About six or seven years ago, Ryan Bennett, owner of United Auto Care in Flowery Branch, Georgia, called a salesperson into his store. After entering the store, they rushed to the bathroom.
Bennett joked with him, “You couldn’t go fast enough, could you?”
The salesman told Bennett he’s been waiting all day to use the bathroom until he gets to Bennett’s store.
“What?” asked a confused Bennett.
“You have the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever seen in an auto shop,” the salesman told her.
He told Bennett that from the desks to the lobby to the racks, the setup was spotless. He had never seen a store as clean as United Auto Care.
That stayed with Bennett. He noticed reviews left about the cleanliness of his shop. Bennett soon realized he was onto something – that the first impression of your store could make a huge difference. Bennett began to intentionally invest in maintaining his store, which he continues to do and which he believes is a big part of United Auto Care’s success today.
“Observing the behaviors of my consumers, and even my salespeople, deliberately waiting, you know, eight hours to get to my bathroom, that’s what really prompted me (to make big investments in the store maintenance,” Bennett said.
A lasting impression
Ever since Bennett noticed United Auto Care’s attention to appearance, he hasn’t been shy about investing money in maintaining his shop.
Bennett has his buildings painted every two years; outdoor car parks are pressure washed once a month. They are blown, swept and cleaned daily.
Bennett ensures grease is wiped from all corners of the building. If he finds that the grease doesn’t rise when they mop the floor, Bennett doesn’t hesitate to rip up the floors and put in new ones. He will make a renovation within the shop at least once every two years.
Bennett even makes sure the chain-link fence around his store doesn’t rust. It’s all an intentional investment, and Bennett thinks it pays dividends.
He likens it to driving down the street and seeing two restaurants. If one is run down and littered with trash and the other is clean and tidy, which would you take your family to? Bennett has the same mentality with store maintenance.
“We did everything we could to keep the appeal modern, and a very clean and fresh appeal in the lobby, waiting room, reception areas,” says Bennett, “even the way the boutique, the bays are maintained and the appearances of the buildings.
“He thinks I’m crazy”
Although Bennett has received many positive comments from his customers, certainly not all store owners feel the same way he does.
Bennett has a friend who owns a shop in Florida who thinks Bennett might be spending a little too much on maintaining his shop.
“He thinks I’m crazy,” Bennett said.
“He’s like, ‘Ryan, you’re spending $10,000 a year just (on) maintaining the store,'” Bennett says. “I’m like, ‘Aboso-freaking-lutely I do.’ Absolutely, without fail.
Bennett thinks too many traders see maintenance as his friend from Florida: as a waste and an unnecessary expense. Bennett thinks quite differently. He believes people come to his shop because of the time and energy he puts into maintaining it. These investments are brand investments.
“If clients don’t see you investing in yourself, they can’t trust you,” he says.
Like attracts like
In addition to being an investment in his store and brand, Bennett believes United Auto Care’s appearance draws customers to the streets. He has received comments about his bays being clean and his lot not being littered with car parts.
And, while the region Bennett is in is growing, it’s not traditionally known as a big-money region. Still, where he’s “off the beaten path in Georgia,” Bennett says customers aren’t shy about bringing a Ferrari to his store.
Bennett recently brought in someone for an $8,000 job on a Mercedes G Wagon — the kind of jobs he doesn’t think he’d get if he wasn’t proud of his maintenance. store.
“If I had grease and stuff lying around, and my store was unpresentable and unkempt, I just couldn’t imagine those customers coming in,” he says.
Presentation, Pride, Profit
Bennett succeeded in establishing United Auto Care as the place to bring premium cars and the store you would choose if you had to drive down the street. The results are displayed.
United Auto Care has an effective labor rate of $149 per hour and an average repair order of over $700 per ticket. Bennett believes the success of his business is due to the pride he takes in presenting his store as the store he wants to be. The attractiveness and appearance of the business are all considered.
“I believe in my heart that when a client sees you bring that kind of pride to your building in the way you maintain it,” Bennett says, “they don’t really bicker often whenever you’re at that price. ”
Bennett says too many stores focus on profitability, which is, of course, every company’s goal. But Bennett would say it’s not an unnecessary expense, but rather one that can propel your business to new heights.
“Don’t worry about the 10% you lose every two years,” he says. “Worry about the 35% who never enter.”
“What you look like is what you will attract,” he adds.