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How Do I Use My “Numbers” to Build My Business?

I collect my data for my body shop and record it as specifically as possible, but I have no clue what to do with it so I can build this business. Also, since we’re not a production shop, I haven’t figured out a way to make KPIs make sense for us. Help!

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Hank Nunn is a 35-year collision industry veteran. He is now retired.

I am not really sure who to turn to here and I was hoping you could help or lead me in the right direction.

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Quick background: I grew up in my dad’s shop. We are not a production shop but focus more on motorhomes, custom work and restorations. We do a little collision as well. My father never had the head for working with the numbers; he just worked harder if he had more to pay. To be honest, I’m not sure how he’s still open after 30 years of surviving on only a killer work ethic and ambition to make anybody envious. Regardless, he is a success in my book.

Either way, I am running the shop now. I’m 27 years old and have a better mindset for how a business should be run. I don’t have anything backing me other than my experience in seeing how the business operates and suffering through its downfalls. I collect my data and record it as specifically as possible, however I have no clue what to do with it so I can build this business. I’m not talking about KPIs as much as normal bookkeeping and such. Since we’re not a production shop, I haven’t figured out a way to make the KPIs make sense for us.

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While I have you, do you know of any small business benefits such as grants or loans to help me buy a better paint booth? Thank you in advance.

Question asked by: Danny Meyers Jr., Meyers Auto Body, Waukegan, Ill.

The collision industry was built on the backs of people such as your father. Personally, I thank him, and those like him, who saw an opportunity and built a business through nothing more than hard work and a solid business ethic.

As you are well aware, the industry has changed, and today it takes more than hard work to make a business go. But hard work is still a critical component!

Congratulations on the unique segment of the industry your father has placed you in. The RV segment can be very profitable. Custom work and restorations can also be profitable.

Don’t feel that KPIs aren’t relevant because your shop is not a ‘production’ shop! Basic KPIs are just as relevant to you as they are to any other shop. Gross profit percentages (GP%) on labor, parts, materials and other departments are virtually the same for you as for any repair center. Most of these KPIs are generated through your profit and loss (P&L) statement. So step No. 1 should be to review the P&L with your accountant to make sure it’s properly formatted. Work with your accountant to calculate GP% for each of your profit centers. Check out the February 2015 issue of BodyShop Business for the article, “What Does It Cost?”

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Seek out groups of similar shop owners. The RV repair business is more closely matched to the heavy truck segment than the conventional automotive collision repair shop. Your paint company may be a good way to find such a group. If you have a management system, check with your system provider for groups of similar shops. Once you have a group, you can compare your KPIs with the similar group as well as share ideas for improvement.

With respect to financial aid, there is the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA loan process requires you to provide a business plan. Even if you don’t intend to get a loan, the process of creating a solid business plan is an excellent and eye-opening experience. Also, most local governments have small business assistance centers. Look to them for assistance in finding financial help. Financial assistance is frequently available based on your location, ownership or other considerations.

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