March 31, 2016.
PMM talks to former workshop owner, Andy Savva, to find out why taking a step away from his own business will allow him to help others with improving theirs.
When one of the independent aftermarket’s most forward-thinking garage proprietors recently announced that he was handing the keys to his beloved business over to a new owner, it marked the end of a long and winding journey that has proved one significant point: that independent garages can survive and prosper in even the most challenging market conditions.
Andy Savva, who had run Brunswick Garage in North London since 2010, has long championed the independent aftermarket’s cause and, in doing so, has become one of the industry’s most vocal and visible figureheads.
Never afraid to voice his opinions on the issues that really count, he’s now preparing to use his years of knowledge – acquired from exposure to both the independent and retail sides of the aftersales segment – to help other workshop owners to better their business.
He says: “I began life in the automotive sector at the age of 18 as an apprentice on the workshop floor at a BMW dealer and it was from here that my love affair with the automotive industry began.
“After a few years I decided to go out on my own and went on to run independent workshops in Finchley, Muswell Hill and Hornsey before re-locating the latter of these businesses – Shaftsbury Garage – to a burgeoning location in Barnet. The whole experience offered me a real ‘University of
Life’ education and the mistakes that I made along the way served as valuable lessons for the future.”
It was around this time that the demands placed on independent workshop owners were changing significantly as the explosion in new technologies utilised in modern vehicles began to take grip.
“I’ll be honest and say that I looked at the future at this stage and could only see struggles ahead for the traditional independent garage – so I decided to sell up and do something different,” Andy explains.
“I’d had a yearning to learn more about the retail side of automotive, so I enrolled on a three year post-graduate degree in automotive retail management that, despite being incredibly challenging, proved to be a priceless exercise. On completion of the course I started to get a few offers for some consultancy work, mainly focused on visiting the servicing departments of struggling franchised dealerships and offering advice about how they could improve what they were doing.”
He continues: “Like a sponge, I soaked up every bit of information available to me and, after getting precious insight into how these retail businesses were run, I realised that there was plenty of life left in the independent sector. This prompted me to draw up my first proper business plan – utilising my experiences in both the independent and franchised markets – with the aim of proving that an independent business can position itself as a genuine competitor to premium dealer outlets. As a result, Brunswick Garage was founded.”
With a considerable amount of blood, sweat and tears shed along the way, Andy’s dream has become a reality as Brunswick has flourished into one of the UK IAM’s best workshop businesses and one that is widely recognised as a ‘blueprint’ for other aspiring workshops to follow. After deciding to step away from the day-to-day stresses of running a busy workshop, he now hopes to use his time and know-how to help others.
He says: “There are a lot of good operators out there that need a little bit of fine-tuning to elevate their business to the next level. It’s not necessarily about increasing turnover by thousands, but instead tweaking things here and there to leave you more bottom line that you can reinvest.
“My one golden rule is that you should always look at your workshop through the eyes of your customer – you might not like what you find, but if you want to improve things then this is a great place to start.”