To our amazingly awesome Repair Revolution Customers,
We are writing to give you some updates about the shop. In alignment with one of our core values of transparency it feels vitally important to share with you exciting news along with some of our business challenges we have endured over the past couple years. We are grateful to be able to celebrate our successes, share our struggles, show up when community needs us, and ask for support from our community when we need it. That last one is the hardest part. If you keep reading to the end you will see that we are hoping you can support us with your brilliant ideas, connections, and potentially financial support.
GSBA Business of the Year!
Like many small businesses, surviving the pandemic has been excruciatingly difficult. Your support and continued words of encouragement have gotten us through. Thank you for laughing with us at the front counter, showing us your appreciation by being our customers and for your continued patience with us when you have to wait for so long to get your cars in for service. Your believing in us and our mission is the fuel for Repair Revolution. We are beyond honored to be named Business of the Year for 2021!!!! Click here to watch a short video of our shop and us talking about the work we do. Click here to see the other amazing recipients that were honored at the GSBA Business and Humanitarian awards. Unfortunately, this year’s event could not be held in person due to the pandemic, but we are so appreciative for the amazing recognition and visibility the GSBA has given us this month on their website and social media.
Repair Revolution Celebrates 10 YEARS IN BUSINESS!
Can you believe it?! Repair Revolution turned 10 years old in December 2021. We have grown and learned a lot over the years, and we will always be committed to continuing to learn to ensure the highest standards of care for our customers. We are so grateful for the support you have all given us over the years! Due to the pandemic still in full swing, we were unable to truly celebrate. We are planning a big belated anniversary party that will coincide with a Pride party at the end of June 2022. Stay tuned for more information on this.
Not enough skilled automotive technicians and service advisors
You have probably noticed that getting an appointment at the shop has been much harder than it was in pre-pandemic times. We used to book 1-2 weeks out and are now sometimes 1-2 months out. We know this is not convenient for folks and we are doing everything we can to be here for you, but we continue to struggle with not having enough employees to help us get your cars fixed fast enough.
Many variables make this particularly hard for our shop. Industry wide there is a shortage of automotive technicians. This industry historically pushes out women, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC technicians so imagine an already small pool of candidates and then needing technicians that support Repair Revolution’s value of equality among others and you can see that we only attract a small percentage of the talent that is out there. Many technicians that feel isolated in this trade because of who they are or how they identify reach out to us from all over the country, but few of them can afford the cost of living in Seattle to justify the move here. Our pay rate and benefits package is on the high end compared to other independent shops and it is still a challenge to compete against the large tech companies in this city and the ever-increasing gap between the wealthy and the not-wealthy. That said, we know it is important for us to remain in Seattle as a resource for our community so we’re not going anywhere.
If you know someone who might be interested in a career at Repair Revolution, send them to our careers page for more information on how to apply. Tell them to mention you referred them. We are offering lifetime oil changes as a finder’s fee to say thank you, if you send us an Automotive Technician or Service Advisor that ends up being a good fit for our team. *This means they become a permanent hire after their 90-day probationary period.
The cost of everything is going up!
Parts and Shop Supplies: As you have seen all over the country, the cost of goods and services is ever increasing. Our shop is no different and I thought it might be helpful to share some examples here: The costs of goods and shop supplies including vehicle fluids, parts, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), etc. has risen 10 TIMES in some cases. We used to see an oil price increase of about 3% once per year. So far, we have seen 3 increases in the past 6 months which included a 15% increase in January 2022 and now an additional 25% increase on top of that hitting in April 2022. Nitrile gloves used to cost us $7.00 per box. We now pay $30.00 per box. One of our parts vendors told me they used to pay $2,500.00 per shipping container for parts. They now pay $25,000.00 per shipping container. Ten times what it used to be!! And that increase unfortunately gets passed down to the shops which in turn gets passed down to the customers.
Staffing cost: A skilled and dedicated workforce is expensive and worth every penny to ensure a great customer experience. Making sure we are an employee-centered business is important. Additionally, our labor times are longer than your average turn-and-burn repair shop where volume, not quality, is the goal. We spend twice the amount of time on inspecting our customer’s vehicles than your average shop. We feel it is our mandate to make sure our community has the most thorough and comprehensive information, and our advisor team spends a lot of time with each customer to build out custom maintenance plans and repair priorities so that our customers can make informed decisions about their budgets and their cars’ health. In order to help our staff afford the cost of living increases we have all been hit with, we made the important decision to do a significant raise for everyone in September of last year.
Rent: Our rent costs have skyrocketed over the past several years. Unfortunately, there are no protections in place for small businesses renting property. At one point we faced almost a 75% rent increase which we were able to negotiate down to 36%, but this was still a huge hit to our business.
Access: We have worked with a few non-profit organizations and have a low-income fund to assist folks with car repairs. During the pandemic, the number of folks who were not able to afford the increased cost of auto repair was much greater than in previous years and our low-income fund was depleted. We want to be able to help more folks, so we are open to any ideas our customers have for helping us with this program.
Build your own workforce: We are working to launch a robust, accredited paid apprenticeship program to train technicians and to create a safe space for marginalized folks to learn this trade. This is a critical step in both continuing our mission to make this trade accessible to all and in being sustainable to have the skilled workforce we need. This apprenticeship program is 80% built with content and skilled ASE certified Tech Mentors to teach it. We are working with an industry partner who will provide the accreditation and online training modules taught by world-class technicians and we will provide the hands-on, in-person learning, and mentorship.
Currently, the biggest barrier to starting this program is funding. We are applying for a grant that could help us launch this awesome opportunity, but we need to partner with a nonprofit that has an interest in building a partnership to increase diversity and equity in apprenticeship programs for underrepresented communities. Corporate sponsorship or private funding could also help us to launch. Each apprentice will cost us about $20,000-$30,000 to train over the course of 2 years. I have always had the value to invest in training my team, and now we are figuring out how to do this sustainably.
Scheduling: We are encouraging our customers to schedule their regular maintenance well in advance using your oil change sticker date as a guide to ensure we can get you in when your vehicle needs us. We recommend coming in by the date or mileage, whichever comes first, that is on the oil change sticker.
Access solution for our low-income customers: Please send us ideas and thoughts on how to keep our low-income fund stocked. Our only consistent funding stream for this fund currently is all the proceeds from our community events and monthly car repair workshops, both of which had to be put on hold during the pandemic, as well as all proceeds from our t-shirt and hoodie sales.
Price increase: Unfortunately, we are going to have to raise our labor rates 8% which is the average increase in our costs to do business. This will be effective April 15th. We have been trying to hold off on this for months but can no longer absorb the increases to our cost of doing business. We never take this decision lightly and do significant market research to see what our competitors are doing. Even the quick lube places that just offer what the industry calls a “spill and fill” are charging $95.99 for a base synthetic oil change. Our oil change service includes a thorough 30-point inspection performed by an experienced skilled technician, complete with pictures and videos of our findings and a custom maintenance plan created by our service advisors. Our current synthetic oil change is $91.99. Some places are as high as $150.00 for a full synthetic oil change service.
STAY TUNED FOR THE EXCITING FUTURE!
We hope to announce a membership model this year that will help customers’ maintenance costs become more predictable and save members money. We are excited about this new model and excited to roll it out!
We are also excited to begin hosting community events again this year as long as conditions are safe.
You are already supporting us in the best way possible by being our customers and spreading the good word about our shop. Thank you! If you have any additional resources, ideas, or creative ways you think you can help us expand our ability to make a bigger impact, please reach out.
I am hoping that being vulnerable and pulling back the curtain on what our shop and our industry is going through will help build understanding with you, our customers. I am also hopeful that putting this out there will encourage you to share your ideas for how we can best move forward and serve our customers and our community for many years to come. If you have read this whole thing, thank you so much for your valuable time.
Eli and the Repair Revolution Team