customers will start taking their business elsewhere. This can also damage your reputation.
Finding ways to streamline your own workflow is important too. Many shops use forklifts to access parts in their storage rooms. Now imagine that you’re in a similar position and your forklift is malfunctioning and needs a service appointment. All of the downtime while you’re unable to access the necessary repair components equates to time and money lost. An easy way to remedy this is by investing in Forklift Service Technology that can speed up the dispatch and service process so you can get access to the parts you need.
While the above is a specific example, you can understand how it applies in various situations. By always striving to stay abreast of new technological developments, you’re ensuring that you won’t lose business simply by being outdated. Always have some of your budget set aside for upgrades for your shop. Your customers, as well as your staff, will thank you for it.
Do It Digitally
Speaking of technology, this point goes hand in hand. While you certainly need the latest tools and equipment to run your shop effectively, how do you go about getting customers through your front door? Few businesses today can get away without having some sort of online presence, including auto repair shops. Because New Jersey seemingly has a mechanic on every other street corner, you’ll need to leverage the power of an online presence to help you stand out and advertise your services to customers.
Start with a website. It can be as simple or as complex as you’d prefer, but it needs to include your name, physical address, and phone number on every page. It would also be prudent to include your hours of operation as nothing turns off a customer faster than showing up for a walk-in only to find that you’ve closed for the day. Having a website also makes it easier to get a Google My Business listing. This makes it so you’re highly visible and easier to contact when people search for you online.
While social media can also be helpful, that’s up for you to decide. On one hand, it’s a great way to engage with your customers on a more personal level. On the other, it isn’t an absolute necessity for the auto repair industry. What is necessary is making sure you’re highly visible at all times. It can also help you establish an audience of potential customers even before you’ve formally opened so make sure that you establish some sort of online presence before you start diving into your first repairs.
A Winding Road
While this may seem like a lot to keep in mind, opening a business is one of the most important and rewarding things you’ll ever do. As an auto repair shop owner, you’ll be providing an invaluable service to vehicle owners and it’s up to you that you give yourself the best possible chance of success. Always be thinking about your budget, keeping current, understanding your competition, and developing how you’re viewed online. Opening up your auto repair shop may be a long and winding road but it’ll be worth it when you reach your destination.