Mindy Long︱Fleet Maintenance Magazine
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Shop owners predict 2024 a good year for growth

May 23, 2024
With 2024 providing a new opportunity for maintenance shops, growth strategies include careful data analysis, employee investment, and creative marketing.

PHOENIX—Maintenance shop operators said they are optimistic about the year ahead and see opportunities for growth. They are focusing on data, efficiency and relationships to grow revenue and expand operations.

“Every year is a good year for growth,” said Jennifer Wilson, co-owner of Inland Empire Fleet Maintenance and a speaker at Fullbay’s Diesel Connect Conference. “You can listen to naysayers who say it is going to be a bad year, and there are places that are going to close, but I see that as an opportunity.”

In a poll of conference attendees, 91% of respondents agreed that 2024 is a good year for growth.

Iron Buffalo Truck and Trailer Repair is aiming to grow just over 10% this year. “There is plenty of demand out there. If you want to grow, you need to be a little bit better than your competition,” shop co-owner Mike Schwarz said.

Wilson and her husband opened their shop business in 2019 and have experienced double-digit revenue growth, even through the pandemic. She credits their success, in part, to data.

“If you’re not managing by numbers as part of your strategy, you’re missing half of the battle. You have to know what is costing you money and what is making you money and hone in on that,” she said.

While those things can be different for everybody, Wilson said reviewing data can help pinpoint obstacles to expansion. “For us, it was the tiny little shop we were stuffed in,” she said, adding that mechanics were spending a quarter of a day moving trucks around because space was limited. “We evolved and got a bigger shop.”

The new facility had enough space to add technicians and create a flow path for vehicles, which increased efficiency. “We doubled our revenue even though overhead went up,” Wilson said.

Peter Cooper, director of operations for Merx Truck and Trailer, said he is a firm believer that all employees need numbers they can to strive towards. “Every employee sits down with every manager every quarter and does an informal check in to go over numbers,” he said. “If you measure something, it will grow.”

Merx Truck and Trailer doubled in size in 2023 through acquisitions. “There are a lot of great stores out there that are being run well but they aren’t being run profitably,” Cooper said. “We look at the ones that are underutilized.”

Read more: Best practices to improve and expand your shop

The company has also been willing to learn from other stores and make changes. “We bought stores and learned they were doing things better than we were,” Cooper said.

Schwarz said he runs daily reports and looks at various data streams, including work in progress and work leaving the shop. Other KPIs vary based on someone’s role. “Everyone is aligned around a standard set of KPIs; manage it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” he said.

To ensure employees are aligned with the company’s goals, Iron Buffalo also holds twice-annual reviews and offers weekly, quarterly, and annual billable bonus incentives. “We do awards and create some level of competition. We also engage with every employee,” Schwarz said. “If you engage and they feel like you’re invested, they will have more longevity.”

Iron Buffalo is also investing in technicians and is developing talent in-house by partnering with a local high school and creating a training program. “We have someone dedicated to training on the floor and we put together a curriculum that created a roadmap from apprentice to A-level tech,” Schwarz said, adding that the company has a strong sales team. “They are genuine. They care. They build good relationships.”

Marketing to new and existing customers is also part of Inland Empire Fleet Maintenance’s growth strategy. Wilson said websites give shops an online presence, and she uses Dieselmatic, a shop marketing provider, and an in-house marketing expert to help generate digital content. The shop also uses handwritten notes and mailers, sending out about 300 a month, and gives merchandise to drivers when they’re picking up equipment.

“We have hats,” Wilson said. “That is a free advertisement. They’re going to put the hat on their head and wear it around. Put your name on as much stuff as you can and give it out.”

About the Author

Mindy Long

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