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Requirement for Growing a Branch Store [THA 205]

Greg Bunch is the owner of Aspen Auto Clinic, a five-location automotive and service business in Colorado. Greg started his passion for cars at 15 when he began rebuilding a 1966 Volkswagen Bug. Greg has moved from a Volkswagen mechanic to ASE Master Technician, to Management, to starting his shop 18 years ago in his garage, to an award-winning multi-location business.

Greg is currently a board member for the STEM-based charter school call “Automotive Institute of Science & Technology” and on the Advisory board of Ratchet and Wrench Magazine. Greg is also a board member of the Autocare organization and a certified instructor for the Worldpac Training Institute and Carquest Technical Institute. Greg’s unwavering passion for the industry has also led him to form a company called Transformers Institute, a coaching and training company dedicated to transforming the automotive industry.

Listen to Greg’s previous episodes HERE.  Transformers Institute HERE.

Austin Miller. Tire Star opened the doors in 2011 in the back part of a grain elevator warehouse. Austin Miller started the business with the goal of providing trustworthy automotive repair at a fair price and timely manner. Since then Tire Star has grown to 3 locations and 40+ employees. This growth was made possible by employees willing to go the extra mile to provide a great customer experience. Austin is an ASE L1 Master Certified Technician and has received an ASE technician of the year award. Although he is not turning a wrench most days Austin is still very involved in learning about new technology and ensuring his staff gets the training they need to be successful. Listen to Austin’s previous episodes HERE.

John Manelas and wife, Karen Manelas,purchased their first location in April 2004. They expanded into their 2nd location in 2011. They bought out a former 20 group member in Maine in 2013 as their 3rd location. They purchased a former Chevy/Chrysler 14 bay dealership in 2014. In 2016, they purchased an import auto service business and converted it to an Auto Care Plus (store #5). In 2017, they purchased a Volvo Specialty Repair Shop which they decided to then re-brand and create a new brand for us calling it Euro Care Plus. In 2019, we did our first non-acquisition “build to suit” venture erecting an 8 bay facility with upstairs offices for their Corporate headquarters. They also decided to lease the rest of that building where we are preparing to open a Hybrid/EV specialty division to be named Electrified Auto Care. They now have 7 locations (5 of which they own the dirt). 6 Locations in NH and one in ME.  Listen to John’s previous episodes HERE.

Key Talking Points:

  • I think I’m successful, I think I wanna grow, but am I ready for this?
    • Not for money, not for ego, but for a challenge
    • Personal reasons for why
  • Some peoples why is to build wealth
    • The challenge of it
    • People are only happy when they are growing
    • Private equity
  • Add another location to justify the management team
    • Going from 2 to 3 locations made you focus in on your process
  • Day you realized to lock your processes down
    • Establish SOPs
  • Use other people’s money to expand
    • Build to suit
    • Pay it back in a lease arrangement
    • Lean towards acquisitions
    • Newer growing areas are better for build to suit
    • Own the dirt whenever possible
  • The creativity of doing a deal
    • You do need capital not just the paper
    • Leverage other people’s money to make it happen
  • What Covid has done to our industry
    • Absorption is an option
  • If you’re gonna grow and acquire, you have to have the right people
    • Not everyone fits your model
    • Not every size fits your model
    • Anticipate losing 10% of customer base
    • Anticipate losing 90% of your employees
  • During an acquisition
    • Build an avatar of what the perfect customer looks like
    • Build an avatar of what the perfect shop looks like
      • Lean and mean 3 – 4 bay shops
      • Garage-Mahal
      • 7 – 8 bay shop
      • Main street
      • Backstreet
      • Euroshop
      • General repair
      • Asian specialty
  • Austin explains his why 
    • I enjoy the challenge
    • The problem child car that no one could figure out at other shops
    • Bored with only one shop
    • The challenge of taking something that is not operating very well and making it profitable
  • Single shop owner with an itch to grow… what do you tell me?
    • I would ask you why?
    • Passion has to be in there
    • It can’t be all about money
    • It’s a long road
  • Are there gonna be huge opportunities on the horizon?
    • The potential this industry has in the future is tremendous
    • Also gonna be filled with challenges
    • Technology is changing
    • The industry is going to change
    •  Recession proof business
  • The word is “Cautious”
    • 91% of shops were affected by Covid
    • Shop owners looking to expand, take advantage of opportunities
    • Baby boomers are gonna get out early to retire (bcs of Covid)
    • Take advantage but don’t be a predator
  • Be prepared to lose 90% of your employees
    • Loyalty
    • Fixer Upper Shops
    • You don’t have a broken shop, you have a broken manager
  • Assessment of Business
    • Numbers don’t lie, people lie
    • Look at car counts they are running
    • Number of rooftops for competitors
    • Location
    • Never advise someone to buy their second store that isn’t going to be better than their first shop
  • I wanna grow as a shop owner, I’ve done a self assessment and I’m ready…
    • If you’re not profitable at your first business, you’re not ready
    • Profitability is important
    • How much involvement is the owner in the current operations
    • You can’t have a investor hat on and a technician hat on at the same time
    • Some people want a fixer upper, others want an established operation
  • How many shops is too many shops, is there a sweet spot?
    • Depends on the business model you are running
    • Investing back into the business
    • We can’t run a business if we can’t fix the cars
    • Covid was a perfect opportunity to educate parents into the ‘college scam’
  • There is alot to prepare for going into multiple locations
  • Final Words
    • Austin Miller
      • The 20 Group
      • Ratchet and Wrench
      • Attend conferences, sit at the lunch table and talk to people
    • Greg Bunch
      • The longer you wait to get help, the more expensive it will be
      • Don’t jump into the deep end alone
      • Need to have a passion for the industry
      • Information is not transformation
    • John Manelas
      • Mentors is #1
      • Get out and fight people that have been there done that
      • Wife and or significant other, you need to have their support
      • Attend seminars together
  • Henry Ford attributes 2 things to his success
    • His mastermind group
    • His wife

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About the author, Carm Capriotto, AAP

Carm is the founder and host of the Remarkable Results Radio Podcast; the only one of its type in the automotive aftermarket. Carm calls on his 35 years’ experience in the aftermarket to bring engaging stories from his guests.

Listen to raw, unfiltered, honest, and sincere stories that include insights, trends, best practices and expertise. Each interview brings an opportunity to learn one new thing through the stories of personal achievement. Many podcast guests tell their story of transformation from working in their business to working on it.

As host, Carm uses his enthusiasm and passion for the aftermarket especially the service sector to take his listeners on a journey showcasing successful service professionals’ path to Remarkable Results. He also enjoys interviews with aftermarket industry thought leaders who bring their industry perspectives to his listener.

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