Standards are secret sauce to success
Citrus Heights, Calif.—The accolades are numerous for Kniesel’s Auto Service Centers: the three-location MSO has won The Best of Citrus Heights nine years in a row, KCRA A-List, Sacramento City Voter A-List, Angie’s List Super Service Award, and has 1600-plus five-star reviews.
“We have been blessed with increased business year over year,” said Brent Kniesel, president of the family-owned business. “We’ve seen increases in both gross sales and gross profit as well as seeing our total staff increase.”
Kniesel said the primary reason for the increase is the teams’ adherence to, and execution of established processes with every client and every car.
“We make every effort to follow the 300 percent rule, which means inspect 100 percent of the cars we see, estimate 100 percent of our inspection findings, and present them to 100 percent of our clients.”
With locations in Citrus Heights, Roseville, and Sacramento, the company has been developing a set of company standards for marketing and advertising pieces that includes new websites from Kukui and data service, as well as procedural content to continue to build on its strong name recognition.
“Our shops are very different, one to the next,” Kniesel said. “We make certain that company color pallets are followed and that similar decorating schemes are used, which ensures some continuity for the clients when visiting any of the three locations.”
The shops also service fleet accounts at each location, and because of the shop layout diversity, the actual fleets vary in volume, type, and need, and Kniesel has made that a focus over the past several years to encourage a more year-round business model.
Training opens doors to new profit centers
Training is key to the success of any business, particularly auto repair, and the company provides ongoing education for employees to keep pace with emerging technologies and, in turn, reap the opportunities for additional revenue.
“As newer vehicles that feature Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) come out of warranty, it will be critical for independent shops like ours to have the tools and the knowledge to provide diagnostic and repair services,” Kniesel said. “Ongoing education and having the right tools will be more critical than ever if we are to continue to offer our clients a viable alternative to the dealership.”
“We have also recently added services that we had to sublet in the past, such as ECM/PCM re-flash/updating.”
Training starts with management, and he is quick to give credit where credit is due.
“In 1999, I joined a 20 group, and for 13 years I connected with successful shop owners who supported me and helped us grow. I also worked with John Wafler of RLO Training who started as a Bottom-Line Impact Groups facilitator with the late Bob O’Connor.”
Proper tooling and parts partners
All shops are equipped with Hunter alignment systems, and updated software, Hunter tire and wheel mounting and balancing equipment, are STAR Certified Smog Test and Tune Stations, with Maha Dynos and ESP DADs, Official Lamp and Brake Adjusting Stations, and Preferred Installers for Tire Rack.
“In 2019, we are planning on replacing our alignment racks with the newest Hunter model and perhaps adding Hunter’s drive-over digital tire tread depth measuring system,” Kniesel said. “We lease the DADs from OPUS because they have an all-inclusive lease that includes maintenance and supplies.”
The shops subscribe to AllData, Mitchell ProDemand, Identifix, and iATN, and use Protractor and AutoServ1 for digital vehicle inspections (DVI) because it integrates with Protractor. Each shop also has an Autel Maxisys, a Snap-on Solus, and PC-based scan tools.
Parts and supplies are sourced from a number of vendors, including Kniesel’s primary supplier, Factory Motor Parts (FMP), as well as WORLDPAC, O’Reilly’s, Foreign Parts Specialties (FPS), and Riebe’s NAPA Auto Parts.
Attracting talent is full-time job
The biggest challenge Kniesel said he sees now, and in the future, is the shortage of highly skilled technicians, as much of the experienced population is aging out. While there is a steady trickle of young talent coming in, only time can close the gap.
“Attracting and keeping talented team members for us is a full time job. While the ever-increasing wage demands are a big piece of it, the environment, ongoing training, and a program that shows professional progress is what we have invested in to grow our own talent and retain the talent we have.”
There are one of only a handful of independent auto repair shops that can say they have been around for more than a half-century.
“Kniesel’s is a third-generation family-owned business, opened in 1965 by my grandfather, Richard Kniesel Sr., as Kniesel’s Sunrise Automotive with a mission to be the best choice for auto repair in the Citrus Heights area,” Kniesel said.
The business opened as an air-cooled VW/Porsche shop due to the family’s German roots, but as the times and clients’ needs changed, the shop grew into an all makes/all models full-service shop. The Roseville location opened in 2010, and the Sacramento location in 2012.
“My grandfather’s commitment to excellence was passed on to my father, Gary Kniesel, and then to me. We changed the name, but we continue to ensure that honest, quality service, and concern for the community guide everything we do.”