The foundations of success

Andy considers the fundamental pillars of success for an independent workshop

Running a successful independent garage business can be difficult, but once the foundations that underpin any successful business are in place it becomes much easier. But what are these foundations?

I have read plenty of literature on this subject and while every guru has their own solution they are generally based on similar principles. My Atomic Success program considers these fundamental topics:

The Vision (Planning)

Measuring Performance


The order is deliberate, success depends on the strength of The Vision, and the plans to achieve it. Financial stability is next – you need to know your numbers. As a business grows it needs to create order, in the form of systems and processes. Measuring the performance of your business is vital, because what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets mastered. Finally, without customers even the best business will fail, so it is essential to have a marketing strategy that attracts and retains the right sort of customers.

Why should you bother building solid foundations?
The very survival of your business could depend on it… The office for National Statistics produces data on the 5-Year survival rates for businesses, the latest data shows that less than 40% of businesses born in 2015 had survived to 2020, see Figure 1.

Figure 1

The Business Vision

What exactly is it? It is a planning tool that outlines where you would like your business to be in 10 years’ time. Or, when it is time to retire, when you plan to pass that business on to somebody else, either by selling it or handing it down.

The vision is the long-term goal or the best possible version of the business and you use the vision to help set your goals. If your vision is your 10-year plan, your goals are how you will achieve your ten-year plan.

You set 3-year goals, which are interim steps of how you’re going to achieve your Vision. This allows you to break the big, audacious vision into a detailed 1-year Plan. This is then broken down into what must be done in the next 90 days, to what needs to be done this week, right down to the to-do list.

Without a vision, goal setting becomes really difficult, if not impossible, which is possibly why people simply don’t do it.

It is just too abstract without a Vision...

Successful businesses use their vision to communicate ‘Why’ they do what they do. Building a business where everyone knows the Vision, and what part they are required to play in achieving on a daily, weekly, yearly or 3-year planning cycle, builds a culture of open communication reporting and team spirit.


Why do you need to know your numbers? The best example I can give is probably the TV program Dragon’s Den. Have you ever seen a really good pitch? The business owners get up there, they seem to have a great product and they know all the technical details about it. They’ve done all the research on the market and the Dragons look like they are about to give make an offer. Yet, they seem to come unstuck when the Dragons start asking simple questions about their numbers. This has always struck me as being somewhat peculiar because surely everybody knows these basic figures that the dragons ask for, however, it appears not all business people know their numbers.

Identify the financial numbers you should be tracking…
This requires you to examine your business and look at what’s important to you and your current situation. Unfortunately, without knowing your exact circumstances it is impossible to tell you what numbers you should be tracking.

As a start, you should at least track:

1. Profit
2. Turnover
3. Sales (Number of Sales & Average Sales Value)

4. Expenses (Cost of Doing Business) 5. Parts Margin
6. Cash Reserve

Building Systems

What is a system? Systems are the operating manual for your business.

The aim of a system is to get the same result every time, no matter who does the work

Why do we need systems? The primary reason for building systems is so your staff know what to do and how to do it. A system makes it easier for the business to scale.

Employees do the same thing as the business owner would have been doing previously, to the same standard within a fixed framework.

Creating systems is a great training opportunity in itself for you and your staff to look at ways of improving your current processes and implementing new systems or improving existing ones. It also provides is the opportunity for in- house training.

Somebody who doesn’t do the job as often can then learn from the person who is probably more expert in that role – an ideal training opportunity. What’s more, it is free in terms of your time, and probably improves the effectiveness of the process being taught.

Measuring Performance

How is performance measured in business? Key Performance Indicators, sometimes known as KPIs, are used to measure the performance of your business. You need to identify the key areas within the business and see how they are performing using comparators. Typical comparators are:

Industry norms

The average performance within the independent automotive industry

Previous data from the business

Comparing last year, or the last quarter, to current performance

Once you start measuring anything within your business, you start to manage the outcomes, once you start managing outcomes you begin to master that aspect of the business.

Garage Management Systems provide data that can be used as KPI’s. The six financial numbers are also great starting points for measuring business performance.

Marketing Strategy

The final foundation piece is marketing. This is how we find, win, and keep our customers. Every business needs to sell its goods and services in order to generate cash. Garages are no exception. Gone are the days of placing an advert or listing in the phone directory and waiting for the phone to ring (have you noticed that fewer garages are called A1 Garage Services now, for that very reason).

You need a Marketing Strategy, a method of reaching your ideal customer with a message from your business explaining how you solve their problem. This requires you to identify your ideal customer, where they hang out, and what problem you solve for them.

Once you have this information you can plan how you will reach your ideal customers. If you measure the results, you can refine this process until you have a reliable, repeatable customer attraction and retention process.

The number of channels and the ease at which you can reach your best prospects is what I call the Marketing Paradox. It has never been easier for businesses to place themselves in front of their ideal prospects, the same is true of your competitors. Everyone is competing for your ideal customer’s attention, not just your competitors but everyone.

Your digital marketing has to attract, capture and hold their attention long enough to make an impression. No easy task.

Want to find out more?
Andy’s ‘Atomic Success’ program helps garage owners become more successful in business, providing the support and tools required to make incremental gains that lead to massive results.

Want to take back control of your business? Join the Garage Owners Network and take advantage of the FREE video training.

Autotech – Flex your tech skills in 2022

Now in its sixth year, autotech has provided technicians with the means to assess their knowledge and diagnostic process using free, online assessments, and delivered technical information to address any shortfall within autotechnician magazine, online and digital media, at its live ‘Big Weekend’ training events and via its autotech online technical videos on YouTube.

An evolving bank of online assessments created by independent automotive trainers are available free of charge to technicians. Topics covered include: The Selective Catalytic Reduction system, Hybrid & EV technology, Testing electrical components,Oscilloscope use, Common sensors used in spark ignition engine management systems, LIN Bus, CAN Bus, as well as an ignition and diesel case study.

To access the existing bank of 14 tests, all you need to do is enter a few brief details about yourself at, we’ll verify your email address then you’re in! Simply log in if you have been previously registered.

The online test is completely confidential and you’ll receive your scores and correct answers to see the areas which you perhaps fell down on. Explanations of each answer are also provided. The online resource is refreshed regularly and will include questions for all levels of ability from those just entering the world of advanced repair to top techs.

Keep an eye out in the magazine and on social media for further incentives to take a quiz!

Can you crack the P0303 fault code?

Challenge your diagnostic process and system knowledge with our brand-new multiple choice autotech assessment available at The confidential assessment is presented as a case study, centring around the P0303 fault code. The questions are structured to reflect a real-life fault within the workshop and have been designed to examine your procedures, diagnostic tool use, in addition to your knowledge of gasoline direct injection systems and coil-on-plug ignition systems.

To access this new test, and a further 13, all you need to do is enter a few brief details about yourself at, we’ll verify your email address then you’re in! Or simply log in if you have been previously registered.

“ACtronics are pleased to be continuing our sponsorship with Autotech for 2022. As the market leaders in remanufacturing electronic automotive components, not only do we offer a first-class solution for garages, but we also support first class training and technical support for the automotive trade. It’s more important than ever for technicians to have access to world-class training and ACtronics are very happy to work alongside Autotech to provide this. It’s important that we all work together to futureproof garages ready for the changes ahead.”

“Blue Print and febi are thrilled to be sponsoring Autotech again in 2022. We understand the pressure on technicians to keep ahead of the ever-changing world of vehicle repairs and components. autotech allows us to share technical information directly with the best technicians in the industry, enabling them to stay one step ahead and continue to provide efficient professional repairs.”

“Delphi Technologies is delighted to have renewed its sponsorship of Autotech in 2022. As a pioneer of OE technology, we are in the perfect position to support technicians through the new challenges that they are facing. Whether it be the servicing of hybrid and electric vehicles or the calibration of ADAS components, Delphi Technologies offers the training, diagnostics, and technical support to guide technicians through the challenge.”

“Sponsoring Autotech is a perfect fit. JLM Lubricants’ products, including the pioneering DPF range and professional DPF cleaning toolkit, have been developed for the trade, are tested by the trade and supported with technical information and training via the JLM Academy plus the extensive suite of online training videos – created by mechanics working in a diagnostics’ driven environment. Contact Kalimex UK distributors of JLM products for anything JLM related, including technical questions and training.”

“VARTA Batteries are delighted to be sponsoring Autotech once again in 2022. VARTA the world’s largest automotive battery manufacturer works closely with nearly all vehicle manufacturers to supply their batteries as original equipment. The very same batteries are delivered into the aftermarket, so when replacing the original battery with a VARTA, you can be sure it’s a like-for-like quality. The team at VARTA will be on- hand at Autotech’s Big Weekend later this year to discuss the latest developments in battery technology.”

autotechnician will bring a group of technicians, workshop owners, trainers and aftermarket suppliers together again this September to share ideas, inspire and have some fun whilst learning about emerging technology and new opportunities. Content will also be devoted to the fundamentals that underpin success.
If you would like to know as soon as the dates are confirmed and one & two-day subsidised tickets are available, simply email
autotechnician has created seven technical videos with the help of Andy Crook, Darren Darling, HEVRA’s Pete Melville, Matt Cleevely and autotech sponsors. These include presentations on scoping techniques, EV thermal management, ADAS recalibration, preparing for EV business, battery testing, wheel bearing replacement and DPF issues.
Search forautotechnician magazine on or visit the channel directly on

Training & Support – Garage Gurus

Federal-Mogul Motorparts launched its Garage Gurus support service at Automechanika Frankfurt, a no-cost platform that aims to give comprehensive support tools for technicians and workshop owners. 

UK workshops can initially benefit from ‘Gurus Online’, a technical training site that can help develop knowledge of automotive systems, components and maintenance. The website includes interactive learning modules, technical tips and troubleshooting video guides. 

It hopes to bring its Gurus On-the-Go to the UK next year, a fleet of equipped vans that will tour workshops giving interactive demonstrations on the latest tools, parts and technologies. 

Technical specialists are available by phone or Skype, the Gurus On-Call can provide fast answers for product and diagnostic questions, find your local phone number on or via Skype through: gurus_on_call. 

“The main purpose of Garage Gurus is to engage with and assist the mechanics with grease on their hands, the ones installing parts 9-5 each week,” explains Trade and Technical Services Manager Marijn Staal. “Even the most experienced technicians know that you never stop learning, so we want to be the go-to resource for technical information and support they can count on.”