Tips for 2018: Planning Your Work and Working Your Plan

We’ve reached the end of the road, and our rope, with planning. This is the third installation in a series of features dedicated to 2018 planning. Topics such as organization, evaluation, goal setting, networking, and execution are explored here, and in Parts 1 and 2.

Proper planning is critical to business growth, whether you run a repair shop, a retail storefront, a junk yard, or an online store. Anticipating and preparing for what’s ahead allows you to create a roadmap to success with realistic goals and a strong team. Below, we continue our discussion of these topics with longtime industry professional Bennett Jackson of Husky Liners.

Q: In what ways can shops leverage social media for better communication and customer engagement?

JACKSON: Smartphones and social media go hand-in-hand. They’re everywhere, and the buying demographic is changing—more and more customers are using their phones to connect, research, and find or purchase products. If a shop isn’t in that space, they’re missing another way to connect with their customers/potential customers.

Q: How does an online tool like e-Keystone help in the selling process?

JACKSON: With this tool, a shop staff can make firm sales. They can tell their customer, “I will have this product at this time,” or, “Your appointment time is Friday at 3:30 pm,” and say it with confidence because it’s guaranteed the product will be there for the install.

Q: Speaking of selling, that word “diversification” is thrown around like an old rag doll. Break it down—where does a shop even begin?

JACKSON: A retailer has to know his or her market: farming, oil field, commercial or municipality business, college town, blue collar, white collar, mountains, beach, plains, average population income, dealerships in the area, who is the competition and what do they offer, and can we work with our competition? The more one knows about a market, the easier it is to select a target market and diversify a product offering or service to primary and secondary customers.

Q: How much emphasis do industry professionals place on constructive feedback to drive improvement?

JACKSON: Factories really like feedback, so specialty shops should feel free to reach out to their WD and directly to the factory. This opens up communication and allows both parties to learn more about why a product was designed a certain way, how it is functioning in the market, and how it can become better.

Q: Just as a goal is actually a wish if rock solid planning isn’t in place, so, too, is planning without prioritization. What are some tips to help shops develop proven processes, make better use of their day, and delegate accordingly?

JACKSON: Ask yourself: If it doesn’t grow business, why do it? Depending on the size of a specialty shop, whether 10 employees or a one-person operation—this is difficult. If it’s a one-person operation, it’s even harder to avoid the small stuff. But, if a shop wants to grow, hiring a manager gets that small stuff handled. With a larger operation, it’s easier to delegate, but it’s critical to have trustworthy employees. An owner that stays connected with employees has a great advantage here.

Develop a system that works for the shop as a whole—counter sales, installers, and other departments. Sales, ordering, scheduling, delivery, payables, and receivables all have to be in sync. “But we’ve always done it this way.” Well, does it still work, or is it causing confusion and frustration? Re-evaluating processes every year and striving for continuous improvement saves money and helps avoid owner, employee, and customer frustration. Presentable showrooms and installation areas have huge advantages for efficiency, safety, and customer satisfaction. Expect higher sales and more new/return customers than cluttered, disorganized, and dirty facilities.

Q: Even if a shop scrubs the inventory, merchandises a showroom properly, remains connected with industry personnel, participates in ongoing training and strong marketing programs, and uses social media to its advantage, e-commerce is still knocking at the door—so, how does a retailer win that battle?

JACKSON: Well, it’s here to stay—combat, compete, or ignore? This depends on shop goals. Either way, offer something more. And it starts with an impeccable customer experience from start to finish that gets word-of-mouth customers in the door.

Maintain a clean, updated, and organized showroom. Employ polite and knowledgeable floor/counter persons who value face-to-face interaction with customers. Take an interest in customer-use of a vehicle in order to provide appropriate product solutions. Have the right product on-hand for an immediate sale, and offer installation packages. Follow-up and/or provide additional service after the sale. Partake in community involvement or host customer appreciation days. Build relationships with other businesses (competitors, dealerships, auto service, and auto parts). And call on fleet type businesses with city/municipality locations to offer them services.

Bottom line—no one has more of a vested interest in a shop’s success than the owner, so take an interest in the details that really drive results.

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