When running an independent auto shop, there are many variables that come into play when deciding what will make it most successful. Like the old saying goes, though, a physical location is all about “Location, location, location!”
We recently spoke with a handful of independent shop owners. They provided us with plenty of interesting tips on how to ensure you’re choosing the best location for your business. We’ve filtered out and narrowed down some of the top insights we heard from them.
First, Accept the Importance of Location
You already know that the location of a business can be what makes or breaks its success. But for some automotive businesses, it’s actually not as big of an issue as you might think. For example, many shop owners end up getting the majority of their referral business from insurance carriers. In this scenario, customers don’t have to hunt down the shop that’s most convenient to them. Instead, customers come to your business directly in order to take advantage of the services provided by their insurance carrier.
If you feel as if this will be the case for your shop. you may choose not to pay higher prices building a presence in a busier part of town. Despite that, though, if you have the budget, it never hurts to be located in the heart of the community so that your signage can serve as a constant reminder for passersby.
In a nutshell, if your goal is to not be so insurance dependent, location is probably the most important thing to consider. That’s when you’ll want to find a location on a main road where customers will see your shop often.
Maximize Your Signage Outside
Whether you’re on a busier road or not, your sign is what people will see when they’re nearby. As always, first impression is everything. That’s why you’ll want to invest in a sign that gathers attention, while not being too over-the-top. If you opt for a location on a sidestreet, the crazier the sign, the better.
If your sign stands out enough, it will slowly become a staple in the neighborhood. Your signage can still be effective in directing people from busier areas to your doorstep, ultimately making signage a worthwhile one-time investment for your shop.
Your sign doesn’t have to be as cheeky or controversial, but something like this will get some local attention.
Easily Accessible To Trucks
Whether you’re a body or mechanical repair shop, you’ll need to be able to receive shipments of parts and other materials from large delivery trucks. This means that your location needs to have enough space in and around your main building for trucks to maneuver. Trucks will also need to have a designated spot to unload bigger parts easily.
It’s important that you look beyond standard square footage, but also total lot size. You can’t just have a cramped driveway that comes off a narrow side street. That would be horrendous for trucks to get to. Eventually, providers sending those trucks may end up cancelling the trip. The last thing they want to do is risk damaging their trucks, frustrating their drivers, or even damaging your shop’s property during a delivery.
Finally, you’ll also need to ensure that you’re going to have enough space for all of your customers’ vehicles to park and enough space for bays that allow your team to work quickly and with a comfortable amount of space between them.
Convenience for Customers
In addition to simply choosing a location that’s easy to find, auto shops should also consider how many customers will need to drop their vehicles off and have the ability to keep busy in the surrounding areas. This doesn’t just mean one local restaurant or grocery store. There should be an ample amount of options close by. If you can, you should also stay close to public transportation stops, or even offer a shuttle service of your own.
One of the interviewed shop owners that happens to live in a busy city mentioned this fact poignantly – “If you’re in a major metropolitan area like Boston, it can be beneficial to locate your shop near public transportation so that if people need to drop off their vehicle they can just jump on the T.
Finally, Check Out Zoning Rules
Last but not least, some areas are zoned to only allow certain types of businesses to operate. This means you really need to do your homework to find the specific locations that will work for your business and the services you provide.
An example of this is that collision work and restorations can be fairly loud for surrounding neighborhoods. Because of this, some locations that are especially close to residential areas might not allow such audible business operations. Abiding by these rules will help you avoid any potential issues with your municipality or neighborhood organizations.
All in all, we hope this will help aspiring shop owners, or current owners looking to expand into new locations, choose the best location for their repair shop. Please leave your comments and experiences below so that we can continue the conversation.