If anyone can add something personal to the Midas Touch, it’s Mark Smith, owner of five Midas stores in Central Virginia. Smith has owned Midas shops for 23 years and his Short Pump location near Richmond has been the largest volume Midas store in the world for about the last 12 years.
Much of his success can be attributed to his employees. “I have a great setup, great operation and great crews,” Smith said. He has 11 people on his management team and employs 38 technicians across all of his locations.
Smith recognizes the value of employees and encourages their success with a personal development plan. He doesn’t place an emphasis on keeping up with other people or having to do it at a particular pace, rather he allows each technician to focus on the areas that they migrate to naturally. “Some people enjoy diagnostic work, some people enjoy A/C work,” Smith said. “Ride control is a big specialty area that some people pursue. We’ve got the resources here through our own efforts, a relationship we have with NAPA, through some other training programs and also with BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY.” All of the different training opportunities allow Smith to create person-specific training programs for his employees.
Community is equally important to Smith and his employees. “We’ve done blood drives since 2001,” Smith said. “We represent about 2-1/2% of the blood supply for Central Virginia. We’ve worked with Feed More since 2002, we work with Shalom Farms, St. Joseph’s Villa and most recently we’ve added ASK to our portfolio; they’re a local group that supports kids fighting cancer.”
Smith and his Midas stores are well known for their complete line of services. Every one of his locations offers the full range of auto maintenance, repair and diagnostics. “We are in the full-service business,” Smith said. “We say yes to anything and everything.” To remain competitive, Smith makes sure all of their equipment is state of the art, and they use digital vehicle inspections as a tool to help them stay ahead of the competition.
Smith explained how the pictures that go along with a digital vehicle inspection have been a huge success. “Sight sells,” Smith said. “We’re showing you a picture of your car. We’re showing you a picture of your part. We can compare it to a new part. It allows me to put in front of a customer what makes it specific to them.”
The use of digital inspections has added credibility to the services at Smith’s Central Virginia Midas locations. “We get constant feedback on how good the pictures are and how good the technology is, and that forges longer term relationships,” Smith said. “BOLT ON allows us to offer a very value-enhanced package, a lot more detail than anybody else out there can offer on the quality inspections, the quality of diagnostic work and the quality of the reports you can get on your phone. All of that allows us to create synergy between their product and our services.”
The automotive industry is not without its challenges and the technician shortage is one that affects us all. “The industry is facing the biggest headwind of all: people,” Smith said. “We have more business than we can handle. My crews have been with me on average eight years and I don’t have enough of them. The problem is common for everybody in the industry and for everybody in this world because techs are harder to find than ever.”
The current COVID-19 situation that everyone is facing has overshadowed industry challenges, but Smith and his Midas locations have risen to the challenge. “COVID is the thing that everybody wants to do something about, but nobody knows what to do,” Smith said. “We all sort of felt our way there and to quote Robert Frost, ‘the only way out is through,’ so we’re working through it. BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY has been huge here because what we’ve implemented is a program called ‘More to Your Door’ where we’ll bring one of our loaner cars to your house, pick up your car, get your work done and then bring your car back. It’s literally touch-free. BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY allows me to send you pictures of your car, share real-time efforts on your car, all types of things to let
you see on your own smart device and what’s going on with your car. This has been a huge value add.”
The use of BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY has also helped increase the business at Smith’s Midas locations. “BOLT ON helps in several ways to increase our business,” Smith said. “One, it increases frequency because of the credibility you build with customers. Two, it increases word of mouth referrals because of the quality of the product we can offer. When we moved away from paper and moved toward the BOLT ON digital technologies, our customers were impressed, my guys were impressed, and it all creates a really good environment to create long-term service relationships.”
Adapting the technology was easy for them and it helped improve the productivity within the shop. “It has helped efficiency in a lot of ways,” Smith said. “The guys have a set of pictures they have to take; they know the protocols. So, they go in, snap the pictures and they upload them.” The service advisors can then create estimates and work with the customers.
The consistency that is created by utilizing digital technology alone has proven its value. “Messy handwriting doesn’t mean anything now because you are hitting a screen,” Smith said. “The BOLT ON image fits perfectly with the image I like to think Midas of Richmond presents because it’s a good look, it’s a crisp look, it’s an organized look, and that just sends a message.”
Technology, both in equipment, services and communication with their customers is the bottom line helping to drive the success of Smith’s Midas of Richmond stores. “In today’s world, you’ve got to be in the computer business, you’ve got to be in the diagnostic business,” Smith said. “If you don’t, someone else is going to eat your lunch and I prefer to eat other people’s lunch.”
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