Carl Wilcock, Wilco Motors
How does an owner run a garage singlehanded? Like this…
One man, one business, one system.
When Carl Wilcock inherited Wilco Autos from his father Rod, the garage had become more of a hobby fulfilling one or two jobs a week for loyal customers and friends. In less than a year, it has become a thriving local business.
Wilco Autos has been carrying out car repairs in Kenilworth and Leamington and the surrounding areas since 1978. However, like many garages, it relied purely on word of mouth and functioned with a paper-based diary system with invoices written by hand. When Carl made the decision to continue his father’s legacy, he also vowed to make it a modern business with similar processes he had learned from several years of experience in automotive retail and roadside repair.
Carl had worked in aftersales in the franchised sector for several years with marques such as Vauxhall, Ford, Land Rover and Jaguar, achieving master technician status. One of his roles included undertaking aftersales audits and he also spent six years as a roadside repairer for the RAC. It has meant he has been exposed to and worked with a number of systems which large corporations have in place to make processes more efficient and fully audited as well as providing a mechanism to measure productivity and performance.
In at the deep end
“It was quite a shock to take over a business which had nothing in place from an operational perspective,” explained Carl. “I went from using some of the most sophisticated and well developed systems in the automotive sector where information is readily accessible as well as making each business, department and individual fully accountable, to an old fashioned desk diary, pen and paper.”
Carl realised if the business was to be a success, he would have to modernise its approach, but didn’t have the budget to make a huge amount of investment. So he began his search for a suitable cloud-based system which could fulfil the kind of processes he had been working with for several years on a micro level. He came across CarVue and immediately signed up, being among the first traders to go live in April 2014.
CarVue has revolutionised how Carl operates the business enabling him to implement the processes he wanted without being expensive or inflexible to the needs of a sole trader.
He explained: “CarVue provides everything I need. For a small trader to be able replicate the kind of systems and processes typically at work in a larger business is perfect. It has enabled my small garage to adopt efficient processes more associated with a larger business.
“The biggest impact CarVue has had on the business is the ability to invoice and link the job to the customer and the car creating a record which can be easily referenced in the future.
“The business now undertakes one or two jobs a day, usually a vehicle repair or service, and that’s just me on my own. Being able to generate a professional looking invoice is an important part of the perception of the business as I look to grow over the next few years. I am also making strides in developing a database which had never existed in the past; I began the database by going through my dad’s invoices from the previous 12-months’ accounts and inputting customer information. Now as soon as a new customer comes through the door, I upload their details. My database is small but it is growing and just knowing how many customers we have, who they are and the cars they drive is a vast improvement. Building a database is a priority and CarVue is providing me the functionality to put that together. We are just coming up to our first year which means I will soon be sending out my first batch of MOT and service reminders.
“CarVue also enables me to take a snapshot of the business’ performance; the turnover isn’t huge but is healthy for a one-man band. However, understanding its profitability at regular intervals helps me plan. All the administration is also in one place keeping the business organised and relatively paper-free.
“The real beauty, though, is that I never have to worry about any malfunctions or development issues, it’s all taken care of on my behalf. When I worked for manufacturers, we had an IT department who liaised with those of us who worked in the sharp end but then developed a system they thought the job required which invariably fell short of the mark. The CarVue developers seek out the opinions of their customers and really listen to the issues and ideas which they then put into practice effectively enabling us to develop the system so it is absolutely tailored to our needs.”