How Efficient Shop Management Helped Dustin Baxley Earn More Time and Take Performance Transmission & A/C Automotive Repair to New Heights
Artie and Dustin Baxley are the father and son team leading the pack at Performance Transmission & A/C Automotive Repair. Dustin’s father, Artie, spent his early career working at a franchise auto repair shop, starting as a tire changer and working his way up to manager. In 2001, Artie decided it was time to own his own shop, so he purchased Performance Transmission & A/C Automotive Repair in Gainesville, Florida. Later that year, Artie brought Dustin on board to help run errands, fetch parts, and take care of general shop maintenance.
Over the years, Dustin worked his way up the ranks, just like his dad did. He was promoted to technician, then service advisor, and then assistant manager. In 2011, Artie and Dustin expanded the shop, and the next year, Artie put Dustin in charge of daily operations. In 2019, Dustin bought into the shop, becoming part owner.
At the end of 2020, Dustin and his wife, Colleen, did some research and decided to switch to a new shop management system. They switched to Tekmetric in December of 2020, and it paid off. After only four months, Performance Transmission & A/C had their most profitable months in the history of the company to date. We caught up with Dustin to learn more about his principles as a shop owner, what prompted him to switch to Tekmetric, and how the Tekmetric system of shop management has paid off for him and his team.
We were using the same program to manage the shop for 19 years. It was very basic—great for generating and printing invoices, but lousy on the estimate side, and not very good for customer communication.
For example, we do a lot of work for college students. The kids are here in town, and dad or mom are out of town or out of state. We’ve even talked to parents in Europe before. And the parents want a copy of the invoice. With the old program, I would have to go in, turn it into a .pdf, save it, load my email, load the parent’s email, attach it as a .pdf, and send them a copy of the invoice. It was a five minute long process, but it slowed us down.
It was also difficult to keep up any type of constant contact with the clients. We always ended up playing phone tag. We would leave a voicemail, but when the customer called us back, I'd be in the shop working on a car, so then I’d have to call them back. Back then, we didn't have the volume we have now. It was a lot easier to juggle calls when we were only working on three or four cars a day instead of twenty.
One of the things that I love about Tekmetric is the fact that in one mouse click, I can send the estimate and the invoice. I will text someone the copy of the estimate while I'm calling them to explain everything on the phone and say, "Hey, by the way, as soon as we hang up, check your text. You have a copy of the estimate I just went over on the phone with you. Feel free to review it, and let me know if you have any questions." Now we can keep up that constant contact with customers.
With the program we were using before Tekmetric, we did estimates with a calculator, a pen, and paper. At the end of the day, whenever all the jobs were done, we would actually have to enter it into the computer. It was an old school way to do it.
I've got a service writer, Jude, who helps me at the front counter. We noticed that we were getting bottlenecked between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. because all we were doing for two hours straight was entering invoices. Phone calls weren't getting returned; clients came in, and we were getting interrupted; and we would miss a part here or there.
So I told my wife, Colleen, "It's time. We have got to find a better system. We've got to break this end of day bottleneck.” She actually checked all of the shop management systems on the market. I told her to weed it down to the top three or four, come present them to me, then we'll pick the top two and decide, as a team, which was going to be the best route.
We reached a point where production was almost maxed out, so we needed to improve efficiency. During the summertime, we can only bring four cars into the shop at one time. So I always ask myself how we could save time?
“What can we do to cut five minutes on this job without actually cutting corners on turning the wrenches?”
Our guys are on hourly pay schedules, and they get overtime every week. So we try to build that team atmosphere. We don't look for our guys to cut corners on their work, but we want to improve efficiency. So that was another big driver in finding a shop management system—if I could trim two minutes per job that I write, at the end of the day with twenty or twenty-five estimates, that's almost an hour a day that I can save. So the efficiency aspect was one of the big drivers for us finding a new shop management system. Just like breaking that end of day bottleneck on actually generating the invoices, I wanted to trim a little bit of time.
We went live with Tekmetric in the second week of December. I would say by the first week of January, we were really catching our stride. And then February, we just took off.
“We felt like we had known Tekmetric forever.”
Tekmetric is a very intuitive program. I liken it to smart phones: If you need to do something on a smartphone and you can't figure it out, you're probably overthinking what you're doing. I think Tekmetric is the same way. I love the three little dots when you're doing a return. You just click on the three little dots, and usually what you're looking for is right there.
It took a little bit of time to say, "Okay. On this date, we are fully switching over to Tekmetric appointments." So it was a little slow to jump on the appointment side of it. We now only make appointments in Tekmetric. And I don't even really have a reason for why we didn't make that switch right away. I guess in my mind, it was like, "Okay. Let's not change too many things at one time. Let's get our toes wet. Let's figure out how to use the program. Then we'll get up to our waist and start using it." Now that we know how to use the appointment calendar, I love it. I love how we can tie future repairs to it, and that we can tie appointments to repair orders.
When we were deciding between Tekmetric and another shop management system, I knew we needed to get Artie on board with the reporting side of things. He wanted to make sure that he could "trust the numbers" in the report. So way back when, in 2001, him and I got together because he said, "Look. This is how I want to do my sales sheet." We made a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet together that had all the important numbers—everything we wanted on our daily sales. When we saw the End-of-Day Report in Tekmetric, no joke, it is almost block-for-block what Artie and I created almost 20 years ago. Of course, it has more. We didn't have the "Hours Presented" or "Hours sold", the “Close Ratio...” stuff like that. But as far as the actual sales numbers go, it was uncanny how close the two looked to each other.
So one of the other things that we've done differently, prior to Tekmetric, our “Car Count” was actually “Paid Invoices.” I thought that was a more accurate representation of what we sold. I know some shops do Car Count, even if they just check the brakes and never actually sold anything. We've always just gone off of "Paid Invoices." So when I saw Tekmetric and saw that that's how it did the reporting on the End-of-Day Report, I liked that. I was like, "Yes! Posted ROs. That's what we want to see!"
This year, after switching to Tekmetric, we saw that March was our best month ever. April was our second best month ever. March and April are tax time, so historically, they're very strong months. I think the timing of the stimulus had a lot to do with it, too. We noticed a lot of people were coming in and needing their car battery changed. Pretty much they’d come in and say, "I haven't moved my car in three months, and now it won't crank." So I think a lot of it was that so many people stayed in last year and did not take any trips, and didn’t do any maintenance or repairs. They were finally getting moving, and their cars said, "Hey. I haven't moved in six months. I'm not happy. We need some work."
Because we had hit our stride with Tekmetric, we were able to maximize the amount of production and actually get to all the vehicles coming in the door. It doesn't matter if a thousand people come in a day through the front door; if we can't get the cars out the back, that doesn't matter. So I definitely think the efficiency improvement with Tekmetric was a big part of being able to achieve the sales that we did.
I kept very detailed numbers going back to 2012 when I started taking the daily operations. $449 is our current year-to-date average, which is about $50 more than our historical average. I can say that, yes, some of that is the industry and all the things we talked about—the stimulus money and people delaying repairs from last year. But I also attribute a lot of our current success to Tekmetric: the efficiency, the presentation, how I can present everything to the client, the ability to quickly text them the estimate so they can review it. I do think that the ticket average increase has a lot to do with Tekmetric.
I have always wanted to track a lot of the numbers that Tekmetric tracks for me, but with the old program, it took a lot of data mining to move these numbers over into a spreadsheet. At the end of the day, I would ask myself "Is it really worth it?" Without Tekmetric, it would take me an extra five hours a week to track these numbers. I get here at 6:45 a.m., and I leave whenever we close, which is usually 6:00 p.m., so my days are long enough as it is.
“To think about wanting these numbers and now having them in a few mouse-clicks is amazing.”
I like having the Close Ratio and Effective Labor Rate on the End of Day report right there at my fingertips. One of the reports that I like the most is the Service Writer Report. With that wealth of information, I can tell where we're at in the month. I can see what's been declined and spot trends. I can see if there’s anything I can do to help Jude sell better, and if there's anything he's having a hard time selling. What's being declined? What's being approved? What's taking forever to get approved? Now I know, and we can do what we need to do to close larger tickets.
Tekmetric is a great system for growing the team. I'm adding another guy in June. He's going to help us on the phones, then eventually, he's going to be a full tech. Not that long ago, we were a small team; I didn't have Colleen or Jude here. Artie and I did 100% of everything ourselves. So to have a shop management system that we can all grow within is definitely an asset.
I was able to take a week’s vacation back in January. It had been a while since I had taken a full week off. Not to say I haven't taken vacations, but it's always been more of an extended weekend. My son turned five back in January, so we rented a cabin up in North Georgia and literally, for a straight week, spent time in nature as a family. With Tekmetric, I was able to stay in contact with my shop just enough. At the end of the day, I would check in on my phone and see that cars were making their way from the estimate side to the working side to the completed side. It gave me peace-of-mind. And that was just in the beginning. We had only been using it that little bit of December and January, so we were still getting our feet wet with the system.
For me to be able to log in for five minutes at the end of the day and say, "Oh. Good! They finished Mr. Smith's van” or “They finished Joe's truck" was comforting. To know that everybody was doing great, but I didn't have to call them every ten minutes and ask, "Hey. How are things going?" I was able to just log in remotely and look at stuff. I've got a talented team. They do what they do best. But I don't have to actually call them to check in. I can just log into Tekmetric and see what's going on.
Our family has a lot of hobbies. Personally, I love to garden. My son is a tomato junkie. He's got a $10 a week habit of eating cherry tomatoes, but we have a Lemon Boy tomato bush that’s probably got 40 or 50 fruit growing right now. I appreciate that Tekmetric gives me more time to focus on my family and our passions.
When you own a company, there are a lot of people who depend on you. One thing that Artie has instilled in me is to not ever take that lightly. This shop was my first baby before I had a kid because I'm here so much. I put so much of my heart and soul into this company, taking care of all the people we interact with, whether it's our clients or our employees. We have people depending on us to meet payroll so that they can take care of their families.
This is my work family. I'm here every day with them. And especially going through 2020 with them, that re-solidified our family bond. We went through the pandemic last year, and we made it out the other side. We're back on track with where we were projecting from 2019 to 2020, and I couldn't have done that without the efficiency of Tekmetric.
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