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Expanding your transmission business

Friday, August 1, 2014 - 07:00
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Before I bought Certified Transmission in August 2001, I worked in sales and marketing for a regional automatic transmission parts wholesaler based in Kentucky.  As part of my job I visited and called on transmission shops from as far north as Michigan to shops located in the Carolinas.  One function was to evaluate each shop and determine who, what, how much and total potential.  For those of you not in the parts business, I’m referring to who they bought from, what they bought from them, how much they bought from them and total potential product they were likely to purchase in a month’s time.  I would gather the information and put together a snapshot of the business and compare it against the amount of products and product mix we were currently selling to the shop.

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For those of you in the transmission business, you know the business can be up and down based on many factors. For example, school could be starting or the Christmas credit card bills may be coming in the mail.  I always was amazed when I visited shops that were known for doing good volume, but finding them “dead.”  I can remember one shop in particular. I could see the manager slumped over the front counter, much like “Jabba the Hut” from the Star Wars movie franchise, saying they were slow. It became a game with me each time I saw him. He would say he is slow and I would say, “What are you doing about it?”  His answer was always the same. “It’ll come back.”

Let’s go back and take a look at the date I bought Certified Transmission. I 

remember closing on the business on Friday, Aug. 21, 2001. I was married with a 10-month-old boy and another baby on the way. I was in the position I had always dreamt of, owning my ownbusiness. I took possession of the business the next Monday and business was good for the next three weeks. One morning I remember Joe, the former owner, getting a call from his wife saying to turn on the TV. Something was happening in New York. The date was Sept. 11, 2001, and we all know what took place on this date and afterward in the American economy. By the end of the year, we had burned through all our capital and prospects were dim. What was I going to do?  My customer base and yours, if you were in business then, wasn’t spending a dime on anything they didn’t need. Then one day it happened.

One morning I got a call from a customer who had been in the shop a day or two before. She said after she left the shop her serpentine belt had broken and she was stranded on the side of the road. We, like many shops, did automotive work other than transmission, but only if the customer requested it. We only fixed what they asked for and didn’t bother to look at much else. I still remember her saying, “Didn’t you notice I had a bad belt?”  I really felt stupid. From that day forward, my shop began doing what I call a performance inspection.

Our performance inspection is a basic vehicle inspection form that has helped to transform my business and keep the bays full. Those of you who use a form like this every day are probably shaking your head in agreement right now, but those of you who would like to grow your business and diversify into other profitable services need to follow me closely. I will show you how to use this and the Service Estimate form on the reverse side to earn more business from your customers and also develop a following that can grow your business profitably into the future. The key to success is using the forms on virtually every vehicle that comes into your shop!

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