Running a Small Garage in 2024

Running a Small Garage in 2024

Running a Small Garage in 2024
Michelle will be sadly missed.

Running a Small Garage in 2024

In this period of my business life

I have a million things buzzing around my head. The main reason for this is the passing of my dear wife, Michelle. Michelle was an integral part of Pellon Autocentre here in Halifax, UK.

As a wife and a director, she was the one who had some forward thinking and pushed me into starting our first web site way back in the day. Michelle was the instigator of our first and last eBay store and ran the site until she fell ill with the dreaded MND, for which there is no chance of recovery.

I had to divorce myself from the everyday running of the business to become her main carer. Consequently, this lasted for two years.

Debbie Bastow and Ryan Linton, my two managers, ran my garage efficiently. However, when Michelle passed, it meant that we had to reassess our business strategy as we entered a new future without Michelle.

So we all put our heads together and came up with a strategy: how does one go about operating a modest garage business in the United Kingdom?

Running a Small Garage in 2024
Ryan Linton an important member of my staff, is now a director

First, we looked at our strengths. Running a Small Garage in 2024

In this world of narrow margins and intense competition, each and every nut and bolt is significant. We knew that our online battery business was being squeezed from all angles. The actual servicing side and MOT testing were extremely busy and would have to take priority.

After giving the matter much thought, we decided to ditch the online sales of car batteries and concentrate on what we were best at.

As we looked ahead, we had to examine the challenges that small garage enterprises like ours encounter. Maintaining a foothold and achieving success in an industry that is constantly evolving due to new technologies and regulations can be likened to traversing the M62 on a hectic Friday afternoon.

Running a Small Garage in 2024
Debbie Bastow is now the new company secretary

Challenges of a regulatory and environmental nature.

We decided to look at hidden costs that we may have overlooked in the past. This was the time for a complete rethinking of the way going forward. To begin, regulations. Constantly constricting, wouldn’t you say?

The regulations governing waste disposal and emission standards are increasingly stringent. Small garage businesses incur a significant financial burden in addition to the compliance requirement of staying abreast of these changes.

Our waste disposal costs had trebled in recent years and were the first thing we looked at. It was only a small thing, but they all add up in the long run. After looking into this, we halved the cost of our waste disposal.

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) serves as a noteworthy illustration. We have already had to pay for our senior staff to have training about health and safety when it comes to handling EV vehicles and their high voltages.

Investing in new technician training and installing costly new apparatus, such as EV charging stations and specialised tools, are required for this transition. Not precisely meagre in value!

I am, however, hoping that the UK government is having second thoughts about their EV strategy. Hybrid cars are beginning to become a more popular choice, thank goodness!

More importantly, the cost of heat and light has increased significantly. Although Ryan Linton took it upon himself to convert all our lighting to LED technology, our electric bills have still increased significantly. All these things should come naturally to business owners, but time flies when you are in a busy garage, and things are often overlooked.

Economic constraints put pressure on our customers. Running a Small Garage in 2024

It can be a double-edged sword, but while we are cutting our overheads, so are our customers, including the cost of running their cars. Considering the soaring cost of living and individuals increased fiscal restraint, discretionary expenditures on vehicle maintenance may be curtailed.

Drivers of cars may neglect that service or repair, thereby significantly exceeding the service dates on their vehicles. This not only has an impact on our financial performance but also has the potential to result in more significant and expensive issues for the client in the future.

Furthermore, it is crucial to consider the formidable competition posed by large franchise dealerships, which boast ostentatious offers and substantial marketing expenditures. Rivalries are difficult for smaller organisations to contend with.

However, this has always been a problem in my 45 years of being a garage owner. Franchises and other national fast-food companies will always have a market share. So I have always kept a sharp eye on any developments that may affect my garage business.

Technological Progressions

The impact of technology is dual-edged. One advantage is that it provides exceptional instruments that can enhance diagnostics and efficiency. However, maintaining the most recent technological advancements can incur significant costs.

Although diagnostic equipment, management software, and online booking systems are commendable, they can be prohibitively expensive for a small business to acquire up front. However, I feel that such technology is important for our future and for growth.

Furthermore, with the increasing integration of computer systems into vehicles, the intricacy of repairs escalates, posing a potential obstacle for conventional, older garages. I have always emphasised that a good POS system (point of sale) is imperative. Customers love the fact that all their car information and history is at our fingertips, should they want to see it. We are a 90% retail business, so it is important that we give our customers a quick and clean service when times are busy and customers may be waiting to pay their bills.

Skilled labour deficit. Running a Small Garage in 2024

Currently, locating proficient mechanics is comparable in difficulty to securing a secluded area on Blackpool shore during a sunny bank holiday. There is a severe shortage of competent professionals in the industry. Possibly as a result of the academic emphasis or the perception that automotive careers are less desirable, there is a decline in the number of young people entering the industry. This results in a reduced number of apprentices and significant concern regarding the succession of our experienced personnel.

Local Market Instability

As in many other regions of the United Kingdom, local market dynamics are significant in Halifax. Due to the region’s rich industrial heritage and robust sense of community, small enterprises are well-positioned to capitalise on their local expertise and connections. We must treat our customers fairly and honestly if we want their repeat business.

However, local infrastructure changes and economic fluctuations are also distinct obstacles that can have an impact on consumer behaviour and the viability of our businesses.

This, of course, will work to your advantage. For instance, a local brewery in north Halifax was closed and demolished. Fortunately for us, it is soon to be replaced by hundreds of new homes. This, of course, was to our advantage: a new batch of possible retail customers passing our garage as they go about their daily business. However, new road schemes and ring roads can have the opposite effect and cut traffic volumes.

A View Looking Forward with some optimism. Running a Small Garage in 2024

Consequently, what lies ahead? Overcoming and adapting are key concepts. Well, going forward, we will have three more staff members, so that’s going to be a big plus on the salary side of our accounts.

Developing our expertise, adopting emerging technologies, and, arguably most significantly, preserving the superior customer service that distinguishes us from the competition. Ultimately, it is our credibility and intimate approach that foster customer loyalty. There is no doubt in my mind that our staff must be the best trained in all aspects of the business.

Happy, smiling faces help us keep our customers, along with fair pricing and great customer service.

In addition to servicing vehicles, small garage enterprises prioritise their role as contributing members of the local community. By maintaining local allure, remaining informed, and being proactive, we can confront these challenges directly. It is imperative that we ensure our businesses remain as resilient as the automobiles we repair by navigating these challenges head-on. Therefore, prepare to have an exciting journey—roll up your sleeves.

Pellon Autocentre will be starting from a new platform and I am sure that Michelle will be watching down on us and pleased with what she sees.

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