Annual Planning for Your Auto Repair Shop

Sep 28, 2022

As we get ready to crossover into the fourth quarter, we turn to a time when many organizations start their annual planning process. There are lots of different ways to do this and it’s truly up to you to determine what process will work best for your auto repair shop. You don’t have to do it at this time of year either. What is important though is that you take the time to do it at least annually.

If you are a small business owner who is working in the business consistently it can be really difficult to rise up 15,000 feet and look at the business from that viewpoint. You are free to decide that you want to move forward with the same mix of services, products, vendors, etc. But that should be a conscious decision and not a default decision to just rinse and repeat because you didn’t make the time to plan or strategize.

How do you do it well and what should be considered? Here’s a list of steps and some of the things you want to pay attention to, the full list will depend on what type of shop you are now and what you aspire to be.

Calendar - October 2022

Schedule Time

This sounds obvious, but if you don’t do it, it’s not likely to happen. Choose a day or two on the calendar and block off the time specifically for strategic planning. Be sure that whoever you want to participate in the discussions can be available as well. Give yourself time to get input from customers and/or other team members, if you want their feedback. You may not want it and that’s okay. Just be sure that you and anybody else that will be involved has time to get any numbers and data, as well as to conduct necessary conversations, before the meeting.

Beige Business SWOT Analysis Graph

Choose a Process or Format

A simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis can be a great way to start your planning process. Just be sure your strengths and weaknesses are internally focused and that your opportunities and threats are externally focused. After you conduct your SWOT you can use that information to create your plan for next year.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is also a great tool. You can get the benefits of it without having to fully embrace every aspect of it. You can establish a 10-year target, 3-year picture and then 1-year plan. Or if you feel like 10 years is too far out, you can just cut that and build a 3-year picture and 1-year plan.

If you have time you can combine a SWOT with EOS tools to develop a very comprehensive plan. There are several others out there that may work best for you and your shop. The key thing is just that, find one that will work best for you.

Goal Board

Determine What You Will Focus On

You could spend a bunch of time on too many things and really not make any progress. You want to look at as much as you can that you will be able to act on. Some significant pieces to consider:

Goals – You should consider long-term and short-term goals. This is how you measure success. Where do you want the shop to be in 10 years, 5 years, 1 year? Even if you don’t want to utilize the EOS tools, you should establish these goals to help inform your choices on everything else.

Services – Should you continue to offer all the services you do now? Are there services that you should add to more broadly serve the market? Are there services that you should cut because the demand is not really there or you can’t provide them in a profitable way?

Products – Depending on what type of shop you run this may or may not apply to you. Of the “products” that you sell, which ones are most profitable and which ones provide you with very little benefit? Is there something else you could add to the mix that would be more profitable or open up the opportunity for profitable jobs?

Vendors – That’s a natural lead in to vendors. Who is giving you great service? Who isn’t? Do you have alternatives that would cost less or serve you much better?

Pricing – With inflation the way it is most auto repair shops have increased their prices. You should be looking at annual increases at least. What service prices do you need to increase because of your costs? What service prices should you increase because of the value it provides to customers? Especially now, you need to give your pricing a thorough look.

Efficiency/Workflow – Are things moving as efficiently as possible at your shop? Are you down a couple people and now your processes don’t work the way they used to? Is this hurting your profit margins or the customer experience? Is it negatively affecting employees? Determine what adjustments need to be made.

Marketing – Are the things you are currently doing to bring new customers into the door working? Do you need to increase your efforts? Change them up to attract a different type of customer? Are your efforts to bring customers back working? Are you planning to increase your capacity or do you want significant growth?

Customer Service – Without customers you have no business. How has customer feedback been recently? How have your reviews been looking? Are you serving customers well and making them a priority? Or are they being made to feel like they are a complication in the life of the shop?

These are just some of the areas you can examine. You should choose the ones that stand to have the biggest impact on your shop. Depending on the availability of resources at your shop you might pick five to 20 initiatives to accomplish over the next year.

The suggestions here should at least help you get a good start on your planning process. Your annual planning should go hand in hand with your budget planning. Many of the initiatives you choose will have dollar figures attached.

If you have questions, would like additional information on annual planning or are interested in how we can help you attract new customers, please call us at 866-665-1605 or email us at