Snellville Auto Center in Snellville, GA is the newest of three shops owned by Dean Robinson. The shop opened in its current location in 1997 and is managed by the founder’s son, Brent Robinson. Brent is proud of the business and the shop, and rightfully so.
“We’re the first AAA-approved center in Georgia, and all three of our shops are now AAA approved.” They have also been a NAPA AutoCare center for 10 years. Equipment and appearance standards must be met to attain both of these credentials.
Type of work
The shop is clean and tidy, with 14 bays and almost all of the equipment any tech would want, including a chassis dyno for emissions testing. However, they currently have only three full-time techs because, as Brent said, “we’re running a little lean with the economy the way it is.”
That said, Brent thinks the economy may have affected his customers in ways that have helped his business. “Car payments are not something that’s appealing. It used to be that a $1,000 repair was the breaking point where people would trade in the car instead of fixing it. Now that point is about two or three thousand … they’re willing to take care of their car because it’s the only one they’ve got and they don’t want to buy another one.”
Snellville is almost a suburb of Atlanta, and Brent says most of his customers are “just everyday people, regular families.” However, their customer base also includes a few small fleets of church buses and daycare buses, plus a few light trucks. When asked if they specialize in any particular kind of work, Brent said “Our specialty is just treating people the way we want to be treated and establishing relationships. We do anything the car needs: engines, transmissions, brakes, whatever. We don’t do body work, but if a customer has a minor fender-bender and doesn’t have the money to fix it, we’ve been known to help them put humpty-dumpty back together.”
New tools in the shop
This past year Brent purchased a new John Bean alignment system, the first alignment machine they’ve had at that shop. Previously they subbed-out all their alignment work. “It’s a big expense,” Brent said, but he expects the ROI to be about two or three years. “The scissor lift that goes with it has helped us get some good front end work.”
They also recently purchased a subscription to Demand Force Automotive, which Brent considers a major advantage. It’s a marketing and communications system that automatically syncs with a shop management system, allowing the shop to communicate with their customers through various channels.
“I can send out Facebook notes, newsletters, postcards and texts…it keeps track of our customers (visits) and will send them a survey and a chance to write a review that gets posted to the website.” Customers can also make appointments or refer a friend, and it’s all monitored.
Even with all this sophisticated equipment and business software, Brent values his people the most. “Good people are the most important tools, and you can’t buy them, you have to grow them.” But he understands those good people need good tools. “We’ve had hourly technicians that have nothing, so we’ve seen the value of having the right tool for the job.”