Posts Tagged ‘ Better Business ’

Better Business: Building Your Sales By Building Your Brand

Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle’s showroom features a parts and service counter, as well as a “Culture Center” that’s full of hot rod swag.

By Phil Sasso

“Hot rodding is about more than just owning a vehicle; it’s a lifestyle,” says Kevin Tully co-owner of Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle in Addison, Illinois ). He, along with co-owner Chad Hill built their shop from the bottom up back in 2004 based on this premise.

The shop exclusively builds traditional hot rods or customs from 1964 or earlier along with racecars and dragsters from any era. Not long ago, Raybestos chose the shop to build a promotional 1964 GTO. But Tully feels that along with good work, the shop needs to be part of hot rod culture to be successful.
When you walk in the door, Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle’s show room is basically divided in two. On your right is a parts and service counter where you can talk to the staff about the mechanical side of hot rods. On your left is what I’ll call the “Culture Center”. It features hot rod “swag”-like apparel, magazines, DVDs and CDs. Here you can immerse yourself in the culture.

This unique perspective, in part, sets Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle apart. It also may be what’s kept the shop in business during these tough economic times while several other nearby shops have been forced to close their doors.

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Better Business: Increasing Sales With Direct Mail Advertising

By Phil Sasso

By Phil Sasso

Digital marketing is all the rage.

As you probably know, digital marketing is connecting with customers and prospects via computer and/or mobile phone to promote your hot rod and/or restoration shop.

Marketers spent a lot of money on digital marketing in 2012: $1.2 billion on mobile marketing to iPhone, Android and other mobile devices, $3.4 billion on social media advertising on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and $13.1 billion on search ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing, according to estimates by Zenith Optimedia. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the $50 billion spent on putting direct mailers in mailboxes.

Why are marketers spending almost three times more on old-fashioned print advertising than on mobile, social and search marketing combined? Because direct mail works.  It is tangible, scalable, and, most importantly, measurable.

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How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone & Grow Your Business

Although some companies can successfully serve a niche market for years, others will need to explore new markets, customers, products or competencies to continue their growth, according to Karl Stark and Bill Stewart, who recently reported on the topic for

“Deciding whether to expand via any of these avenues requires a clear understanding of your customers’ needs and the dynamics of the market you wish to enter,” Stark and Stewart wrote. “But leaving your comfort zone can often lead to accelerated growth for your business.”

Stark and Stewart shared these four areas in which your business can expand.

New Geographies. “Entering a new part of the country or the globe requires in-depth knowledge around market dynamics in the new territory,” Stark and Stewart wrote. “This includes information about competitors, potential customers, projected market growth, the regulatory environment, and political factors–among others.”

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Why You Should Hold Staff Meeting at Your Shop

Byron Valcourt hosts weekly meeting for his staff at Alternative Restoration in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Taking time throughout the week to catch up with your staff can improve productivity and customer service, and help your shop reach its goals. Here, six shop owners and one expert share why staff meetings are vital to a shop’s success.

When Joey Steckler was struggling with some issues at his shop when he found the solution in an unlikely place—a reality TV show.

“I was watching … a biker build-off show and the guy was holding a morning meeting with his key people and I thought, ‘There’s my idea,’” the owner of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based Joey’s Place said. “I was struggling; I had a senior guy who wanted to show up fashionably late and a painter who liked to do the same.”

Having meetings each morning at 8 a.m. has cured the lateness issue.

“It’s mandatory,” Steckler said. “It makes everybody have their timecard punched at 8 in the morning, otherwise it’s really easy to sneak in three or four or five minutes later, but when everybody’s standing there, you don’t get to do it too often.”

Shop owners like Steckler who institute regularly scheduled staff meetings have discovered multiple benefits, such as improved communication and stronger customer service. Regardless of the motives and rewards, the important thing is that they have the meetings, according to Dan Stockdale, CEO of Adventures in Leadership, a Harriman, Tennessee-based management-consulting firm.

“[Having regular staff meetings] is critical, even in a small operation,” he said. “The breakdown in communication is the biggest issue that prevents smaller businesses from growing, so it’s vital, regardless of the size of the company.”

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Better Business: Should You Move or Grow Your Shop?

Vacancies in industrial and retail markets remain above 10 percent in the United States, according to research recently released by the National Association of Realtors. Many shop owners are taking advantage of these vacancies, and the better rents that result, to grow their businesses.

To make the most of these opportunities—having more space for potentially less cost per square foot—retailers have to educate themselves.

“The success of renegotiation is based upon both what the tenant’s leverage points are as well as market conditions which dictate what are the landlord’s alternatives,” said Harold Bordwin, the New-York-City-based co-president of GA Keen Realty Advisors LLC, a firm that helps retailers negotiate or terminate their lease agreements. “If you can create a compelling story that what you’re offering is better than the landlord’s alternatives, you’ll probably be successful; if you’re unable to do that, then you’re not going to be successful.”

Here, shop owners who are considering moving or have made the move to a new location share the steps they took, and advise you on what to consider when contemplating moving or growing your shop in the current economy.

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Interior Insights: Should You Give Estimates Over the Phone?

Phone estimating has been a hot topic of discussion for quite some time and there have been many varying opinions as to whether to provide phone estimates or not. Many trim shops won’t give estimates unless the customer brings the vehicle to the shop, while others will give estimates over the phone.

We’ve all heard potential customers say, “I’m just looking for a ballpark figure and I won’t hold you to the price,” but we know that this is not always the case. It seems that a lot of the time the only price that people remember is the lowest price quote that they heard. In my opinion, the manner in which phone estimating is handled can be a customer service concern and can determine whether you get the job or not.

One of the most-important aspects of phone estimating is who gives the estimate. The person answering the phone might not be the estimator but is still the customer’s first point of contact. If your shop doesn’t give phone estimates, the greeter will need to explain why it’s important for the customer to bring their vehicle to your shop for the estimate. Many shops will provide customers with an additional incentive if they estimate the job in person, like free pickup and delivery service.

If you give estimates over the phone, as we did at my shop, you need to have an experienced, knowledgeable person giving the estimates. In many cases, the person who answers the phone isn’t the estimator. If this is the case, it’s important that the greeter lets the customer know that the estimator will provide them with an estimate.

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Better Business: Should You Use a Designer For Your Next Project?

A high-end build requires an array of talents to turn a nebulous dream into a finished product that delights the customer and justifies the invoices that keep you in business. For a fraction of the total build cost, a designer can turn a concept into a vision of the finished product while bringing a builder’s business to a new level of professionalism.

“Design is imagination meeting reality,” said Barry Penfound of Elyria, Ohio-based Penfound Design, who acts as a general contractor, finding shops to do subcontractor work. “A custom car or hot rod can be the fastest, best-handling vehicle on the planet, but the first thing anyone notices is how it looks. Design can make the difference between an average car and a truly special one.”

Murray Pfaff of Pfaff Designs in Royal Oak, Michigan, likened design renderings to inexpensive insurance for the builder and car owner that ultimately saves money over the course of a build.

“A designer to a car project is like an architect to a house renovation, you need a blueprint,” he said. “The rendering visually describes what changes to the vehicle should look like and makes sure that owner, builder, fabricator and painter all have a clear understanding of the final result.”

Gary Ragle of Ragle Design in Cincinnati, Ohio, agreed.

“Working with a designer can be extremely beneficial for all builders, from the average guy building a car himself to a shop building a million-dollar Ridler [Award] contender,” said Ragle, who started Ragle Design in 2009 after designing concept cars for Mitsubishi and consulting for the auto and toy industries. “Consulting with a designer as early as possible in the build process, preferably before the build even starts, maximizes the designer’s effective contribution to the project.

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Shop Owners Discuss the Importance of Pre-Build Contracts

Always get the build plan in writing before starting a build.

Having customers sign a contract prior to starting a job will establish a positive working relationship with both sides knowing exactly what to expect. Pre-build contracts describe the details of any build, define your customer’s vision, outline exactly what will be done, how much it will cost and when the finished product will be delivered. If you’re not already convinced that a pre-build contract is necessary for your hot rod, street rod, muscle car or restored classics business, all it will take is one customer who swears he told you he wanted this when you gave him that.

“Having done builds in the past without a contract or written agreement, and now doing [contracts] on all major projects, we wouldn’t do without them,” said Walt Anders of Classic Nova & Performance LLC in Ashland, Oregon. “The pre-build contract is used for a reference by both parties to make sure that the project stays on track. It also spells out exactly what the project is and who is responsible for certain aspects of the job. We give the customer a time line so they know approximate stages of the project and when it should be complete. It also gives clear expectations for both parties. Contracts are very beneficial and definitely worth the time required at the start of the project.”

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Better Business: Should You Change Your Shop’s Name?

Your shop’s name just isn’t working for you anymore. Maybe you’ve added new services, changed locations, lost or gained partners, so feel a new name will better fit everything your shop is or does today.

Be aware that a new name may not be the fix you envision it to be, at least not without careful consideration.

“They really need to outline what the benefits of the new name are going to bring them [and] what is the change of positioning that’s inherent in the new name that was not available in the old name,” said Wendy Flanagan, president of Brand4Market, a marketing consulting firm based in Columbia, New Jersey.

Before changing their name, Flanagan suggests shops take a close look at how many people know their current name, how much business they get from referrals, and how much money they’ve invested in marketing and search engine optimization. Would a name change undo all of those efforts?

“It’s never done on a whim,” she said. “Anybody who changes the name of the company just because, ‘I’ve got a better name,’ either their original name was so poor that it was interfering with business or they just are not thinking of the ramifications of what they’re doing, especially now with so much invested online.”

Here, three shops at different stages of the name-changing process share how they came to this decision, offering insights and advice that can help you answer the tough question: Should I change the name of my shop?

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Three Things You Should Know About the MasterCard & Visa Settlement

Last week, credit card companies MasterCard and Visa reached a settlement with retailers who alleged the companies conspired to fix the fees that stores pay to accept credit cards. This settlement could benefit any retailer that accepts credit cards, according to Catherine Clifford, who covered the settlement for She shared these three ways the credit card settlement could affect your business:

1. You will get a discount on transaction fees. “As part of the settlement, Visa and MasterCard have agreed to issue a 0.1 percent discount on transaction fees for eight months,” Clifford wrote. “So, if you accept Visa or MasterCard, you will save some money on your processing costs.”

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