The auto repair industry is reaching new heights, thanks to reliable shop management software that empowers shop owners to run their businesses from anywhere. As a shop owner, you have the ability to tune into your shop’s performance metrics, employees’ bandwidth, and overall profit margins with a few clicks.
Lucas Underwood and David Roman, hosts of the ASOG podcast, recently sat down with Tekmetric CEO Sunil Patel at the Vision Hi-Tech Training and Expo in Kansas City, Kansas. Sunil shared some key insights into facing challenges, embracing change, streamlining processes, prioritizing customers, and the power of “always starting with why.”
Note: the following answers have been condensed for clarity.
ASOG: We spoke with PJ Leslie (Tekmetric’s Business Development Director) recently, and he was talking to us about your ability to take anything that comes your way and overcome it. PJ shared with us that no matter the circumstance, you’re always able to say, “We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to make something from it.” You created an amazing thing despite the adversity that you’ve faced. How were you able to do that?
Patel: My wife and I went through some hard times with our daughter, Brianna, about a year ago. And what I told my wife during that time was, “You know what? I’m ready to face this challenge. We’re going to find the best doctor we can find and the best solution for her. And Brianna will live life one day at a time. We’re not going to think about the future, we’re going to live life today.” Since that day it’s been almost ten months and everything has been great. She’s doing beautifully.
A key component to handling stress is delegation. You’ve got to let go of some of your responsibilities no matter how unnerving it is. Remind yourself that you can continue to keep your momentum on your shop, business, and goals by delegating. That’s why you have a team—so you can tackle and conquer each task that comes your way.
You’ve gone from being a physician to a police officer to an auto repair shop owner, and now you’re the co-founder and CEO of Tekmetric. What made you want to go from physician to shop owner? Was there a rock bottom for you? Was there a point where you decided, “I don’t want to be a physician any longer?”
I was fortunate that I never hit rock bottom. I’ve always tried to live in the moment. And I’m always intrigued by learning new things. With that being said, it took me going from industry to industry to learn the skills that helped form Tekmetric.
Let’s say you set a goal for yourself to go to the gym more often. Now, if you don’t want to go to the gym, then you will keep training your mind to make sure that gym is just not your thing. It’s not until you have a breakthrough that you are able to change your mindset. You have to train your reticular activating system (RAS), a network of nerve pathways located in the brain stem that mediates overall behavior, so that going to the gym becomes a positive activity.
Along with reminding yourself that you want to go to the gym, write down when you want to make the change and why. Let’s say this is your goal, “In March 2023, I will feel great, I will look great, my clothes will fit me better, and I can hear my family and friends saying ‘You’ve done a fantastic job.’” You have to recognize and reframe each limiting belief that is preventing you from achieving your end goal. An example of a limiting belief would be something along the lines of, "Ah, I’ve had a long day, I can just go to the gym tomorrow.” You have to reframe it to, “I’ve had a long day, time to finish strong with a trip to the gym.” You have to be very intentional. You truly have to want to reach the finish line.
This concept goes for shop owners, too. If you’re wanting to expand your shop, you’ll need to change the way you’re running your business. You can do that with shop management software.
What is different about Tekmetric from the other shop management software companies on the market? What is it about Tekmetric that your supporters latched onto?
I feel that our company, our culture, and our following, are very, very strong and hard to duplicate. And early on, we got vocal shop owners on board with Tekmetric. They bought into Tekmetric, and they ran with it. And we’ve stayed in touch with them through the years.
Additionally, we always stay connected with our customers. It doesn’t matter how big Tekmetric gets. It’s a company priority that we will always make it a point to talk to shop owners. We want to get that face-to-face time with them. We want to see what’s bothering them, and we will never lose sight of that.
Along with talking to shop owners, we’ve always made sure that we listen to what they’re saying. We were the first shop management software to incorporate a user group where we can actually get feedback from shop owners and have them vote on features that they would want to see in our software. We did it manually through a Google spreadsheet at first. Now, we have a customer success team that focuses on customer feedback.
Everybody says it’s their company’s culture that makes them stand out. What’s unique about Tekmetric’s culture?
Some of the people on our team have been with us since day one. And in addition to listening to our customers, we also listen to our team. As a company, we’re constantly improving our internal processes. We never rest. The processes that work for us today won’t work for us tomorrow—when we’re a 20-person team vs. a 50-person team vs. a 90-person team. It’s a process of constant change to make sure that we’re doing everything to the best of our ability.
With customer feedback being a priority for Tekmetric, how do you balance Tekmetric’s features to avoid getting to the point that it’s overloaded with hundreds of buttons that do hundreds of different things?
Software matures over time. You're constantly bolting on features—over and over and over. However, you don't want to have this very complex software with unlimited buttons that do every single thing you can think of. It needs to be in a streamlined formatting process where you solve the issues that the shop owners are having along the way.
Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, is fundamental reading for our team. When we get a request saying a shop owner wants a purple button here and a blue button there, we have to be able to drill into why they want that change to begin with. The buttons shop owners are asking for may not actually be what they need. It could be something completely different and unrelated.
At Tekmetric, we don’t want to do something that has been done in the past by somebody else. We’re not trying to just duplicate systems and call it a day. We want to know how we can make things even better. We want to make the lives of shop owners easier.
As shop owners, we really resonate with this in a lot of ways. It makes a difference to hear, “This is why it's going to help you,” and actually see the difference it’s going to make within the software.
When I ran a European shop in Houston, there were times in the beginning of 2007 where, as we were just hitting the mortgage crisis, I was outsourcing myself to make the right choices business-wise, and I was pushing myself to get customers through the door.
Something that helped us immensely was adding a glass wall in our shop. Our customers were able to see where their cars were in the repair process; they were able to see the technicians hard at work. It instilled a level of trust with our customers, and that’s how we got our following. Transparency is key. We’ve placed transparency at the forefront of everything Tekmetric does for shop owners, their teams, and their customers.
Anything else you want to say to the listeners?
I enjoy getting my leadership team to think of better ways to solve problems. We’re not going to sit and go on and on about how problems have been solved in the past. There are always better approaches. And I wish more shop owners would realize that there’s always going to be a better way. You can reach your goals, fine-tune your shop’s processes, and give your customers the experience they deserve. We’ve seen shop owners go from virtually nothing, going bankrupt, to making almost six figures a month.
And most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help. There are great resources out there to help you find your way.
You know your goals. Tekmetric can help you reach them.