Greg Bunch has always had a passion for fixing things. At 15, he bought a 1966 Volkswagen Bug that “should have gone to the junkyard.” The engine was rusted out and the brakes didn’t work, among other problems. So, Bunch became a self-taught Volkswagen mechanic by reading every technical article and owner’s manual he could get his hands on.
Now, years later, Bunch is the founder and owner of Aspen Auto Clinic, which has grown to four locations in Colorado Springs.
Bunch believes that mindset is what makes or breaks shop owners. Wanting to pay it forward, he decided to help other shop owners expand their businesses to multiple locations. He started Transformers Institute, a robust mastermind program where shop owners learn the sales, marketing, and business operations skills that will take their auto repair businesses to the next level.
We recently caught up with Greg, as well as Aspen Auto Clinic’s president and COO Kenneth Greffin, to learn how they nurture corporate growth, foster strong team bonds, and pay it forward.
I started my family at a young age, and I needed a way to support them. After trying a few jobs I wasn’t passionate about, I approached the small Volkswagen shop where I bought parts to fix my Bug. They gave me my first job in the industry. My role was to clean the toilets and floors. When business picked up at the shop, I could fix and disassemble cars.
From there, I worked at a couple of different places, including a general repair shop and a European shop. Along the way, I did a lot of self-study and bought as many tools as I could afford.
Eventually, I got what I thought would be my dream job at a Volkswagen dealership. I learned a lot and became ASE certified, but the job wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. After working at the Volkswagen dealership, I went to work at a German shop, where I learned about service writing along with being a technician.
When I moved to Colorado, I started a full-service role. I worked with domestic cars, then went and managed an import shop for a while.
I realized that I wanted to work for myself and see where I could take a business of my own. I opened my business by working out of my garage for the first three months. Then, I moved into an industrial condominium for about two years. In 2004, I purchased property with an SBA loan and built my first “actual” shop.
We’re now in our twentieth year of business.
In the early days of running my business, I bounced between being a manager, advisor, master technician, and head diagnostician. With time, I realized that I couldn’t do all those things at once, and learned how to narrow the scope of my daily tasks, which gave me the space to open more shop locations.
I’m still the CEO of Aspen Auto Clinic, but I hired Kenneth to run the day-to-day operations as president and COO so I could focus on my coaching company for budding multi-shop owners, Transformers Institute.
Kenneth has played a key role in creating a resilient company culture that’s grounded in core values. When he came on board, the shops were a bit divided. He united them by iterating on our existing core values, which include accountability, reliability, and treating customers with care. We go through every manager huddle and team meeting with those core values in mind.
Kenneth also got everyone to understand that although there are separate shops, there’s only one Aspen Auto Clinic. An employee’s team isn’t restricted to the people he sees at his location everyday—his team is everyone across those locations.
Our desire to help our community is another major part of who we are as a company. We can’t consider ourselves successful unless we’re paying it forward. Ways we’ve given back include running a fundraising program for high school and junior high school sports teams (they sold oil changes, kept the money, and sent us the clients), fixing up donated cars and giving them to a pregnancy center, giving free oil changes to veterans on Veterans Day, and giving free oil changes to frontline medical and emergency workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Switching to Tekmetric was incredibly easy. Their software is intuitive and their customer service and support are excellent. The Tekmetric team set up phone calls and Zoom meetings, walking our front office staff through the software and answering every question.
I can’t say enough good things about the people we’ve interacted with at Tekmetric.
Tekmetric has gotten us more organized than ever before. Now, everything is on the cloud and information is synchronized. When I’m in my office, I can immediately pull data from the other stores.
“Tekmetric’s homepage has all four stores listed. With the click of a button, I can pull up the store that I need info for.”
Tekmetric’s integration capabilities help keep us all aligned. We use an outside parts matrix, and it took three minutes to integrate it with Tekmetric. Our rewards program, text-to-pay program, and digital vehicle inspection were also super easy to integrate.
With the reports feature, the accounting team and I don’t have to spend time on the phone hunting down crucial information. The data on parts usage and parts ordered has been especially beneficial. I can get a clear idea of what we purchased in a given month versus what we sold. I can manage inventory in a cost-effective way without risking being undersupplied.
With Tekmetric, we get enhanced reporting that other systems just can’t give us. It’s nice that we can look at individual metrics. But what’s even better is that we can look at several metrics in relation to each other. For example, we might realize we’re not selling a high percentage of a particular service, but it’s still adding up to a high profit.
Tekmetric has also helped us better communicate with our guests. In particular, they can go to one of our stores, ask for an estimate on any given job, and we’ll be able to show them the same pricing across our locations. It eliminates any confusion about prices. And with the Tekmerchant payment processing integration and text-to-pay features, we can keep our customers’ credit card information secure—and they can pay without stepping inside the store.
It’s top of the line customer service. They know how somebody wants to be treated when they call with a problem. Just hands down the best support in the business.” ARO and your business.
Greg Bunch: A few years ago, I noticed that there were plenty of auto repair programs out there for people who wanted to learn how to become owners of a single shop. However, similar opportunities just weren’t available for budding multi-shop owners.
To bridge that gap, I started the Transformers Institute. My team and I train shop owners to optimize their sales, marketing, and business operations skills—and work toward opening multiple shops of their own.
I stress to shop owners that there’s no one right way to do business. There are multiple business models and multiple ways of doing things that can work. Sometimes there are two right answers, and it’s up to the individual to decide which personally makes the most sense.
Being a successful multi-shop owner comes down to mindset. If you think like a technician and believe that you have to be the best mechanic at your shop, you’ll likely have a small shop that does well. However, if you want to grow an empire, you need to think like a business person.
And the changeover was seamless; the difference was like night and day from the support to the fluidity to how easy it is to use to how it always works. I haven't had one single day where I wasn't able to use Tekmetric. How many shop owners out there have been without there SMS for a day for one reason or another? Tekmetric has always worked for me, and it works well.
There are so many little things that help us blaze through our day so much more efficiently. When our client’s started receiving updates in advance without having to wonder, ‘Hey, what's going on with my car?’, our tickets and our numbers went higher. Now, my service writers can write a $6,000 estimate in five minutes or less.
When I can measure how valuable my business is, I have more opportunities to pass that value on to our clients. We track this value by looking at our numbers: door rate, effective labor rate, parts and labor margins on each RO, service advisor close ratios, GP dollars and the many other KPI’s that Tekmetric tracks and puts in front me. Being able to measure our success is one thing, but quickly identifying our shortcomings and new opportunities for innovation is what has led us to grow our profits.
Right now our car count is up, our ARO is up, and our technician efficiency is up. We were always around 95%, now we're floating around 120%. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of months we're growing at 200% or 300%.
We are actively expanding our shop, adding an additional 2,500 square feet to accommodate four new bays. As we expand, it’s critical that we have a cloud-based system that seamlessly grows with us. I can attend a 20 group, meet with my business coach, spend time with my family, and still have access to my shop from my phone. Anywhere access gives me the confidence to let my staff grow into their roles.
As for marketing, we pull a lot of the data right out of Tekmetric. We've got some really good referral and outreach programs. We realized early on that cold-call customers, people who were calling for price check-ins, were not our best clients; they're not our highest ARO. When we increased our snowball of referrals, it attracted the kind of clients we do want—the clients who come in here with confidence in advance and trust us to create an honest repair order. If a customer is set-up as a marketable customer, we're pulling their information from Tekmetric and feeding that right into Facebook and Google. Our customers are able to match us with other similar customers.
Communicate your vision to your team and invest in the right people and technology to make it a reality.
If I could go back to six years ago, I would tell myself, "Any one thing you do well is not enough". You need to team up with others that will help make your vision a reality. I hired a professional coach who taught me that I couldn’t manage what I wasn’t measuring. I joined a 20 group, upgraded to the best SMS I’ve ever used, and now I’m running a business that feels grounded with direction and purpose. I’m eternally thankful to our clients, my world-class staff, and companies like Tekmetric who work tirelessly alongside us in pursuit of something greater.
For more information about Aspen Auto Clinic, visit aspenautoclinic.com