One of the more fascinating statistics to come out of Capricorn’s landmark State of the Nation Report 2020 was about Members’ attitudes towards technology.
Keeping up with technology is integral to every workshop’s viability and longevity. But it can be expensive and it’s not always easy to do. Indeed, 29% of Members said keeping up with technology was one of the top five challenges they faced in running their business.
But more than half of Members said they felt the industry was capable of keeping up with changes in tech. About two-thirds said they enjoyed figuring out technology and about the same number said they felt capable of dealing with technological changes.
Then, there’s another, entirely separate group.
More than 10% of Members said they were too old to worry about keeping up with technology.
This, industry experts say, is a massive mistake.
Why not keeping up with tech is short-sighted
Jeff Smit, Director and Technical Editor at The Automotive Technician (TaTBiz) said the attitude that you’re about to retire so you don’t need to keep up with new technology is short-sighted.
“People’s exit strategies don’t exist,” Jeff said. “Perhaps they think they want to retire and finish up in five years’ time, but they’re making no real effort to make the business ready for sale.
“I think they’re resigned to the fact they’re not going to be able to sell their business. Maybe they’re financially comfortable, so it’s not like they really care about the extra $100,000 they might be able to get if they put a lot of effort into selling the business. They think, why bother? When I’m ready to close the door, I close the door and walk away.
“I think they see the time and effort that would be required to become more technical, to have an exit strategy, to find someone to come in and to take over, to document everything and do everything required to sell a business, is too much trouble.”
A big mistake that’s bad for your staff, and the industry
TaTBiz General Manger Geoff Mutton said not keeping up with technology essentially turns a workshop into an unsaleable asset. It is, if you like, pulling up the drawbridge and giving up on any opportunity to realise the goodwill invested in the business (including the customer database), make some money, and leave a legacy in the industry.
“We’re all trying to improve the industry and prove our reputations, so that we can charge what we’re worth,” Geoff said. “By being completely old school, not adapting, not keeping up with technology, you’re not going to be able to service some of these more advanced cars so the level of customer service you’re providing is going to go down. This drags the reputation of the whole industry down.
“It’s also not great for any staff you’ve got, because when you shut the business down, they’ve got to go get a new job. But if they haven’t had any training or exposure to new technology, then they’re well behind. So, that’s bad for the industry as a whole, too.”
It’s also not great for staff motivation or company culture, which in turn will have a negative impact on the work carried out and the customer experience. After a long career and many years in business, this represents limping to the finish line. It’s not a great way to go out.
Jeff said the better option is to invest in the business, as part of an exit strategy.
“In actual fact, it’s not that hard,” he said. “When you put a bit of effort in, the outcomes can be totally different. You’ll surprise yourself. Your satisfaction, your customer satisfaction and your staff satisfaction and morale will be so much better off.”
It’s always better, Jeff said, to go out on a high. And there are more reasons to do that than just everybody’s satisfaction.
Go out on a high and cash the cheque
Geoff said investing in your business makes it a more saleable asset.
“If it’s kept more up to date, if it’s got better equipment, more trained staff, then you’ve got something to sell.
“You’ve probably worked in the business for 30 or 40 years. You’ve built the business up. To just close the doors — how demoralizing is that going to be in the end?
“Isn’t it much better to pocket, say, $100,000 from selling the business to a new generation, rather than just walking away?”
Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to take the cheque, have the cash to spend on your retirement, and have the satisfaction of driving past your old workshop and see it still thriving with its new owners?
The choice, Jeff said, is up to every workshop owner. But if you want to walk away with a fatter bank balance than if you simply shut the doors, then you have to keep up with technology and continue investing in the business.
If you’re nearing retirement age, take some time to think about your exit strategy. It might just be worth keeping up to date with technology after all.