Planning for the year ahead

People in office

The end of the year is a time of reflection on the wins and losses of the past year, and is the right time to plan for the year ahead.

The lifting of COVID lockdowns may have come at the right time for many businesses, but there is no denying that for most 2021 will go down as an extremely tough year. Hopefully, the end-of-year rush might make up for some of the year’s losses.

The end of any year is such an important time for the auto repair industry, allowing owners and staff to switch off from work, catch up with family and recharge the batteries.

The end of the year is also a time of reflection on the wins and losses of the past year, and is the right time to plan for the year ahead. This planning doesn’t need to be a complex 20-page business plan. It can be as simple as sitting down for a couple of hours with pen and paper and evaluating your business.

Write down all your thoughts and ideas. If you don't write them down, they will remain just a thought, and thoughts are too easily forgotten.

Here’s a list of subjects to get you started.

Human resources
Ask yourself these questions:

  • What training might you and your staff need?
  • Are there tasks or services that only the owner can perform?
  • If business expansion or diversification is on your agenda, what training will be needed?
  • Are any staff members underperforming?
  • Do any staff need a pay review?
  • Are staffing changes needed?
  • Are any of your staff a flight risk and if so, what impact will that have on the business?
  • Do staff job agreements or job descriptions need updating?
  • Should team meetings take place more frequently than in the past?
  • Have you performed an appraisal or review with all staff in the past year?

Tools, equipment, and information

  • Are any new tools or equipment needed in the workshop or office?
  • Does anything need updating, repairing or replacing?
  • Do you have access to adequate technical data and information?
  • Should better use be made of any tool or piece of equipment?

Building and location

  • Does your office or workshop need a face lift?
  • Is new business signage needed?
  • Should a cleaning roster be established?
  • Do the staff lunchroom and amenities need cleaning or replacing?
  • Does the workshop need decluttering?
  • Are personal items taking up valuable space?


  • Do you regularly contact your existing customer database?
  • Are your customers aware of everything you do?
  • Do you need to reconnect with old customers?
  • Are you proactively asking for online reviews?
  • Do you have a modern and up-to-date website that is mobile friendly?
  • Do you rank on Google's first page based on key terms within your area?
  • Is investment in some Google ads needed?
  • Are any of your sponsorships or advertising campaigns not working?
  • Does any of your branded literature need updating?
  • Do you need to introduce yourself to any local businesses?
  • Does your business need to be more active on social media?

Financial management

  • Is a meeting with your accountant overdue, or perhaps you need a new accountant?
  • Do sales targets or other key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be reset?
  • Should KPIs be reviewed every month from now on?
  • Should the labour rate be increased?
  • Are your stock mark-ups sufficient?
  • Does the business need a better system for tracking and charging technician time?
  • Are diagnostics being properly charged out?
  • Do any suppliers need changing?
  • Are there any ongoing general expenses that are no longer needed?

Internal processes

  • Is the phone system adequate and can everyone in the business answer the phone correctly?
  • Do any customer service concerns need addressing?
  • Are your technicians adequately reporting additional items that need to be brought to a customer’s attention?
  • Do any core processes need reviewing and updating?
  • Do any members of the workshop team need retraining?

SWOT Analysis

List the business’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Describe how you plan to address any weaknesses or threats, and how you plan to capitalise on strengths and opportunities.

The above list is intended to get you thinking about your business and excite you about the future. When you've completed it, keep it handy, preferably in a private place in your office, so it’s not easily forgotten. Now set a monthly reminder in your diary for a list review, when you can tick the completed tasks and ideas, and select which business improvement job comes next. 

This article was published 12/01/2022 and the content is current as at the date of publication.