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Staying On Your A-Game

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the August 2015 issue of Transmission Digest.

"He is on his A game." What does that mean ? I hear it all the time. How would I know if i am on my A game ? I mean, I might be on my D game at my age and not even know it. What are the rules ? Where do you take the test ? What is the criteria? It all sounds pretty confusing to me. That's why I called on Corey Turner of Drivetrain Technology to help me figure this out. He has been in the industry for 14 years as both a shop owner and marketing guy. Of all the people I know, he would be my " go to guy " on this. He's a guy that I feel like is pretty much on his A game all the time if there ever was one. He stays on top of the new technology we use in the shops and brings, what I would picture an " A game" to look like , to the table every time I work with him. Since much of our future success will depend on our grasp of new technology, let's do another interview with Cory and pick his brain to see what he thinks being on your "A game " means to today's transmission shop owner.

Question: How does a shop owner stay on his A-Game?

Answer: It is easy to get into the habit of doing the same thing week after week and coming in Monday to start "fire fighting". To compete in our industry in the long-term, you do have to be good at about "12 different things" and have a great team at your shop. Marketing wise, shops that are making it every week are on top of Internet marketing and are using every avenue available to generate new leads: SEO, Mobile Websites. Drive traffic using pay-per-click from Google Adwords & Bing Ads. List free service ads at Craigslist & List your shop on platforms such as Angie's List,,,, Use pay-per-lead services like & Enhance your shop with certifications such as ATRA, ATSG and AAA Approved. Use Call Tracking and Recording systems (like IfByPhone, Twilio, CallRail, etc) to know what marketing sources are bringing results. Offer financing options and spend time on the phone with each new potential customer to maximize your appointment show-ups.

Question: What do you do at Drivetrain on a daily basis?

Answer: I talk to transmission shop owners about marketing + lead generation and also customers themselves who are having transmission problems. My challenge is to figure out new ideas on what it takes to make more customers go to transmission rebuild shops instead of dealers and general repair shops.

Question: What do most shop owners and managers miss when talking to potential customers?

Answer: I talk to transmission shop owners about marketing + lead generation and also customers themselves who are having transmission problems. My challenge is to figure out new ideas on what it takes to make more customers go to transmission rebuild shops instead of dealers and general repair shops.

Question: What do most shop owners and managers miss when talking to potential customers?

Answer: Not offering financing options. You should have financing options at your shop. Last survey we did in December showed that around 40% of transmission repair shops offered no form of financing to customers. Just mentioning that you have financing options will increase appointment shows. CarCareOne, Springleaf, Cross-Check, EasyPay, Globalcheck, Secure Payment Systems and local title loan companies are some options. Another thing missed is not offering remans as an option. There are a percentage of customers out there who want a reman specifically.

Question: What is the #1 investment you can make in your shop in 2015?

Answer: Invest in a commercial grade video for your website. For anywhere from $1500 - $3500 you can find a local video producer or freelancer to come to your shop and produce it. Upload it to Youtube with the title "Transmission Repair {your city name} to get high listings on Google over time. You can use a service like Wistia to host the video on your website so you can see statistics on how it is being viewed. A professional video is a big expense in the short-term but it will pay off big dividends in the long run.

Question: Do you have any ideas on how a shop can become more profitable?

Answer: If you need more leads, the Internet is the place you need to be these days. If you already have a steady amount of leads, look for different parts sources and add on profitable general repairs (brakes, air conditioning) to add to your cash flow. Another idea is to scale down to a smaller, lower-rent shop. It is easy to be "busy and broke" in our business with high fixed costs like payroll and rent, while trying to survive during those "peaks and valleys, feast or famine" weeks that our industry is notorious for. If most of your leads come from the Internet, scaling down from the high-rent, high-visibility location on the main road will probably not hurt your bottom line much.

Question: Should a transmission shop advertise for general repairs?

Answer: That depends on a lot of things, but these days I would say "yes". If you have not started marketing for general repairs yet, start with what is more profitable in your area and what your current techs have experience with, like brakes, air conditioning, etc. You could sign up on free to start quoting more general repair or try the RepairPal Certified Shop program.

Question: What is some advice to shop owners who have customers who call but do not show up for appointments?

Answer: High-tech marketing automation. Every customer who fills out the form on your website or calls your shop should get an friendly (but automated) text and/or e-mail from you or your manager with your shop information, address, website link and phone number. This will drive more calls, more appointment shows and ultimately more jobs since this information "stays" on their smart phone. If they call several different shops, you are likely the only one who will send them that text and they will likely call you / remember you over a competitor.

Question: How do you set up automated texting + emailing ?

Answer: Talk to your website person/agency. For the do-it-yourselfers, research Twilio and Callrail for texting. Mailchimp is great for automated e-mailing and it is easy to set up from your website. You can also look into integration systems like Zapier to bring it all together. Check out or Demandforce for texting automation that is built for shops and also keeps your customer informed during the repair process.

Question: How should a shop owner or manager deal with Internet price shoppers?

Answer: Talk about their vehicle problems and ask good questions. Spend time with the customer. Quote a "worst-case-scenario" remanufactured price plus installation first. Then quote to rebuild the transmission using a realistic ballpark range. Mention your financing options and why they should do business with you. Offer to text message your shop information and address to them. Consider: If this customer calls around to your competitor who does not quote prices on the phone, who are they more likely to go to? The shop that gave up-front, straightforward pricing, offered financing, text messaged them, asked great questions, or the shop who will not tell them anything regarding the price they might have to pay? Not quoting prices on the phone may work with certain types of customers such as referrals. But not most Internet price shoppers.

Question: Where do you think the transmission business is headed over the next 10 years?

Answer: There is no question that more and more of the business seems to be (and probably is) going to dealers and general repair shops who are installing both remans and used units. The rebuild shops who stay on their marketing A-Game, and keep their costs down, will continue to have enough leads to survive and evolve. The shops who do not stay on their A-game will probably see their lead count and job count shrink more and more each year as more of the business goes to dealers and general repair shops. Unfortunately, we are in an industry that gets more and more difficult every year--not easier….

Question: Is the transmission slowly becoming a replaceable part?

Answer: While some people think so, I don't think the transmission shop will ever go the way of the radiator shop. I believe rebuilding will be around for decades to come, and it still will be profitable, but it will be a smaller and more specialized group of shops doing it who keep up with the newer model transmissions and stay on their marketing A-game. The shop of the future will more than likely offer reman, rebuild and used options.

Question: If you were to open a transmission shop today, how would you do it?

Answer: When I had my shop for 4 years, my rent, payroll and parts bill was too high and I was always trying to get more volume. I'd opt for a lower-rent, lower-overhead location. Hire multi-talented employees who can also do general repairs. Invest in an Internet advertising budget, a great website and a commercial grade video. I would shop parts suppliers better and more often. I would install remans and also advertise for them, possibly even used units to capture that side of the business. I would offer several financing options. I would advertise for profitable general repairs (air conditioning, brakes, etc) to slowly build up a regular customer base. I would line up a few good wholesale accounts from used car lots to level out the slow weeks. I might even offer mobile mechanic / diagnostic services for what appears to be a growing demand for convenience (Check out

Question: Should a transmission shop install remans?

Answer: There is a percentage of customers out there who want nothing else but a reman. They want the long 3 year warranty and the peace of mind of nationwide coverage. Plenty of dealers and general repair shops are installing remans to satisfied customers every day. On the marketing side, if you are not offering remans as an option or offering them on your initial phone call, you are missing out on the reman-only customer. Another reason to be set up with a reman supplier are those newer, difficult-to-rebuild and difficult-to-find-parts-for units. I'm not saying you should make remans your #1 option, but by having it as an option will drive more customers.

Question: What do potential customers want when searching online for transmission repair options?

Answer: Cost. Prices. Estimates. Quotes. Financing options. Nearby shops with good reviews and certifications. Straightforward answers. Longer warranties. BBB. AAA Approved. Repair options (rebuild, reman, used). Every lead is a little different but it is the manager or owner's job to figure out what it takes to turn those leads into jobs.

Question: Let's say none of that works. What is your recommended exit strategy for a transmission shop owner?

Answer: List it for sale at a reasonable price. Listing a shop for sale is easier than you think. You can list it on Craigslist in the For Sale / Business category or on TransTeam. Contact a competitor who might be interested. Call a licensed business broker. Talk to an capable employee. Owner finance it if needed and stay on for a period of time to make a smooth-as-possible transition.

Well, I told you. Corey has an A game . If you want to contact Corey you can send him an email at . Listen, it is not a bad idea for some of us old guys who used to know everything ( or at least thought we did ) to bring in some young blood to help us nowadays. This year I have collaborated with him and developed online training for my employee members and a new way for my shop owner members to get wholesale jobs off the internet. I have learned a lot from him. He keeps me on my toes ( That is what the old guys call their A game). We can all learn new ways to improve our game and it looks like we are going to have to if we want to survive. I know you feel overloaded already but, I think it would be to your advantage to take a little time and look into some of these ideas to get your A game going on now and become more competitive so you will have a future to look forward to.

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