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Join Mark Miller, Monique Mondragon, Bill, and me to discuss how the Shop-Ware/AutoVitals integration empowers service advisors to increase weekly revenue and as an end result increase revenue per employee.

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated with Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you identify an error please contact us at [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
So good morning, good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio, where we gather with our panelists to go ahead and learn what’s going on in the digital shop. Today I’m here with Mark Miller, owner of Preferred Auto Center. Welcome, Mark. This is the first time with us, we’re going to get some great information out of you before we’re done today, Monique Mondragon, Product Analyst for Shop-Ware. Welcome, Monique. Good to have you here. And AutoVitals’ founder, Uwe Kleinschmidt is here as well. Join us today where we have a discussion about how the Shop-Ware AutoVitals integration empowers service advisors to increase weekly revenue and the end result is increasing revenue per employee. And what’s in it for the technician, of course is more completed hours per day. So these are all good things. So what are some examples of how this is done? The advantages and maybe some pitfalls that you might run into as you’re changing point of sales or going fully digital. As always, teamwork is required in the shop to provide great results. You’re going to take away some tips today about the Shop-Ware, AutoVitals integration, empowering service advisors to increase weekly revenue for the shop. As always, you’ll learn from our guest panelists who operate shops just like yours or our industry professionals. So if you wouldn’t mind, how about getting us started here?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:26):
Oh, sure. Thanks, Monique. Thanks, Mark, for joining. It’s going to be fun. Mark. I have to say, though, that we are talking about the digital shop, and you have a printer behind you.
Mark Miller (01:40):
Oh, that’s a fax machine.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:41):
Oh, that’s a fax machine,
Mark Miller (01:45):
Which I don’t use anymore, so it’s just kidding. I make copies with it.
Bill Connor (01:52):
It’s pretty customary for shop owners to collect antiques anyway, so it’s right on target.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:59):
So on a more serious note, we have been having panelists where we explore together how to basically attack the two biggest challenges in terms of where we are spending a lot of time on. And that is the estimating process for the service advisor and that is the technician to really create productive hours. And so I know there’s more to it, but those were the two biggest or all the two biggest were simply by investing in the right tools and then in the process the gain is just unbelievable or can be. And yes, switching tools is always a challenge, but if the outcome light at the end of the tunnel is not an incoming train, it’s worth doing. And the example today is Wear and the AutoVitals integration. And Mark, thank you for allowing us to talk about your numbers and about your shop. And I would love you to start with just introduce yourself. How big is your shop? When did you start? And then a little bit, how was the transition from when you started to today?
Mark Miller (03:37):
Okay, well
Uwe Kleinschmidt (03:37):
Lots of questions. Sorry.
Mark Miller (03:39):
Yeah, so I’ve been in business since 1984. I used to have two locations when I didn’t know what I was doing and it didn’t work out too well. So now I’ve downsized to one. We’re a six bay shop. We’re just been in the same community since this shop opened in 86. So we’ve been here a long time as far as, I ran the same program since the eighties before really anybody was running a management program. And then I met AutoVitals, which completely changed the dynamic of the shop. So what was the other questions? Bear with me.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (04:30):
So maybe a little bit. So six bays, yeah, two service advisors, four techs, if I
Mark Miller (04:40):
Remember the correct, I’m down to one service advisor and an estimator, and then I help a little bit. Oh, I see. And I have actually three and a half techs, not four and a half. It’s three and a half techs. I have three btechs and then lube Tech who does a lot
Uwe Kleinschmidt (04:57):
Of insurance. Gs.
Mark Miller (04:58):
Yeah, the general service, everybody kind of does everything, but he does most of the general servicing and sets up the weeks. What else?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (05:11):
If you compare, or maybe we can talk ARO if that’s okay with you, ARO maybe before you switched to AutoVitals Shop-Ware and ARO now.
Mark Miller (05:23):
Yeah. Well my ARO was probably, I mean we thought we did $5,000 a week. It was wonderful. I mean it was, and I’ve always been a inspection person. I’ve always had an inspection process with inspection sheets, thought I did a great job. So the average RO was 175 to 250 I thought we’re doing wonderful. So switching on completely changed that. So yeah, it’s amazing. I thought I knew everything that does that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (06:01):
What is it now? The hear
Mark Miller (06:03):
$720 to $750.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (06:06):
Mark Miller (06:07):
Yeah, it’s amazing if you set up your AutoVitals and I probably could do a better job now then I, because really, really gone back and we add things all the time, but I’m sure there’s better ways and faster ways, but it’s amazing.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (06:28):
And maybe we can ask, so you have been fully immersed in the shop before all those changes and now you preparing your transitioning out, but the revenue keeps increasing and you have hired more people. How is that even possible?
Mark Miller (06:52):
Which is because the productivity we can create with the way we do the inspections, the way we do the estimating. I mean the estimate before used to take 45 minutes sometimes to do a written estimate and then if you have to refer back to it, it was just cumbersome. But that’s the only way we knew how to do it. So my previous management system had an estimating system in it, but it was like a box of rocks. It didn’t work very well. So with Shop-Ware we’ve got ’em down to probably 15 minutes to do a pretty large estimate and the good thing is it saves it on the ticket. So
Bill Connor (07:34):
Does that mean your service riders are also more skilled in the industry now or has there been some changes on the front counter also as far as who’s on the counter?
Mark Miller (07:43):
Well, my daughters have came to work for me two years ago and know nothing about cars. They didn’t even know what the temperature gauge meant. They thought it was hot or cold. I mean low or high or whatever the oil. But just her being in here and the stuff they’ve learned, they know how to sell. I mean, I don’t do a lot of the sales anymore. I kind of stepped out of that portion of my work. I just help them explain to them how things work and you got a good person in place. The estimator helps a lot because the service writer, she also estimates they both do estimating, but we can with four guys, we can get all the estimates done by 10.
Monique Mondragon (08:33):
And your daughter was also mentioning that she’s using the past services really heavily in Shop-Ware. So she doesn’t know the industry, but luckily she’s able to refer back to services you’d written in the past, which speeds up that process.
Mark Miller (08:49):
Yes. Oh yeah.
Bill Connor (08:52):
So I noticed your technicians are doing a really good job getting a lot of pictures for the service writers also. Does that help go ahead and train those people from outside of the industry on what things look like and good and bad and so on, and then having the estimating built into the software that kind of takes it to the next level?
Mark Miller (09:11):
As long as the pictures are good and they can understand them. I mean to me it’s like the service writers I have are like my customers. They don’t know what a caliper is. They don’t know what a brake pad is. But seeing the pictures and seeing the videos that are associated with them, absolutely we get to, I’m training my people and their customers at the same time, so everybody’s getting an education, including the techs. So yeah, that all works out very well. It’s a lot easier to sell work when you can send somebody a video of a loose tie rod end and they can see that it’s ready to fall off, kind of sells itself basically.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (10:01):
How did that go with your tax? Were there since you were already doing inspections pretty thoroughly, was there pushback by the attacks needing to do more work or how did that go and how long did it take?
Mark Miller (10:17):
Well, it’s been a long time, but was, I mean we all had a little bit of pushback on it because it seemed like it took longer just because we didn’t know how to do it. But now I explained everybody what we were doing. We took one tablet out there and had one guy, my best guy doing it just to see how it worked. There’s definitely a learning curve, but once you get it down, they all love it. They don’t want to write anything down anymore more. The communication is better. They’re making way more money because they can’t really miss much with the way we have it set up. So it’s all the way around. There’s just no doubt about it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:04):
Very cool.
Monique Mondragon (11:05):
So how quickly were they on board after you got that initial pushback? I’m curious to know Mark.
Mark Miller (11:09):
As far as the AutoVitals, a couple weeks doesn’t take long. It doesn’t take long. As soon as they see the benefit and they see their paychecks go up and they see their three, four hours per ticket, now we’re doing eight hours per ticket, we can lower the car count and we can manage the day better. So the whole thing is just a huge process and once you get it down, you can kind of control the whole thing. Like a horse, there’s days when it doesn’t work out when we have too many cars and when you have too many cars because all your numbers go down
Monique Mondragon (11:44):
And you truly, your car count is down, but your numbers are up significantly.
Mark Miller (11:51):
Sometimes we’re at 52 cars, we’re trying to get it down to 38 because we notice when we do less cars, we spend more time on each car, we’re able to spend more time doing our job so we can manage that whole expectation.
Monique Mondragon (12:06):
Or maybe you get two locations again now that you know what you’re doing.
Mark Miller (12:10):
Exactly. I’m looking at that right now. So because running out of
Bill Connor (12:16):
What’s kind of interesting when you talk about change, you started out with AutoVitals in 2013 and I can remember back then because we started out with the digital inspection, then we went to workflow and so on. So you’ve been AutoVitals was kind of really proactive about changing with the industry and adding other tools. So you’ve been changing along with AutoVitals as it went along and changed the inspection results and so on. So any of them changes? Did you get any pushback from your staff or they just kind of go ahead and just changes now to new norm in your shop and they just adapted you go along?
Mark Miller (12:49):
Yeah, the only issue of beginning was there was a change every day. It was like every single day or every single week something we’d come in the morning and something would be different. That was a little bit of a problem, but I don’t think they even noticed change anymore when it comes to AutoVitals as far as what we do because everything just kind of flows. So no, there’s no pushback when you understand it. The learning curve drops down to pretty much nil and with me with Shop-Ware, I don’t know, Monique, I was always having an issue. I still have a few issues with myself doing things, but the more I’m doing it, the easier it is for me to do it because I’ve had the same program for so long, I could do it sleeping.
Monique Mondragon (13:33):
Yeah, you said since 84. So for me, four to a year ago, a lot
Mark Miller (13:38):
Of it was a huge change for me, but I’m so happy I did it.
Monique Mondragon (13:43):
Yeah, I mean looking at the graph that we looked at yesterday,
Bill Connor (13:49):
Oh, let’s look at it
Monique Mondragon (13:50):
Now if that’s okay, bill. Yeah, just sounds like a no-brainer for sure. Yeah,
Bill Connor (13:55):
So let’s see if we can just go ahead and find that little critter.
Monique Mondragon (13:59):
Yeah, what was the system you were on before
Mark Miller (14:03):
Mark? It’s called SDR software, which originally was competitive edge back in the eighties. It was built on a Macintosh frame, so for people that didn’t know how to use a computer, it’s really good. It still stands up today. I still believe it’s a really great program, but it can’t do the things that your ware does. So I’m now done with that. I still have it to look back as a file cabinet, but going back to that now is driving a model T.
Bill Connor (14:41):
Well, it’s kind of interesting here is I’m just pulling up kind of a short timeframe here from just the first month of 2021 to six 30, and it’s pretty interesting that we’ve got the weekly revenue and the A RO both growing. So you’re not growing the a RO at the expense of weekly revenue and you’ve reduced your cars at the same time. And you can see along this timeline that going up until we got about to, looks like June of 2021, you kind of had some peaks and valleys and then it came up. Then right here is where you went ahead and brought ware in and now you’ve kind of leveled out or kind of plateaued where you built some consistency. Then it looks like you got used to it a little bit and now you a RO and weekly revenues going up again and got a little bit of peak in valley in here and then kind of taken up. So you’ve had some huge growth and as you say, you’ve kept the same staff and reduced your car count and growing weekly revenue and a RO at the same point. And you can’t grow a RO and weekly revenue without going ahead and also growing the hours per day for the service or the technician. So there’s a win there for everybody created
Mark Miller (15:53):
In this business. It’s up and down because you’re dealing with humans. So if I could have that people out there that always did the same thing every time, it’d be even bigger, but there’s always something going on that throws a wrench in it. But all in all, yeah, I mean limbs don’t lie,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:15):
But what’s really surprising to me is normally introducing a new tool either creates some up and downs and often more downs than UPS because the whole shop has to get used to it. There’s training involved, there’s questions. You were pretty stable
Mark Miller (16:38):
That two young minds in the office, that stuff, they got it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:43):
Mark Miller (16:44):
If I was doing it, I’d probably still be struggling a little bit, but I’d really like the estimating thing because I’ve done estimates forever and the estimating thing, I can go in there and knock out an estimate now pretty quickly. And then if you check and then you can check the financials to make sure that your profit margins are supposed to be where they’re supposed to be before you send it or so there’s just good stuff about it. The speed in which you can get it done is what’s really, really good.
Monique Mondragon (17:19):
So do you have the same staff of technicians that you had when you moved over to Shop-Ware?
Mark Miller (17:27):
Monique Mondragon (17:28):
Okay. They’ve stayed exactly the same. Your whole staff, you’re trying to phase out a little bit over time, is that right?
Mark Miller (17:37):
Me? Yeah, myself. Yeah. Yeah. I love what I do, so I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I like coming to work every day still after all these years. So
Monique Mondragon (17:49):
As long as that’s coming on the Harley, right, coming work on Harley,
Mark Miller (17:53):
Whatever way,
Bill Connor (17:54):
It’s a lot different when you don’t have to and you just want to than it is when you have to get up and face it every day because you absolutely have to. So you’re entering a really good point now. It’s really kind of interesting as we talked about in the pre-show that your dad actually started out in the business, then you took it over and now you’ve got your daughters in there. So we’ve got a multi-generational thing going on.
Mark Miller (18:17):
Yeah, well his business wasn’t related to mine. He had his own thing. I opened up my stuff on my own, but without all the mentors I’ve had over my lifetime, it would’ve been more difficult than it was. But yeah, now we’re going through three generations and I think believe it or not, women do a better job than men do as far as detail.
Monique Mondragon (18:41):
Well, I was talking with Krista and she was mentioning how our parts optimizer has helped bring up your parts profitability and is adding about 15 grand a month now to the mix.
Mark Miller (18:56):
Monique Mondragon (18:57):
So that’s also helping. Can you talk a little bit about that or
Mark Miller (19:01):
But the optimizer,
Monique Mondragon (19:02):
Mark Miller (19:03):
Yeah. So I’ve always had, in my other program, there was a parts and labor section, so you don’t have to think about it. The problem is not thinking about it. So when we do the parts, it’s automatic, we don’t have to add anything. And it does definitely keeps our goal at 60%. I mean that’s where I think we’re at right now at 62%. So we don’t have to do it. It’s done for us.
Monique Mondragon (19:33):
So it’s out there re-looking at all of your data and you just set it. So
Bill Connor (19:37):
How does optimizer look differently than a standard point of sale system? I mean, they all go ahead and mark things up verse on a matrix and by gross F and so what does the optimizer do different?
Monique Mondragon (19:48):
So the biggest thing with a traditional matrix is that it relies on the human. So Mark talked about a moment ago that with humans there’s errors. And so what the optimizer does is it looks at all of the parts that you purchase and it can create an algorithm on how it can go out there and hit your target. The math is done by the computer’s brain unless by the human’s brain, and you don’t have to continuously toggle or make changes to the optimizer because it’s analyzing your data every evening. Now, there’s a lot of misunderstanding on our optimizer, especially around the sales pricing. It doesn’t ever take into account what you sell it for. It’s only suggesting what you should sell it for. And so a lot of folks think that it’s going to go out and it’s going to adjust and charge all your customers at the end of the month, way more money than it should be charging to make up for the discounts you had at the beginning of the month. But it doesn’t do that. It just tells you, here’s what you should sell it for to hit your target. If you decide you want to discount for the rest of the month, you’re never going to actually hit that target. And that’s based off of the folks in the shop. They need to just set it and forget it. And Mark’s shop is doing a phenomenal job of just letting it go out and price the parts versus overriding them like we often do.
Mark Miller (21:23):
Yeah, the prominent
Bill Connor (21:24):
Example, B, the problem, an example be that it goes ahead and says that, Hey, I’ve looked up all these parts and put ’em on a work order and I know my profit margin needs to be this. Do I press a button and it magically says, you should change these on this work order before you get an approval to this range to make it work out.
Monique Mondragon (21:42):
I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but let’s say you sold 15 parts every month. Obviously you’re going to sell more than that, but let’s say you did what the optimizer looks at is the fact that you sell parts that you buy, let’s say five at $5, another five at $10 and another five at $15. It goes and it looks at the cost of all those parts and the targets you need to achieve. And it will tell you, okay, you need to set the parts at these rates in order to hit your goal. But if I as the service advisor, I am sympathetic with one of my customers and I adjust five of those parts prices, now I can’t hit that target because I’ve discounted beyond what it’s told me to. So it’s just going to surface up what you need to sell it for and it’ll readjust every night by looking at, okay, what’s the new mix of parts and how do I hit that goal? But again, if I’m constantly adjusting it, I’m not going to hit that goal. It’ll tell you, well, it
Bill Connor (22:49):
Could be real handy in today’s marketplace with the price of parts going ahead and changing on a buy daily basis for sure
Monique Mondragon (22:57):
Basis. Sure. Well, we see our customers making if anywhere from 2% more to in some cases 20% more depending on the original starting point. And if the shop is $10,000 in parts, then that can be 2000 plus dollars. We both know high caliber shops aren’t selling $2,000 in parts. So it can be a real game changer to the bottom line if folks just leave it as is, let it do its thing and it’ll make you a bunch of money.
Mark Miller (23:30):
I didn’t know it changed. The parts picture had before was set up. Everything was you had a dealer matrix and a jobber matrix that I didn’t know it. I remember when I started you said it did its own thing. I didn’t realize that’s what it was doing.
Monique Mondragon (23:49):
Yeah, it goes out. It’s
Bill Connor (23:50):
Good when stuff works in the background and you don’t even know what, it’s just keeping you going.
Mark Miller (23:56):
Yeah, you just have to stop thinking about what you’re charging because your worst enemy is yourself. As far as me knowing, oh, you can’t charge that much money for that oil filter. Well yes you can. So that’s what you have to do. You just have to get somebody down there that doesn’t know any difference.
Monique Mondragon (24:14):
And really the optimizer makes shops pennies, nickels dimes more on the sale. It’s not going out and charging hundreds of dollars or an insane amount of money that your customer is going to notice. So those pennies and those nickels and those dimes across all of the parts sales add up at the end of the month, and in Mark’s case, it’s 15 grand more a month, which is phenomenal
Bill Connor (24:41):
Between the AutoVitals, digital inspections shop order, the way it presents to the customer. So on basically you’re presenting a different value proposition to the customer. You’re giving them complete transparency on what you’re seeing. The service rider is editing it and using it to make good estimates and then letting the customer make good buying decisions. So working that particular route where you’re actually getting approvals based on customer’s perceived value versus you need to spend $2,500 on your car and needs this, this, and this without any supporting documentation. It makes a whole different picture from the consumer standpoint.
Mark Miller (25:23):
Monique Mondragon (25:24):
Customers need and want that transparency. It helps them to make informed decisions and that’s what we need them to do, make informed decisions. Then they have no buyer’s remorse if they’re informed
Bill Connor (25:36):
And come back for the other stuff.
Mark Miller (25:39):
Yeah, and plus you general.
Bill Connor (25:40):
Mark, could you talk a little bit about your workflow in your shop? I know that you said that when we had our prep call that you like to go ahead and bring vehicles in for their full inspection or full appointment early in the morning, get the inspection done. Sounds. Can you walk a little bit through your process?
Mark Miller (25:57):
So what we figured out is we’re going to do four to five oil changes that we’re going to make an appointment for because we have such a vast amount of different kinds of work and those are going to get done before 10 o’clock in the morning. So each guy, they know that they may have to do an oil change in the morning, they may not, but each oil change also gets a complete inspection. And our inspections sometimes take 45 minutes, but it’s worth it. Every time we seem to cut ’em down, we miss. So we’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of time to make sure the cars are done so those cars get done. Any kind of diagnostic stuff we try to get done before ten two. So we just figured out the thing to do and it works 90% of the time it’s working. So it sets us up for the rest of the week. And the biggest thing is making the right appointments. Maybe leaving one day during the week that’s low on appointments to finish up the work you’re going to be selling. It took us quite a while to figure it out because we were just saying yes to everything.
That process is working and everybody knows everybody’s on board, everybody knows what they got to do in the morning to get here, to get it done. And typically the estimates are done before the car gets off the rack. So sometimes before if we can leave it, we’ll just continue on, do a break job, do whatever maintenance they want us to do on the car. So that’s
Bill Connor (27:31):
Over the years you’ve changed from a do it fix, the broker stuff’s an appointment only shop, but you said you have some exceptions you make for appointments that your staff has just told to say yes if it’s a brake concern or a safety concern.
Mark Miller (27:45):
Yeah. Well, we get tow ends, but we can’t do anything about those. But typically anybody calls with a brake noise check engine, light overheating, we call that an emergency situation. We always take ’em in, we get ’em a rental car, we figure out a way to get them on the road. We have a deal with a local rental company, it’s 35 bucks a day per car, so sometimes we’ll pick it, we’ll pay for that. Depending on the repair, we can actually fit that into the repair sometimes.
Monique Mondragon (28:14):
And you said this started around covid, your whole process changed. So before that you used to take walk-ins before?
Mark Miller (28:23):
Well, we were still appointment based but not so heavy because we were able to, through AutoVitals make the appointments before they left basement, they knew they were at an appointment already set up to their next service. So everybody’s aware of it. So car count isn’t usually an issue because we do that and then we pre look at everything before to make sure we know what we did last time. If there’s anything to be done, we kind of pre-sell it before it gets there to set up today. And then if it’s a new customer, we know we’re going to spend more time with that customer. So I should put all this down on paper. Actually, I’m making
Bill Connor (29:07):
No, you’re actually doing great. So when I look at your numbers also, you’re all over that three hour per repair order. Golden rule number that people like for an all make an all model shop. When you take an appointment, do you go ahead and new customer comes into you anticipated going to be a one hour appointment, or do you say that No, our process says I better leave this much room.
Mark Miller (29:28):
We usually just keep it in an hour and then work around that as far as whatever we see. If it’s something that needs to get done right away, we’re not going to let ’em drive out of the shop. So we’re going to figure out a way to keep the car. The biggest problem is that we’re booked out so far that we’re saying no and it’s not a good thing, but a lot of my good customers can’t even get in for an oil change.
Bill Connor (29:51):
So safety or breakdown gets done today or the car doesn’t leave the shop and then anything else, you go ahead and basically you can reschedule that for a later date.
Mark Miller (30:00):
If it’s something that’s maintenance, we’ll just reschedule it for another time. We’re pretty confident that they’re going to come back. So before the confidence level wasn’t there because there’s so many other places that could do it. But the way we do our stuff and with all the pictures and the reports, I mean people know we’re serious about what we’re doing and we always get ’em. Normally get ’em back. Unless for maintenance stuff, there’s no reason why you can’t. But anything that needs to get done, we do it. We figure out a way to do it.
Monique Mondragon (30:32):
So it sounds like your customers trust your professionalism, your level of skill and what you provide over going to another a competitor, and so they’ll wait for you.
Mark Miller (30:47):
They have no reason to go anywhere else in their face all the time basically with all the stuff that we do, reminders.
Bill Connor (30:54):
I wonder if you experienced the same thing that we did over the years. You’ve been doing inspections since 2013. Does your customer, if you forget to do one, does your customer remind
Mark Miller (31:04):
You? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. They want to know where We’ll always do some kind of inspection and send something to them because we didn’t for a while and people go, where’s that inspection that you did? They’re so used to it. The greatest thing is when you send it to somebody that used to be at work in an office and they’re showing everybody in the office what I sent to them. I mean, I think there’s only a couple shops in my area that even use it out. There’s 120 shops within a five mile radius and I think there’s only a couple of us that use it. Wow. So I mean, I’m going to center with 12 shops and I’m the only one that uses a digital inspection. So it’s beyond my comprehension. Why they don’t.
Bill Connor (31:50):
So you’re saying that a customer, when they’re at work, they they’d showed their inspection report to a coworker and said, Hey, look at what I got.
Mark Miller (31:59):
Then we get customers from that because it’s transparent here. It is your choice.
Monique Mondragon (32:05):
So I have two questions. Is this driving in new business by folks talking about this experience? And secondly, you say that you’re the only shop that offers this process. Do your other, and you may not know this, but do you know if your shops in the area also have month wait time, like your shop?
Mark Miller (32:32):
No, I don’t. The other shop is plastic Independent, which Bruce nations we’re friends. We send each other work even though we do the same cars, we’re the only two. We feel we changed the automotive world in our town. That’d be cool. That’s our mindset that we’ve really changed the what happens in an automotive shop in our town. And it’s a pretty large town even though it’s small, but I don’t know how else I could describe
Bill Connor (33:05):
It. Do you attract a different type of customers now than you did in the past because of your process of drop off, inspect, give them the information?
Mark Miller (33:14):
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. We don’t have a lot of people that come in and we do free inspections for aaa. And even those people, they’re at a different level too. AAA people want it done. So yeah, with all the marketing that AutoVitals does all our SEO stuff too, and that helps draw on a lot of people too.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (33:43):
Can I go back to not allowing walk-ins unless it’s the emergency situation? How was it easy to make the decision for you? Because there’s always, I’m sending customers away basically,
Mark Miller (34:01):
Right? Yeah, it’s still hard, but we’re working on a way we’re accommodating the customer by telling ’em to come by. Let’s check our tire pressure oil and all that stuff to make sure you can go for another week or two as far as check-in. If somebody has a check-in, like come on by, let’s check it real quick, see what it is. Let’s make sure it’s not something that’s going to be detrimental. So we’ll take that little bit of time to scan a car real quick to see. So that shows them that we really care too. So there’s those little nuances that we do that nobody else will do because a new stay with our concierge service, we’ll pick people. We leave cars at people’s houses, pick up their cars. That’s amazing. We do that and that’s a pain in the butt too. But now we’re a hundred percent doing it. We’ve always been pick up and delivery, but now we’ve changed it to concierge and we would control that three cars a day if need be. But that’s the we do.
Bill Connor (35:03):
So your process were very ma sir, I know that you have a warning light on your dash. Why don’t you go ahead and come in, let us go ahead and find out what it is. And then after you do that, so you said yes to him, then you would assess it and say it’s a safety or breakdown concern. We need to fit it in now. Or can I schedule on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week or next month or whatever. You’ve got a hole in your schedule.
Mark Miller (35:25):
Or I’ll send ’em to Bruce or he’ll send me some shop that I trust. If it’s an emergency that we just can’t do and they can’t leave it, then I’ll find somebody for them to fix their car that I trust.
Bill Connor (35:36):
I love it when shop owners go ahead and work with other shop owners in their area to go ahead and become allies instead of competitors. And it really works well for everybody concerned.
Mark Miller (35:47):
Yeah, I don’t have any competitors. It really don’t.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (35:53):
But I mean, it strikes me, we have come such a long way. I remember the marketing co count, co count, co count, co count, and everybody’s a competitor. And now it’s so different. I mean, co count is going down and nobody breaks out and into sweat even with Covid. So it was actually, I don’t know how you feel about it. We talked to a lot of shops with covid basically inadvertently or on purpose, triggered the shop to spend more time on the inspection and it paid off. And so that must have increased the confidence that you don’t need that many cars.
Mark Miller (36:50):
Yeah, that’s a hard one to drop because car count is key, but if you’re doing it right and you’re doing your inspections and you give a good customer service, you can drop your car count, spread it out and control it and make more money because you’re paying better attention. It’s a hard one to swallow because it’s always been car count. Car count’s no good if it’s $175 a ticket.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (37:24):
Mark Miller (37:25):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (37:26):
Frank is dropping his frank quote into Chad. It is not more cau count. It is making each car count more.
Mark Miller (37:37):
Yeah, that’s it. That sounds like
Bill Connor (37:39):
Frank for sure.
Mark Miller (37:41):
Bill Connor (37:43):
So you don’t have a lot of staff turnover in your shop, so I’m wondering, does the fact that you’re a digital shop, go ahead and play into your retention part and what do you think it would do for recruitment of new employees? Although you didn’t seem to have much problem. I’m dragging your daughters over into your side.
Mark Miller (38:02):
Yeah, well I do. Look, I’m always looking to hire and most guys that come in, I just tell ’em right off the bat that we’re not a normal shop. We don’t do things other shops do. And then I go over what we do, I show ’em what we do and some of ’em are scared of it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (38:18):
Oh really?
Mark Miller (38:19):
Oh yeah. Some of ’em look at it and go, no thank you. They don’t get it. But the ones that do, and what I do to combat that is I have guys come in, I learned a long time ago, I have guys come in for three days at least spend a half a day, hang out the shop, see what we do, see how we do it so they’re not moving their a hundred thousand dollars worth of tools over there and getting all in place and then hate it. So it saved me a lot of grief. I hire guys and have ’em come in and then they didn’t like what I did because they didn’t understand what we did. So that helps that.
Monique Mondragon (38:56):
Are your technicians younger?
Mark Miller (39:00):
Well, I’ve got one guy with maybe 18 years. Tony and I went through because of a bad service provider. I left some guys that be over 10 years, they couldn’t take him anymore. So right now my guys are, yeah, I have the one, yeah, probably 40 and under for the two. So the youngest one I have I think is, well he’s only 23. He’s the best inspector in the shop because gets it. But
Monique Mondragon (39:32):
Because he gets technology,
Mark Miller (39:34):
I think most guys that are working in shops, I mean the guy that I’d hired recently could’ve been two years. He left and then came back because he said there’s no organization anywhere. He likes the digital stuff. He likes what he does. We treat everybody with respect. So that’s another big thing, but there’s just, that’s a whole nother.
Monique Mondragon (39:57):
So we could be doing a whole separate topic on how to retain your technicians and you’d be killing it on that one also, huh? Mark?
Mark Miller (40:05):
Yes. That’s a whole nother three day talk.
Bill Connor (40:09):
I have two questions for you. Do you have any tips that you’d like to share for a shop that maybe isn’t digital that needs to go, what they should do? And then the second one to follow that up is do you have any tips for somebody that would change from a point of sale that they’ve been using since 1984 to something that is like a turbocharge Ferrari?
Mark Miller (40:29):
Yeah, run. Well, if you’re not doing digital, I mean it’s important now that the digital matches the management system because the way they intersect to each other. With my other one, I could not send, I couldn’t, I’d have to copy and paste everything over with this one. I just hit a button and after we’re done doing all our updates and changing the wording, like the stuff that the guys put in and fix the spelling and send it over, it’s instant. So somebody wanted to get into digital, I probably would do that maybe first because doing ’em both together might be a little very, it’ll scare you. Some guys could probably handle it. It took me a year to switch. I mean I just couldn’t do it. And I think Bruce still hasn’t done it because he doesn’t want to do it either. But I keep telling him, dude, do it. You’re going to save so much time
Monique Mondragon (41:34):
And make so much more money. That right.
Mark Miller (41:37):
Yeah, there’s just a learning curve. So I think two learning curves and one thing might be a little difficult, but if you just got down to digital inspections and got that all dialed in and doing the update on your program probably wouldn’t be so bad. I mean that’s the way we do. We already had everything but switching from how long I’ve been, some people switch all the time because they’re looking for something. I was with the same thing for so long. Like I said though, it’s probably the second best thing I’ve done as
Bill Connor (42:09):
Far. How did you discover your need to change point of sale systems? A lot of people that get comfortable with something and then they say there. Same thing with the digital inspection. Some people get real comfortable with the paper inspections with the green, yellow, red. What kind of brought you down the path to go ahead and make a change for either one?
Mark Miller (42:27):
Because the thing I had didn’t have it, number one, I’d have to go into a different way to look for if I wasn’t here. And I like change, I like to do keep up with stuff. It’s scary, but you need to change to improve without change, there is no improvement.
Monique Mondragon (42:50):
What would you tell someone who waited as long as you or to not wait as long because you had it since 84 to 21. It’s a long time. Would you have made the change before if you knew all of the benefits you would have received from making that change?
Mark Miller (43:08):
Yeah. Yeah, probably. I mean, like I said, my other program worked. I could see, I could also look at an estimate before I send it out and make sure my numbers are right. But it was old, so I having an old car in a new car, you have to turn to dial for the radio or you can just push the button. Now you just talk to your car. So change is always good, but it is very difficult. But yeah, I would say don’t wait or go with the management system first. Get that dialed in and then go with the digital inspections. The way I did it, that changed things immediately. That was once we got it, that did a lot of change. And then now with the software and it’s married together, it just saves so much time. It’s so much easier. I dunno if that makes sense, but it just does. Like I said, the estimating part of it, if I could do it, anybody can do it. Sometimes I’m a brick. So
Monique Mondragon (44:21):
Is there anything you would’ve done differently with the DVI or with the shop management system? Like something that you learned that you can impart some wisdom on folks? So that
Mark Miller (44:35):
Far as
Monique Mondragon (44:37):
Either or the way you used it, some lessons you learned along the way, ways you could improve or
Mark Miller (44:46):
Monique Mondragon (44:46):
Changing your thought process, anything like that?
Mark Miller (44:50):
Just do it. I mean it’s something you’re going to, like I said, I did it slowly on the AutoVitals. We got one in, looked at it, gave it to my best tech, let him critique it. We went through all that stuff and maybe you need to do that if you’re not been around as long as I have right now, my recommendation is if you just got a shop and you’re just opening, start out this way. Don’t start out little start out big. Just the benefits are just there
Uwe Kleinschmidt (45:28):
And you have to learn something anyway. So why not do the
Mark Miller (45:31):
Picture? Why not? Yeah, there’s a lot of choices out there. I think AutoVitals is the best one because of the way it works. And same with shop. I mean it seems to, like I said, I had some issues with shop, but I’m learning
Monique Mondragon (45:49):
Got to change that lot.
Mark Miller (45:50):
My daughter will not lemme change it. So
Monique Mondragon (45:52):
You got to change that thought process. It doesn’t work. No, that you would’ve used another system because of all of the benefits that you get with it and the way that it works differently.
Mark Miller (46:03):
The only way you’re going to know is talking to people that do it. Number one. Luckily I was on the ground floor of a lot of this stuff, so you can definitely see a difference.
Bill Connor (46:16):
What do you say to the shop owners out there that in the past they had a fear of cloud-based point of sale and inspection systems. They wanted everything on their own little network into shop and so on. Did that make you nervous going ahead and going full cloud base or is just something that that’s the way the world’s going and you’re going to join right in with them?
Mark Miller (46:36):
Yeah, I was very nervous about it. What if the system goes down, which it happens. Sometimes stuff goes down, but the technology I think now is so good. And right now I think that most downtime we’ve had is an hour on either system it seems like. And then when you think about the cloud, all my stuff’s floating around up there. Somebody can grab it out of there, but I don’t care if you want to work from home. I could sit home and do excavating if they need help, I can call customers. I could do it on my phone on vacation, it doesn’t matter. That really opens up more opportunity, especially if a lot of guys are like me are going to step out or just have shops that they don’t even work in anymore and then they just manage. So there’s a lot of pluses.
Bill Connor (47:24):
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting that you’re trying to plan your exit strategy where you go and actually monitor from a beach or a beach house somewhere, be able to see what’s going on and only step in if they’re going to burn the building down. So to say.
Mark Miller (47:39):
Yeah, well if you have cameras in the shop, you’re there. So with all this stuff, if you had cameras in the shop, you can see what everything was going on. It’s like being there. So you could actually be big brother there and catch things, but all it. And also that is where the direction is going. Everything’s going or is that way now. It’s not going anymore. It’s just getting better and better.
Monique Mondragon (48:06):
Do you have a timeline of when you’d like to be completely out of the shop? I know you said you like going in, but
Mark Miller (48:14):
Five years ago I think it’s two to three years I think is going to be adequate for me. I’m already taking the time off. Whatever I need, I don’t have to worry about. It’s good. So that’s really has been my goal is just to come and go as I please. So I feel comfortable enough now where I can actually just do that. If I want to take a week off, just do it. If I don’t want to come in, just don’t come in.
Monique Mondragon (48:43):
And you put the right people in place to make sure you can make that happen. It’s very smart.
Mark Miller (48:48):
Yeah, that’s the key. And everybody struggles with that, but I struggle with it.
Bill Connor (48:52):
So it’s kind of interesting in our prep call you were talking about you’re playing Snagglepuss here, building your exit strategy, and then in the other hand you’re saying maybe I should go ahead and find another location.
Mark Miller (49:03):
I know that’s my entrepreneurial brain working. There’s a lot of jobs, they’re ready to stop and they’re ready to quit. There’s three guys around here right now that are ready to walk away. So the opportunity’s there for me to more space and I’m in an area where I can’t grow unless I take other businesses out. So these are close enough. The problem before it was 14 miles away, my other shop. So driving back and forth every day was not easy. But this is within a hundred yards. So
Bill Connor (49:38):
That’s close.
Mark Miller (49:39):
Yeah, real close. And it’s a reputable guy. It’s been in business 28 years, so
Bill Connor (49:45):
Hey know, it’s kind of interesting. We’ve had some shop owners, they develop what they call a satellite facility where all their cars are actually dropped off and picked up into one facility and they take their larger repairs over to the satellite so they don’t have to go and have a full complete service advisor team and the other one. Anyways, we’re just going to see all kinds of different business models popping up over the next few years. I’m sure.
Mark Miller (50:09):
Yeah, I had a satellite location for a while out the back, but that didn’t work out too well either. It wasn’t close enough.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (50:18):
I mean, you’re going towards the end of the podcast and I don’t know whether my next question is going to blow it all, but I’m going to ask it anyway. What do you think about mobile technicians and mobile shops?
Mark Miller (50:37):
I’ve seen this over the years. Mobile people come in and out. It doesn’t seem to work. I mean, what can you do in somebody’s driveway? You can’t do a good inspection in somebody’s driveway. I mean, to me, picking up the car and bringing it in is better than mobile. There’s some mobile guys out here now, some of that franchises, I don’t see a lot of ’em. I don’t think it’s, it’s going to stand. And there’s a lot of communities that don’t want people working on cars in their driveway. Especially where I live. There’s a lot of affluent people and who wants a guy getting oil over your driveway? I don’t know how they do it if they lay a big rubber pad out or whatever it used to be. You couldn’t be mobile because you’re driving around and having this wasting your truck. And I actually checked with the BAR last year about it, as long as you have a brick and mortar. I think they said it’s okay, you can do anything you want. I don’t know. So
Bill Connor (51:41):
Mobile business to customer in your opinion doesn’t have a really strong outlook. How about mobile business to business to do some specialized things like diagnostics, maybe ADOS programming and some things like that?
Mark Miller (51:55):
Yeah, that would be, there’s already that already. It’s
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:59):
Already there.
Mark Miller (52:00):
If we need a program car, we have a guy who comes out has every scanner known to mankind. He can program a car for us. Until we are doing enough to warrant buying the equipment, we’re not going to do it. As far as ADIs, there’s a new company I just met at the A TI thing that’s actually doing that where they’ll send you the equipment and they’ll help you get it all done at a pretty reasonable feat. So when that first came out, I’m thinking, oh, now I need to get another shop just for that. But everything’s changing and it’s becoming smaller as far as how you do that stuff. So I don’t know. I just think a full-blown mobile, maybe good for fleet work where they’re parked in a parking lot somewhere and you can go out and do oil changes for ’em. But there’s been quite a few people over the years that I know that I’ve known that went mobile that are gone. I don’t think it’s a sustainable business.
Bill Connor (53:00):
You have to wonder if they’re gone or do they go ahead and just transfer into a brick and mortar facility after they gathered up a few customers?
Mark Miller (53:07):
Yeah, I know one that close and another one that did just that it couldn’t survive because you can’t do anything. Inevitably the car’s going to end up in the shop to get fixed. So maybe attached, if I had a mobile thing attached to my business, the only thing it would be good for is to go out and tell the customer, yeah, we got to leave the car in. What’s mobile about it? So yeah, I’m not a fan of it. I know everybody’s saying it’s the next future, but I see the Mercedes guy down here, the Mercedes-Benz dealer with a mobile truck that I haven’t seen move in months. So just sitting there like a big billboard.
Bill Connor (53:44):
But the Mercedes dealer tell you our cars don’t break, but that’s a whole nother story.
Mark Miller (53:48):
Yeah. Well,
Bill Connor (53:50):
So we’re getting down to the end here. So I’d like to do, what we always do is go ahead and mark, if you could, is there a top three things that you’d like to advise the shop to do when it comes to going digital or change the POS? And then we’ll get Monique to go ahead and follow up with a similar question. Top three things a shop should do think about to prepare for changing for POS.
Mark Miller (54:12):
Well, if you want, number one, if you want to make more money, I would definitely go to digital inspections and just do it slowly so you don’t get frustrated with it. Just take your time. And then within a couple of weeks you’re going to be implementing the whole program to everybody in the shop, no matter who’s digital inspection you use as far as the management system.
Bill Connor (54:47):
Don’t wait 20 years,
Mark Miller (54:49):
Huh? Don’t wait 20 years. No, it is just like when I joined the A TI. If I would’ve done this, I’ve been a TI for 18 years. If I would’ve done it before that, I’d be even better off than I am now. So yeah, it’s just don’t wait. Depending on what you’re struggling with too. I mean if you’re struggling with things, there’s alternatives.
Bill Connor (55:22):
Monique, your turn.
Monique Mondragon (55:24):
Yeah, so I think Mark was the one who said it best, and I don’t know exactly his word choice, but to not go with something initially very basic, to go and get a shop management system or whatever product that you’re working to get in your shop, that’s going to help you to scale from the very beginning because changing systems is rough and painful and you don’t want to do that multiple times. And so you want to start with the right one in the beginning. Another thing that I would say is be open to doing things differently. We’ve done things for many, many, many, many years the same way. And in order to solve problems that are there that haven’t gone away, you have to be willing to be open-minded and shop where works in a different way to give you a different, and outside of that, just know and be informed of what decisions you’re making when it comes to the shop management system. Those are my three
Bill Connor (56:36):
Things. Do you have anything that you want to go ahead and give us on our way out here?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (56:44):
I would just encourage everybody to what Mark just said, either take your best tech and prototype it in the shop environment and that goes for the service advisor and a point of sale the same way in my opinion. So have somebody test it out instead of trying to be the dictator, so to speak.
Bill Connor (57:13):
So don’t buy the tablets and set ’em on the bench and expect ’em to go ahead and do it themselves.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:18):
Bill Connor (57:19):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (57:20):
I bought just some tablets. They were expensive. Don’t drop them.
Bill Connor (57:26):
Awesome. So I’d like to go ahead and thank both Mark and Monique for joining us here today and going ahead and sharing their journey and some information about transitioning to digital and changing a point of sale system. I’d like to encourage those that are listening to invite another shop owner to listen in. They can go to and see all the past episodes of 183 of shop owners and industry specialists just like them sharing openly. So that being saved, go out there and make some money, go out there and wow your customers and make your staff happy In the meantime. Thank you guys. Thanks so much.
Mark Miller (58:09):
Have an open mind. That’s right.
Monique Mondragon (58:11):
Have a wonderful day.
Mark Miller (58:13):
Thanks guys.

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