Built From the Ground Up
Chris: My name is Chris Sharp and I’ve been doing this since 1976. Started in high school and I’ve been here for about 16 years. …. We probably do about $45,000 / month, and that’s pretty good money. We’d like it to be higher than that, but it is what it is. We see mostly domestic, we get about about 75% domestic, the rest are import. And we see a lot of upper 2012’s, 2013’s now, they’re starting to come in, because they stay at the dealer for so long but they’re starting to filter down to us.
Erik: What challenges do you guys face?
Chris: – Actually, some of our biggest challenges are extracting information. We got Mitchell, we got ALLDATA and we got DirectFix. And sometimes it’s just hard extracting the information out of it, especially Mitchell. Lately Mitchell went to OnDemand5, or a Pro Series, I think it was a Pro Series, and the format is a lot different now. So now when you go on there, you have to search and find to get the information out of it, and it just takes up so much time doing that. I’ve had DirectFix probably for about 6 months, I’m starting to get used to it. And I’m starting to get used to Mitchell. ALLDATA, I don’t use it too much, I just fall back on it if I have to.
Erik: – So, you’re talking about availability of repair information?
Chris: – Yeah, repair information, yes.
Erik: So we’re talking to garages about how they order parts, and one of the theories we’re testing is that garages spend way more time than they should having to look around for what’s available, what price is, etc. Can you tell us a little bit about how you order parts?
Chris: We order parts most of the time…we can do it online, but I don’t. Because there are a lot of unknowns I don’t know, and you know, I don’t do parts every day. A lot of stuff is VIN specific, so I’d rather the guy at the parts store decide what part I need. A lot of times, if you just call and order a part, you come to find out you get the wrong part, and then the next time you put the order in you have to put in the VIN to get the right part. So I’d rather just give them the VIN number the first time around to get the right part.
Now, that other guy that works here, he’s a “parts man.” And a lot of times he ends up getting the wrong parts, because there’s a lot of unknowns. And I tell him that all the time, “let them do it, that’s there job.”
Erik: So why is that? Do they have more information?
Chris:– Yeah, they have more information on the other end than we have.
Erik: Do you order online at all?
Chris: Yeah, some we do. Very little. I prefer just picking up the phone and calling.
Erik: Now, the systems that you use online, if any, what do you like about them?
Chris: I mean, it’s nice – if I’m doing an estimate – I can go in and pretty much zoom in on what I need in my estimate and transfer it from their website into my workorder. But before I place the order, I have them go over everything with me to be sure I got all the right parts.
Erik: – So you’re saying you might browse for parts online, and then still call.
Chris: Still call. Correct.
Erik: So can you explain to me how that process works?
Chris: Well, if a customer comes through the door, let’s say they need brakes. I’ll pull up their name if they’re a past customer, or if they’re a new customer, we’ll do a quick estimate for them. Then there’s an icon we hit that will take us into, most likely, TBA Warehouse. We go in and select – it’s got a catalog – we go in and select what parts you need. You transfer it over to the invoice and give the customer the estimate.
Erik: And then you call TBA?
Chris: Yeah, call TBA to make sure. Because sometimes it depends on different things about the car, they might have different parts. And like I said, I just prefer to have the guy on the other end – because that’s his job, it’s my job to repair a car and not look up parts – and I prefer for the guy on the other end to look up the part for me.
Erik: Do you always trust the guy on the other end?
Chris: A few of ‘em. The people at TBA, the people I deal with on a daily basis. yeah, I trust them. And there are some decent people at O’Reilly’s and the Autozones, and the Advances that you can put trust in. But like I said, I got one guy I’ve been dealing with since we came out of high school, and we pretty much get on the same page. Occasionally, we’ll get a wrong part, but we’ll get it straightened out. But most of the time, about 99% of the time, he sends me the right stuff first time around.
Erik: So, a lot of counter guys are retiring, and with them goes a lot of knowledge. And sometimes those guys are replaced with kids from Starbucks that don’t know anything about the vehicle behind you. Any thoughts on that? Where do you see things going?
Chris: I think it’s probably going to be that way, because the reason you mentioned – a lot of the older guys are retiring – you’re right about that. These young guys, once they get in the computer and they don’t see it, they give up. They give up. A lot of guys don’t know how to go any further. Then you’ve got some of them will say, “Let me call you back,” and they’ll do the research and find it for you. But a lot of the younger guys, they don’t do that. They just give up. If it’s not on the screen in front of you, they give up.
Erik: If the guy behind the counter isn’t one of the good ones, are you more likely to go online?
Chris: Yes. Sometimes, we will – especially, Dusty, he’s good at this. What he will do is, he’s good at going in and getting a picture of the part, so he’ll know what it looks like and that way we’ll know we’re getting the right stuff.
Sometimes we may be skeptical of the guy on the other end, and we’ll do a little research behind him to be sure that we’re getting the right stuff and make sure the part numbers match up. It can take them 2 hours to get the part. If they keep sending parts every 2 hours and they’re the wrong part, we spend all day on a job and we don’t make any money that way. And customers are waiting.
Erik: You mentioned that when you’re waiting for a part, your customers are waiting a long time. Can you tell us about how that works?
Chris: Well, take for instance, you saw the lady out front just now. She got here at about 9:00 this morning and she’s leaving at 1:00. We had the car torn apart in about 45 minutes, we waited on parts for about two and a half hours, and then it took about an hour and a half to put back together. So she’s sitting there waiting patiently. A lot of times I like to take the customer home or take them where they want to go so they are more comfortable. I like for my customer to leave there cars.
Erik: – If your first call – your preferred vendor doesn’t have the part in stock, what do you do next?
Chris: If they don’t have the part in stock, and it would depend on what I’m looking for, I may go to the dealer or I may go to another parts vendor to see if I can find it. Because we use Circle, we use O’Reilly, we use Advance, Carquest, there’s a lot that we use for backup. Carquest has a warehouse here and NAPA has a warehouse here too, so it’s kind of hard to get into a position where you don’t get the part. Not unless it’s an older car or something, then you might get into trouble and have to order it.
Erik: So how much time do you spend looking for parts?
Chris: Looking for parts? Parts can be consuming sometimes. You go up front, you may spend on average, 15 minutes. But sometimes it can get into an hour or two tracking parts down, depending on what the part is. It’s uncommon to spend that kind of time, a couple hours finding parts, but usually we can track the parts down in 15 or 20 minutes.
Erik: And you’re talking about for a single vehicle? 15 or 20 minutes per job?
Chris: Yes, that’s per job.
Erik: That adds up.
Chris: Yes, it does, it does.