Nestled in a residential street on the outskirts of Faversham, Kent, is Bull Lane Garage – which you might guess is named after the street on which it resides.
Its home may look fairly small from simply driving past, but the business has done very well with the space available. With three ramps inside, one outside, space for vehicle diagnostics and an MOT bay, the team can carry out necessary work with ease.
Business is busier than ever, we’re running around a two-week lead time at the moment with seven or eight MOTs a day as well,” comments business owner Karl Weaver. “There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done, which is one reason why we need more staff!”
Indeed, it is only Karl and his business partner who do the majority of the work, while their third member of staff is part time, and actually works as a mobile mechanic who comes in when they are busy. “The challenge is finding someone competent, or even a trainee. There doesn’t seem to be the intake of quality people at the moment, which is a problem for the industry,” adds Karl.
Bull Lane’s location also works well. Within the village, there is only one other garage, based at a petrol station. However rather than competing, the two businesses work together. “We get on well with them, passing work between ourselves,” explains Karl. “They have more mechanical experience, we do a lot more electrical work and air conditioning. We do a lot of MOT and diagnostic work for other garages in the area. It seem the better you get with diagnostics, the more word seems to spread.”
The distance word spreads is also impressive, with Karl mentioning that some customers travel up to 25 miles simply to have Bull Lane work on their cars.
Looking to the future
As with any garage business today, keeping one eye in the present while looking to the future is essential, otherwise you can be caught napping when the time comes to invest in the future.
This is something that Bull Lane is only too aware of. The company has already secured franchise licences for the DPF Doctor, allowing the cleaning of diesel particulate filters on site, while also starting a separate business, Blue Flash Tuning, allowing engine remapping for performance and fuel saving benefits.
Then there is the need for additional training to stay in touch with automotive developments. Karl comments: “Training is absolutely vital, as is moving with the times. I haven’t done as much training as I would like over the last year and competitions have shown just how vital it is, so I’ll be putting more time and money into training for 2018 and beyond.”
“The next member of staff we employ I aim to encourage them to train as well. The way things are going, and the way systems are changing and electrical components are increasing, there has to be additional teaching to what you can offer in house. You can’t just be dependent on picking it up as you go any more, every hour in the workshop is vital today. I do spend a lot of my time in the evenings watching Frank Massey’s YouTube videos and things like that, which, together with books, have bulked up my learning over the years.”
When it comes to future proofing your business, and to training, one area is vital for many. As the UK government looks to remove as many diesel vehicles from the roads as possible, meaning manufacturers need to look elsewhere for CO2 reductions, electric and hybrid cars will start to become more prominent on the roads.
While there is still a small uptake, it’s worth remembering that the Toyota Prius has been in the UK for 15 years, while companies like Volkswagen are preparing to invest billions into electric vehicle development.
“It’s a whole new load of technology and until you’ve had the training so you can fully understand them you can’t work on them,” says Karl. “Having attended a couple of seminars on the technology, I feel confident about them, and will be doing training on that, it’s again a case of moving with the times.
“I want to earn the best income possible from the motor trade just like anyone does, so switching to hybrids and electrics is the best way forward for that. But it’s important to make sure we’re ahead of the game, not leaving it to the point where we’re forced to go down that road. At the same time we need to look after our existing customers.”
You can follow Bull Lane Garage on their Facebook page or contact the team on 01227 751 537