General repair gets traction at 4x4 shop
Grand Junction, Colo.—Imagine paying somebody to give you advice that you don’t take. That’s what Darrin Barney, co-owner of Barney Brothers Off Road & Repair with his brother, Chad Barney, said he was doing two years ago while neglecting to take action on challenges posed by the Elite WorldWide business coach he’d hired.
“He asked me, ‘Why aren’t you implementing the things we’re talking about? You’re paying me for coaching, so try some of this stuff.’ That got me going; that was when we started opening up our service offerings to general maintenance and repair.”
It wasn’t an easy adjustment - the shop wasn’t equipped or trained to work on all makes/all models, but turning away general repair and maintenance from customers who already trusted Barney Brothers no longer made sense as profit margins on off-road accessories sales plummeted due to increased e-commerce competition.
“We had to rebuild the entire business, including hiring a more qualified staff. I created a new interviewing process and the people I have here now sat through the tough questions, they persisted. I have the best staff I’ve ever had,” Barney said.
The payoff is in full swing - car counts, AROs, and parts profits are up and the schedule is booked more than a week out throughout the year. The successful shift also prompted Elite WorldWide to ask Barney to join its team as a business coach, which he did this year in addition to joining the board of ASA Colorado (ASA-CO) and earning Master-certification in automotive management from AMi.
He has since become a voice for the Grand Junction valley at ASA-CO board meetings – making the drive to Denver once a month to participate despite the seven-hour time commitment for travel – and collaborating directly with local trainers to get training seminars scheduled at the local community college.
“I sent my whole staff to the recent ASA-CO seminar in Grand Junction taught by Greg Marchand, ‘How to Deal with Upset Customers.’ Even my technicians attended because employees who understand the impact of seemingly little things like fingerprints on the seat are who I need working in my business,” Barney said.
One of the shops current C-techs, Peyton Johnson, started at the shop as a cleaner, but now apprentices with ASE Master-certified technician Tim Logel. Barney said the shop is fostering internal training with a “Grow Your Own” technician philosophy - finding talent and giving them a reason to stay with the business before hiring outside. The shop created a tool program to help get Johnson started - the agreement being that the shop will buy him tools if he stays with the company for at least one year, but if he quits before then the shop reclaims ownership. It provides incentive, Barney said, and is one way the shop is tackling the industry technician shortage.
In addition to training, the shop has invested heavily in tools, most recently purchasing a $60,000 Hoffman alignment machine and utilizes Bolt On Technologies repair order and time management software, which Barney said has helped streamline tedious processes, increase communication and transparency with customers, and track productivity.
“Each one of my five ASE-certified technicians now has a Samsung tablet in their bay with Bolt On Technology software downloaded. They use it to log time on jobs or take photos of worn out parts and upgrades needed. All the information is uploaded into Mitchell 1 automatically so the service advisor can communicate to the customer without ever having to speak to the tech,” he said.
Barney Brothers Off Road is a NAPA AutoCare Center and offers a two-year/24,000-mile nationwide warranty on parts and labor. It relies on NAPA, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Advance Auto Parts, as well as Flower Motors, a Chrysler Jeep franchise dealership in Montrose, Colo., as its main parts suppliers. Some of its specialty suppliers include American Expedition Vehicles, Rancho Performance Suspension & Shocks, BDS Suspension, Fabtech Motorsports and Jasper Engines & Transmissions for powertrain products. Barney said the shop also works with companies that it’s formed longstanding relationships with for R&R jobs not performed in-house.
“I use Tom Wood’s Custom Driveshafts, out of Utah, for my driveline rebuilds and A1 Transmissions & Parts Co. for transfer case and standard transmission rebuilds — I’ve worked with both of them for more than 20 years and they do a fantastic job,” Barney said.
To assist with marketing, Barney has partnered with Kukui, which now handles the shop’s website and digital marketing campaigns, as well as key metrics on RO performance. “Kukui has been really good for our customer retention management (CRM),” Barney said. “They do a great job.”
Nothing compares, however, to commitment. Barney shared a story about the time he drove a customer’s truck 18 hours back to him in Odessa, Texas, after a brake line rubbed through after a recent upgrade done at the shop.
“Really, that’s what it takes,” Barney said. “And guess what — that customer has since spent another $30,000 on another vehicle build with me.”