Pickering’s Auto Service transitions for next generation of ownership
Lakewood, Colo.—More than just an early adopter, Pickering’s Auto Service has its finger on the pulse of the future for both its staff, its business and the industry.
The shop recently won an award from ASA for having a Top 10 Best of the Best website, is in its 40th year in business with a second location in neighboring Arvada and drives its shops towards community supportive practices such as energy efficiency and transparency.
Owner Randy Pickering’s daughter, Marketing Director and Fleet Manager Taylor Pickering, manages the company’s online presence, guiding it through its most recent transition to a Kukui-built website, which includes a customer relationship management platform, real time revenue tracking capabilities and a responsive website design. Pickering praised her for tracking trends in the industry and in customer relations to set Pickering’s up for success in this arena.
“We’d done a good job with marketing, but she’s just taken it and revved it up,” he said.
He said her marketing education, combined with working with their previous marketing agency when she first began, has allowed her to branch off in the direction they all felt was best for the company. That vision mixed with Kukui’s industry and online experience helped Pickering’s adapt to customers’ increasing desire for transparency and digitized ease.
“She also took advantage of resources such as MOZ to better understand and implement more digital marketing, SEO and SEM practices. She’s become a real student in that regard to help improve our digital footprint, social media and all of the other online applications,” he said.
Repair Shop Solutions facilitates digital inspections and service proposals as well as text, email and invoicing for the company. Pickering said the company has been taking online appointments for six years now. Auto Apps Inc. interfaces directly with the shop’s management system, providing added technology and tools to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Pickering said, combined with Kukui, the shop has seen significant improvements in communication and follow through with customers receiving reminders, photos explaining proposed services and estimates all digitally.
“Being able to show them what’s going on digitally increases transparency, which is a great benefit to the customer, but we have noticed it slows efficiency which we’re working to improve,” he said.
Pickering said he sees the shops going paperless in the coming years. Between the use of R.O. Writer, Repair Shop Solutions and the Auto Apps Inc. platform, his shops see more seamless connections between the technicians, service team and the clients.
“Our goal is to bring information where people live: smart phones,” he said.
Within each location itself, Pickering said he sees room to grow efficiency, as well, with two to three lifts per tech at any given time.
His 10,500-square-foot Lakewood location features 16 bays, including a 16,000-pound extended lift he purchased explicitly to expand his service to more fleet vehicles, and a 12,000-pound lift.
It also boasts 256 solar panels and LED lighting. Such additions save them money long term, he said, but they also help Pickering’s set itself apart as an environmentally responsible, sustainable leader in the industry.
Pickering said the smaller Arvada shop features 10 lifts, including one heavy lift as well as LED lighting. Both facilities recycle their waste oil for heating.
Exit strategy with family interests
Pickering opened the Arvada location to accommodate an ownership transition scheduled for four years from now, when he hopes to pass Pickering’s on to his three children as a business profitable enough to support their families. The Arvada business is up 30 percent the past two years since having made significant changes such as marketing, making exterior improvements and bringing Jeff Randall on as a manager two years ago, setting it up for its first $1 million-revenue year.
Lakewood is on a similar track, set to bring in $2 million this year.
Trent Pickering serves as service manager at the Lakewood shop, and his brother, Brandon Pickering, is the operations and finance manager for both locations. The handoff will make the sibling trio the fifth generation in the family in the industry, the fourth in owning Colorado shops.
Training is paramount and required
Pickering pays techs an incentive-based pay, and requires 32 hours of training annually, mostly through NAPA and the Automotive Training Association. Pickering’s longest-standing tech, ASE-certified Master Tech Rick Applehans, has worked with the shop for 24 years.
“Any time we hire a tech, our goal is that they become a master-certified technician,” he said. “That’s our expectation if we bring that training to them. I want to know, if they leave from us, they’re better for having worked with us.”
Through his NAPA Elite Business Development Group, Pickering said he participates in on-site Elite Owner Support meetings four times per year, which he recently used to review and highlight areas of improvement for his Arvada shop. The group includes a network of 45 area shops.
“Local shops aren’t my competition, dealerships are,” he said. “I’ve had some of my customers for maybe 30 years now. If you want a supportive community, support your community. You’ve got to make it happen for your industry. If you want to be an island, you can. That’s just not our model.”