Interview with Andy’s Repairs on How to Open a Successful Second Location
If your business is growing, it makes sense to open a second location. However, without careful oversight that location can easily flop, and worse yet, drag the original store out of business along with it.
Sherman Stryker, the current owner of Andy’s Repairs, has been a successful dealership manager for many years, and even he has experienced a few challenges when opening a second store.
Despite that, Andy’s Repairs is now more successful than ever – because Sherman was able to retain a tight grip on both locations and make the entire operation more profitable as a result. Find out how he was able to do that in our latest interview with him.
Tell us a little about the beginnings of your business and how you got involved.
Sherman: “I started in this industry in 1999 as a technician. So, when I first joined Andy’s Repairs, I was just an employee working for the dealership’s previous owner, George Bokorny, as I was making my way up through the ranks.
I eventually became a general manager, allowing George to focus on other things, and not long after, I was able to buy the business from him, becoming its new owner.”
You have two locations. What would you say is the biggest challenge when it comes to managing more than one location?
Sherman: “The biggest challenge is finding the time to properly monitor and manage every aspect of the business.
Both locations require my attention, but I can only devote my time to one of them. Since our first location is a lot bigger in terms of operations than the second one, I spend more time there. So, having a good manager at the second location is pretty much a necessity, because he can take care of the complaints and issues without my involvement.”
What role do you play in the management of the second location?
Sherman: “I have a manager who runs the second store, so I don’t have to be there every day. That being said, I visit that location once a week to see what’s going on and address any potential issues or questions.
It’s a much smaller location than the one I manage, so it’s still going through some growing pains, which is why I think my presence there is helpful.”
If another dealer were to open a second store, what would you advise them?
Sherman: “A couple of things. First of all, you should do some market research on the area where you’re planning to open your store to see how many years of investment you’ll need before it becomes profitable.
Secondly, I don’t recommend buying out an existing dealership. It’s better to just buy a property, move some of your inventory there and establish your own brand – to avoid inheriting somebody else’s problems.“
If you had a checklist, what would it include for opening another location?
Sherman: “As I said, first, check the market – its size, demographics, including the number of commercial and residential customers, and the level of demand for your equipment.
We’re a seasonal business, so you need to know how many ups and downs you will have. If a residential customer has a broken lawn mower in the middle of winter, chances are it’s just going to sit there, since residential customers typically do their shopping during summer only.
A commercial customer, on the other hand, is more likely to require maintenance throughout the year, so their business is bound to deliver income more consistently. That’s why you need to make sure you can cater to their needs all year round.
Next, you need to figure out what inventory you would require and how much. To manage all that, you’d need a good automated database, such as Ideal.”
What are some of the business goals that you have for the next few years?
Sherman: “Over the next few years, I want to continue investing in the second location to usher its growth and eventually turn it into a profitable business.
My second goal is to keep working on my primary location since we are going through some growing pains here as well – it’s the only major shop in town, and the town keeps growing. So, I’m trying to improve my business to accommodate the growing community in that area.”
When did you implement Ideal and what was the initial reason for it?
Sherman: “We started using Ideal around 2000 when it was still a DOS-based system – before I purchased the business from the previous owner. I was still a technician at the time, so I used it mainly for work orders. However, after I took over as the general manager in 2007, I started tracking inventory, deals and a whole lot of other things the program allowed me to do.
Then in 2009, we switched to the Windows-based version, which was much more user-friendly as it allowed us to do a lot of things from one screen – like looking up customer information, checking work orders and communicating with customers via text messages or e-mails.
The next big step is to fully utilize Ideal’s mobile app system.”
In what ways does Ideal help you address your current business challenges?
Sherman: “Ideal allows us to monitor our business more effectively – from labor efficiency to profit margins – through a wide selection of reports. By looking at these reports, you can clearly see where you’re making and losing your money – and then make adjustments, if necessary.
We actually did that last year. We’ve been doing work for a certain manufacturer for years, but after looking at the numbers, we realized that we weren’t making any money, so we decided to look for our profits elsewhere.”
How’s your experience with Ideal’s mobile app?
Sherman: “We’ve been using the mobile app for about a year and half. It’s great for inputting orders into the system, taking pictures of the equipment and getting serial numbers on the fly.
It also helps us with inventory control, which used to be very frustrating since we had to physically check what we had or didn’t have in stock, write this information down and then re-enter it back into Ideal. Now, you can just use the app, and it all syncs with the Ideal system automatically.”
What’s your favorite feature of Ideal?
Sherman: “Probably the ability to easily look up all the things I need to manage the business effectively, including customer and product information, work order history, what was done and what needs to be done.”
How does Ideal help you track everything across both locations?
Sherman: “I’ve integrated both stores into Ideal, so I can see what’s going on at each location just by changing a couple of filters. For instance, if I want to see their profit margins, I can do that. All that is easily available within Ideal without the need to log into different databases.”
How has Ideal changed your life as an owner?
Sherman: “It has freed up a lot of my time. I remember the other owner spending a good part of his day doing a tech writer’s job instead of being a manager, postponing a lot of his other duties.
Having ideal available for an owner means having a lot of things done by other people without you overviewing them – and that really saves you a lot of time.”