Military vet keeps fleets marching
Colorado Springs, Colo.—When Jeff and Debby Miller, co-owners of Phases Truck & Automotive Repair, recruited Alan Kurtzberg for the service director role at their shop, he was already 12 years into his career and had served four years in the U.S. military.
“I’d reached a point in my career where I had the experience necessary to be successful wherever I went, but I wanted to make sure I was going to work for good people,” Kurtzberg said.
After meeting with the Millers and seeing how they treated their employees and learning about their commitment to the community, he knew it’d be a great fit.
Now, approximately one year after Kurtzberg took over management of daily operations, he said Phases’ AROs fluctuate between $650 and $850, and are remaining steady at $790 so far in 2018. The shop averages 100 cars per month, which may seem low before factoring in fleet repair business, the majority of which is performed off-site.
“We have two mobile repair units, one dedicated entirely to servicing a large fleet customer that runs a three-yard concrete company,” Kurtzberg said.
The two mobile repair units represent a substantial investment in the fleet repair business, Kurtzberg said, adding that the shop benefits from a staff comprised of a number of military veterans who understand the importance of workflow and organization as it relates to fleet management.
“We keep a hand-written log of every vehicle on the property at all times. It’s imperative not to let fleet customers slip through the cracks; thorough organization and communication help us avoid costly mistakes.”
He added that most fleet customers are invoiced on a “sign and drive” basis – where billing isn’t done with the swipe of a credit card, but instead on a Net 30-day basis making it vital to closely watch P&L.
“You don’t want to overextend yourself and let receivables get to the point that you begin to implode,” he said.
Kurtzberg said his staff understands the benefits of rank structure and everybody in the shop has a direct report. He also holds three daily production meetings at the 11,000-square-foot, eight-bay facility to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
“The Millers are both veterans, as am I, and my shop foreman Rob Aiken is as well,” Kurtzberg said. “We understand the challenges and strengths of veteran workers and we cater to that sector of the workforce.”
As an example, Phases’ recently provided one of its new military veteran technicians with a set of tools to use while he generated the funds necessary to buy his own after getting out of the service.
Kukui and NAPA emerge as mainstay partners
Phases is a NAPA Truck Service Center and has used the company as its main parts supplier for more than 20 years.
“NAPA’s inventory for medium and heavy-duty vehicles is the best in the aftermarket,” he said. “We’re also in the NAPA-certified repair network, so we get a premium price discount on parts which allows us to install the highest quality parts on our customers’ vehicles and pass the savings down.”
Phases offers a three-year/36,000-mile, nationwide warranty on parts and labor for service and repair on medium and heavy-duty trucks less than one and a half tons. Anything over that weight limit is covered by a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty, Kurtzberg said. “No other aftermarket supplier offers a warranty on heavy-duty trucks that are one and a half tons and over so that offering from NAPA is exceptional.”
He added that the local NAPA sales rep, Blaine Schubarth, has been a great resource, quick to respond and fair when handling any warranty or discrepancy situations.
Kurtzberg said the shop also relies on NAPA for continuous training, investing approximately $1,200 per quarter in the latest NAPA training videos, which he requires all of his six technicians to attend. The shop also uses NAPA TRACS to write repair orders and order parts, which Kurtzberg said is plug-and-play with Phases digital web design and marketing partner, Kukui.
“Kukui manages all of our online marketing efforts – Google Adwords, keyword research and our website,” Kurtzberg said. “We can see ARO, email capture rate, new customer count, cars-per-month count, hours per repair order, and phone call answer rate all through the dashboard. It has helped us capitalize on areas where we were struggling, but may not have known about.”
One example was Phases phone call answer rate, which lingered around 40 percent before the shop starting using the Kukui software.
“My service advisor would be outside checking in a car, the phone would ring, and we’d miss the call,” Kurtzberg said. “I didn’t even know that was a problem before we had Kukui to show us our answer rate. We’ve since been able to solve that problem with a mobile headset, which increased our answer rate to 75 percent.”
Phases had more than 200-percent ROI on marketing dollars spent with Kukui in March 2018, and more than 500-percent ROI in April. “From the beginning of the year to now, we’ve had a 600-percent ROI on marketing dollars spent with Kukui,” Kurtzberg said. “We love them.”
Community involvement and networking
Citing a Denver Post article published in November 2017, which stated that Colorado Springs is predicted to overtake Denver as the state’s largest city by 2050, Kurtzberg said business networking and community involvement are going to be vital moving forward.
“We’re in one of the most competitive markets in the country,” he said. “If you don’t have an automotive management background and you’re in this business, get involved in a business development group or hire someone. It’s not a sign of weakness: it’s a sign of a business owner who cares about their business.”
Kurtzberg is a member of the local NAPA Business Development Group and Business Networking International (BNI). The shop continues its community involvement, giving away turkeys to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado and bicycles to needy families during the holiday season. The local NAPA BDG group will also donate a Ford Five Hundred to a family in need this year.