CONWAY — Supply chain issues combined with labor shortages compounded by the pandemic. Rising prices due to inflation. A move to more computerized parts and more electronic vehicles.
It’s a lot for small business owners in the automotive aftermarket (businesses that serve customers once their vehicles leave a dealer’s lot) to contend with.
To help automotive aftermarket shop owners cope in today’s market, NAPA Mount Washington Valley hosted a two-day seminar by auto repair shop expert Vin Waterhouse on Feb. 3-4 at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway.
Waterhouse of Londonderry is president and founder of The Waterhouse Group, an automotive accounting, training and consulting company. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the automotive aftermarket and has written several manuals on asset management. His specialty is working with auto repair shop owners, parts store owner and outside sales people.
A Navy veteran and 1972 Plymouth State graduate with a degree in business, Waterhouse is author of “The Labor Factory” and the “NAPA exclusive AutoCare Financial GPS.” His workshops reportedly have revolutionized the way professional technicians and shop owners interact with their parts suppliers.
He has offered workshops exclusively for NAPA for the past 20 years.
In addition to his North Conway workshop earlier this month, he is scheduled to present a talk March 14-15 in Bangor, Maine.
“We had about 24 people and 12 automotive repair shops represented at the forum along with members of the NAPA Maine sales team and ourselves,” said Bill Perry, sales manager and co-owner of NAPA MWV, a local company with stores in Conway, Redstone and Fryeburg, Maine.
Those shops include NAPA Auto Parts Conway, just south of the Ham Ice Arena on West Main Street in Conway Village; NAPA Auto Parts Redstone, at 512 Eastman Road; and NAPA Fryeburg Auto Parts & Truck Supply, at 285 Main St.
The event at the Red Jacket “was for local automotive repair shops to learn how to become more efficient and to better serve their customers without raising prices,” said Perry.
The first day focused on financial management and the second was interactive, with groups breaking out to learn how shop owners can be more efficient. where expenses can be cut and how to facilitate time management.
“The bottom line was how can shops increase their efficiency to make more money,” said Perry. “The feedback we received from attendees was excellent.”
Waterhouse told the Sun after the event that he has been doing workshops for NAPA since 2000.
Waterhouse said he understands it can be challenging to analyze your business’s profitability, but it needs to be done and he shows participants how to do that.
“One thing I always tell those who attend my classes is that you are always overwhelmed running a small business and you always will be: the only way to get control of it is make a commitment to analyzing the financials of your business one hour a day,” he said.
“It’s like committing to exercising. A little at a time.”
NAPA gave each attendee $440 in products that helped to offset the $595 course fee, making it an attractive way to expand their knowledge while giving up two days of work.
Waterhouse said with the transition to electronic vehicles coming up fast, there will be ever more changes in the aftermarket business.
“The bottom line is it’s been harder to make a profit in the aftermarket auto business not just due to COVID but a couple of other things,” said Waterhouse. explaining as vehicles have evolved to electric vehicles they need fewer parts, impacting the aftermarket.
He pointed out the average internal combustion engine vehicle has 28,000- 30,000 parts. But the average electric vehicle, say a Tesla, has only 7,000-10,000 parts, Waterhouse said.
“As we morph toward electric vehicles, shops are going to sell fewer and fewer parts per driven mile and they’re going to sell fewer parts per vehicle because there’s two -hirds less parts,” he said. “Yet repair shop expenses are continuing to rise no matter what.”
The good news, he said, is “as we evolve, you make your money in labor not in parts, just as carpenters, plumbers and lawyers have figured out. If you hire a carpenter, they don’t care whether you got the wood or they got the wood — they make it on the labor. They figured it out a long time ago.”
Perry said NAPA Mount Washington Valley will continue to sponsor workshops and offer programs for customers.
“We will work to keep our customers informed and to give them the tools and training to stay competitive, so stay tuned for upcoming events,” said Perry.