Opening your first workshop: A quick guide

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Thinking of putting your mechanical skills to use and opening your own workshop? Though it might be easy to imagine an immaculate, organised station filled with tools and vehicles, there are several crucial steps to take beforehand. When you set up a business, you need to understand the nuances in your industry – even if you’re confident about your skills.

Consider which services to offer

Firstly, you should decide which type of garage to operate. Are you only interested in offering general service repairs, or do you think your skills would be better suited to becoming a specialist for one or two manufacturers?

During this brainstorming process, it’s important to set your business apart from its competition. For example, learning how to specialise in electric vehicles might be expensive, but could turn into a long-term investment that pays off over time with eco-friendly motoring on the rise.

Establish your location

Securing a strategic location for your new business will be just as crucial as your skillset. You’ll need to make sure that your premises easy to reach for potential repeat customers and accessible enough for those who live further afield.

Additionally, you should try to set up in an area that corresponds with your budget and wider objectives for your company. As a rule of thumb, garages in towns or semi-urban areas are much more likely to attract customers. If you’re setting up in a rural village, it could be worth providing a recovery service for anyone unable to reach you.

Sign the right paperwork

Before you open your doors, you’ll need to source the necessary licences. These will vary depending on the type of business you launch and the specific services you plan to offer. As a priority, obtaining comprehensive motor trade insurance could help to protect you, your premises and vehicles against unforeseen events.

In general, it’s likely that you’ll definitely need to sign documents for vehicle services, for your premises, and in accordance with environmental terms too.

For your services, you’ll need

  • Trade plates to remove the need to register and tax each vehicle
  • Licences including the Motor Vehicle Repair business licence
  • MOT authorisation if you plan on conducting MOT tests

For your business premises

  • Public surveillance licence, for CCTV cameras
  • Music licence, if you plan on listening while you work
  • Street display licence, for advertising

Know your local market

Researching your market is key. Firstly, scope out the competition and aim identify your target audience. Try searching for specific demographics of the market, including age, gender, and the types of vehicles they’re most likely to be driving. Even if some variables might seem niche, they could be useful when it comes to planning your expenses.

Work out your finances

Work out your finances: not only will you need to know the initial costs of opening a workshop, but you should also create a solid financial forecast. Your specific sales forecast can only be worked out once you’ve undertaken thorough market research.

You’ll need to consider the average cost of repairs, how many times your customers might require your services, and how many customers you could attract and retain. On top of this, the cost of parts and tools should always be factored in.

Stay safe

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial to make sure that you know how to work and operate safely. The motor repair industry presents a few unique hazards, and with 123 workers killed due to work-related accidents last year alone, it’s crucial to protect your employees and customers from potential risks.

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