Iowa shop receives 2013 ‘Facility of the Year’ award

Business strategy includes OEM scan tool investment

and building tire sales

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Indianola, Iowa—Tim Davison of Chumbley’s Auto Care said his business philosophy can be summed up in the fable of the lion and the gazelle: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up, and it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Unlike the lion and the gazelle, Davison noted, he has the ability to map out and strategize how to not only survive, but also thrive. And that may explain why his shop, a NAPA AutoCare Center, was recently recognized as the 2013 ASA-Midwest “Facility of the Year” at the ASA-Midwest Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo in Overland Park, Kan., in March.

One of the keys to success is that Chumbley’s, which is also a AAA Approved Auto Repair Top Shop, is service-ready for the vehicle makes and models that make up the bulk of his business, Davison said.

“We scrubbed our database to find out what we were working on the most,” Davison said, adding that it consisted primarily of the Detroit Three, with Toyota and Honda both gaining market share. “We then used that information to buy tooling, which only makes sense.”

After reviewing the numbers, Davison said he worked with Jeff Ferguson, owner of Repair Shop Solutions in St. Charles, Iowa, from whom he purchased a number of OEM scan tools, including the GM Tech II, Ford IDS, Chrysler DRB3, and Toyota Techstream Lite.

In the automotive repair world, where time equals money, Davison said such tools are a necessity.

“In our shop right now, each technician is worth $3 to $4 per minute,” he said. “So if they are struggling because of poor information or poor tools, then how many of those minutes does it take before it pays to have the right information and the correct tools for the job?”

At that rate, the purchase of a $4,000 OEM scan tool suddenly makes more sense, said Davison, who implements a complete diagnostic strategy to go along with a new scan tool, from the vendor he buys the tool from to technical and sales training for his staff.

“Jeff Ferguson at Repair Shop Solutions has been a huge asset,” he said. “When we buy something from him, he is only a phone call away, and if we get stuck on something, he’ll walk us through it, or bail us out.”

 Technicians are also encouraged to take new scan tools home in order to become familiar with them in their spare time, rather than on the job, he said.

When it comes to selling diagnostic work to his customers, Davison said the key is providing value.

“We want to give our customer something tangible, rather than just selling them an hour of time,” he said. “For level one diagnostics, for example, we explain the specific items we are going to check, such as updates for the PCM, fuel conditions, fuel pressure, and spark plugs. After that, if they haven’t found anything solid, it goes on to level two diagnostics.”

Davison said he currently has three technicians and two service advisors on staff, and he is looking to add a fourth technician to accommodate the 360 and more cars serviced monthly in the six-bay shop.

He said the next technician will most likely focus on tires, a growing segment at Chumbley’s since bringing on Service Advisor Evan Wells, who has a background in the tire industry.

“Evan came from Iowa Tire, and he brought customers, along with some tire skills that we didn’t have, and it has helped to triple my tire business,” said Davison, who buys primarily through TCi in Des Moines.

“We had our big toe in the tire business, and now we are getting further in, and still growing it,” said Davison, who is currently selling a set of tires daily.

Entering new market segments and investing in new tools and equipment is not occurring just in the shop though, he said. Chumbley’s also recently added new technology for his customers in the waiting area.

“We put in a Wi-Fi computer bar, with a couple computers so customers can apply for the NAPA EasyPay credit card program, and take the AAA survey before they leave the facility,” Davison said, adding that customers will also be able to surf the Internet while they wait.

Much has changed at Chumbley’s Auto Care, previously Chumbley’s Conoco, since Davison purchased the three-bay gas and service station from Wilbur Chumbley in 1999. But the Indianola staple has maintained some of the classic feel through its décor, reminiscent of the 1950s, when the service station opened. Chumbley’s tagline plays on the longevity of the business and the quality service it has offered over the years: “Good Service Never Goes Out of Style.”

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