Secrets from the Scalerator: Focus on Established Revenue Sources

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    Part 3 in a 4-part series about businesses that met the AmEx OPEN Scalerator challenge to grow their revenues 15 percent in three months.


    Bill Reilly says what he learned in atwo-month intense sales- and growth-focused training workshop last fall was “not rocket science,” but it enabled him to grow his revenues by 15 percent in a matter of weeks and invest in new equipment that is already contributing to his bottom line. Now he’s scouting for a bigger location and planning a 25 percent headcount increase.

    Reilly is co-owner of Hands-on Garage, afull service automotive maintenance business that also provides mechanic bays, tools, and professional guidance for customers who want to work on their own cars. He was among 12 Milwaukee-area business owners who were selected to participate in the American Express OPEN pilot Scalerator program last September.

    At the end of the training, participants were challenged to devise a strategy for exceeding their first quarter 2014 revenue plan by 15 percent. Reilly got a jumpstart and ramped revenues up that much by the end of the fourth quarter in 2013.

    Scalerator leaders helped each business zero in on its best opportunity for growth. While the workshop inspired another business to go after crossover sales, Reilly says he learned he should “simply focus harder on established revenue sources.” It paid off immediately, he says.

    A former newspaper advertising executive, Reilly opened Hands On Garage with a team of cofounders in May 2010. One of them, Gary Miller, an Airforce veteran and car-repair enthusiast, had the idea to replicate for the public the DIY auto hobby shops that are available to recruits on military bases. Reilly says they started the business with their own savings, a Small Business Administration loan, and a line of credit. The business has been profitable for the last 18 months, and has never missed a loan payment, he says. Those are among the measures that qualified the business for the Scalerator workshop.

    Reilly says Scalerator instructors encouraged him to take a fresh look at how to expand within his best market. “We decided to home in on our fleet business accounts,” he says.

    “The typical person who owns a fleet is running a small-to-medium-sized business, like an electrician with 6 vans,” Reilly says. “We keep him appraised as to what’s going on with the repair and when we’ll be bringing the vehicle back to him. And for recurring fleet customers we keep a record of repairs done to each vehicle. He can see everything that’s been done instead of keeping records in a folder. And if there’s an anomaly, we keep him appraised of that too.”

    Reilly’s team found that existing fleet customers valued those practices as well as the Hands On Garage pickup and delivery service that saves managers from devoting an hour of two employees’ time to dropping off a car for repair. When the Scalerator feedback told Reilly to call on fleet customers who had not become repeat customers or who had gone back to another service after trying him out, he knew what to emphasize in his pitch. The payoff: 35 percent instead of his usual 20 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2013, and enough profits to purchase an expensive alignment machine that’s already showing ROI.

    Reilly says, “Everyone knows what their established business is. What they do better than others? Asking that turned out great for us. You don’t need to come up with a new brand extension or invention; just focus on what it is you do well. I would argue that any business owner can do that at any level and realize a revenue increase.”

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