From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Don’t Let Higher Sales Take Your Eye Off the Ball
Written by Mike Anderson, Autobody News
Published Aug. 10, 2022
There’s an expression I’ve been thinking about in relation to the collision repair industry: “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”
As it applies to business, I think it means if you end up being greedy or taking the good times for granted, it’s going to catch up with you.
It reminds me of another expression I use a lot: “Lots of sales cover lots of sins.” You can substitute “mistakes” for the word “sins.” I hear from a lot of body shops about how much their sales are up, sometimes to record levels, and I’m concerned a false sense of security can settle in.
It can be easy to take your eye off the ball when work is plentiful.
Let’s start with the higher sales number. At least some portion of that is likely attributable to more parts per repair order. CCC Intelligent Solutions reported there were almost 12 parts per claim on average last year, a number that has been climbing since 2011, and especially in more recent years. I’ve seen some other statistics that suggest there’s anywhere between seven and nine more parts per repair now.
Add to that the increased price of those parts. Again, CCC data shows parts prices increased 5% in the first quarter of this year alone, after a 7.4% overall increase last year. I’ve seen other statistics showing some parts prices have gone up between 18% and 23%, depending on the type of part.
So if there are more parts per repair order, and the prices for those parts have gone up, then of course your sales should be up. But remember, as a repair order includes more parts and less labor, your overall gross profit as a percentage starts to decline.
I’m not saying that’s bad or good. All I’m saying is looking at just your increased sales may be giving you that false sense of security.
Remember the start of the pandemic, when work temporarily stopped coming to the door? So many shop owners and managers told me during that time they realized they needed to get back to basics, in terms of making sure SOPs were being followed, focusing on selling and capture rate, and offering great customer service.
That’s what I’m suggesting to you here, that your increased sales may have led you to stop keeping your eye on the ball. Maybe your estimate quality isn’t as good as it should be, but the higher parts dollars are masking that. Are you continuing to watch your profit margins on labor, parts, materials, sublet, etc.?
Is the backlog of work leading to any customer service “sins”? It can be easy to get complacent when you know if one customer gets mad at you, you have 20 more lined up at the door. But you still need to care about that customer not going somewhere else. Make sure your customer service isn’t slipping.
Maybe your outstanding parts credits are stacking up. Maybe your receivables have started to slip. Maybe you’re not closing out ROs in a timely manner. Are you still watching your efficiencies? There are a lot of things to still make sure you’re keeping an eye on.
I’m not an economist. I don’t know what the future holds. But in every recession, I’ve seen shops wish they had stuck to the basics. Take some time right now to make sure lots of sales are not masking a lot of sins in your business, and that you’re not going to suffer the fate of the hogs.