Steger goes for the ‘Gold’
St. Louis—Sometimes the best way to beat the competition is to just buy them out.
As Chris Steger’s shop, Steger Service, has grown, so has the need for expansion. Steger recently acquired a former Midas facility across the street which, for many years, was the source of the shop’s most direct competition.
“This is something we are really looking forward to. Having the extra shop now will allow us to better service our current customers as well as help take on new clients and walk-ins,” he said.
The new facility, which Steger calls “Building B”, has six working bays, a larger parking area, and bigger office space. The acquisition also included drive-on lifts, a Coats tire machine and Coats tire balancer.
“We are planning on investing a lot into this new facility, particularly with new service equipment. We are looking at flush machines, sensor-specific diagnostic equipment, and equipment to be able to program computers and sensors. We have plenty of state-of-the-art equipment at “Building A” that has allowed us to be as successful as we are and we can’t wait to get everything going over there.”
Steger said that adding a second location even in close proximity can be logistically challenging. “We have a new phone system, a centralized server, and we are all still working out the kinks. We have also had to help customers figure out which building to go to and the parts deliveries are now going to two different locations. It’s a work in progress for sure.”
Pursuing new NAPA ‘Gold’ designation
Helping to take the sting out, though, is something Steger accredits to NAPA. “NAPA has been a huge part in making this acquisition a success. We had some funding left in our BDG account and we were able to use that to help in remodeling Building B. We will be adopting the NAPA blue and yellow color scheme, and new signage was just installed. They are also helping us stock the new shop with normal wear items and batteries as well as presenting us with new equipment options.”
Steger’s relationship with NAPA goes back to 2006 when he decided to partner with them as a NAPA AutoCare Center. “We ran independently for years and were very successful, but it seemed like we hit a plateau as far as sales go and were looking for something to put us over the top. NAPA was that push and we haven’t regretted the decision since.
“We are actually working toward becoming a NAPA Gold Automotive Service Center. They rolled this program out on the East Coast earlier this year and have already selected one other St. Louis-area shop to be a member. You must meet a very strict set of guidelines that NAPA puts out.”
Among the requirements and vetting process, he said NAPA checks a shop’s books to make sure financials are in order, the shop must perform digital inspections (Steger Service uses Bolt-On Technology), receive positive customer feedback, promote cleanliness and functionality, and must be a NAPA AutoCare Center in good standing.
With this distinction comes many new programs as well as a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty through NAPA’s nationwide warranty program. “That will give us a huge advantage in our area,” Steger said.
Steger takes this time of year as a chance to educate customers on the importance of maintaining brakes, suspension, and tires.
“Educating customers is a huge part of our success. Being honest with them and showing them exactly what they need or will need is critical to keeping their trust. This is especially easy to do now that we have implemented the digital inspections. We can show a customer exactly what the issue or upcoming problems will be and help them make decisions regarding replacing worn parts such as brakes, tires, and shocks,” he said.
Tires are more of a commodity for Steger, but he does stock a small supply. “ITD does a great job of getting us what we need. The profit margin on tires is what it is. It is one of those things, though. People need tires and tires do what tires are meant to do, so there isn’t much to it,” he said.
Sharing shop performance
Steger displays weekly gross profit compared to the technician hours on a wall for all staff to see.
“We like to let the guys see what they are getting done and what they can accomplish going forward. We have a bonus system in place where if they meet certain goals within this GP tracking they are rewarded as well,” he said.
The average RO for the shop is $380 and the weekly car count is between 40 and 50 with both numbers expected to rise as the new shop is established. The sustained success of the shop does not go their heads though.
Steger said he and his staff are quick to help in their community for those in need.
“We recently partnered with Christian Family Services. They help people get a second chance in life or help those who want to help themselves but just do not have the resources. Obviously, we are people that work on cars and we don’t work on people, so we thought it would be best if we helped with getting a car fixed for someone in need. We volunteered our time and got a vehicle going for a young lady who is going to be going to college and making her life better and it was a pretty cool deal. NAPA also helped with donations to the cause.”