It’s time for another Small Business Chat update, this time with Al Hunter from Auto Evolution. Al was first featured on 28 January 2012, and when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, replied “Auto Evolution’s primary service will be the ECU remapping services. With fuel costs seemingly rising on a day-by-day basis, we see our EcoMap service as becoming increasingly popular, as clients want the benefit of reduced fuel costs without the associated costs of buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Additionally, remapping a car’s ECU is not weather dependent like your typical SMART repair service such as repairing alloy wheels or a bumper scuff. We will continue to provide our SMART repair services, as we are skilled in these and want our clients to have the option of a quality SMART repair service through us. However, until we can afford our own in-house repair facility, which will remove the complications associated with completing a car body repair outside, we will focus the bulk of our energies on promoting our ECU remapping services through our EcoMap and ProMap brands. So in a year’s time, we’d like to see ourselves in the position where we can afford a unit large enough for our ECU remapping services as well as our SMART repair services”. Phew – that’s a long one.
I’m happy to report that Al’s been able to give us lots of information on how he’s doing now – you’ll find his discussion of SEO services particularly useful.
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
No we’re not. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. A number of factors have led to this being the case. Whilst our ultimate direction and goal remains the same, our delivery is now different. Without a business mentor I’ve learned lessons the hard way. However, passion, belief and determination leads to dedication. 2012 was meant to be a year of stabilisation with 2013 as the year moving forward. But, it seems that 2013 will be the year of stabilisation with 2014 as the year moving forward. So we are about 12 months behind schedule.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
With regards to our business plan a year ago, not a lot has stayed the same other than the ultimate goal. In 2011 we focused on advertising in local trade shows, stands in supermarket car parks and spent money on others to build us a website. A website, it turned out, that we couldn’t find, let alone our customers. So we learned about SEO … In looking for a company that would/could build us a website and do the SEO for us we were quoted huge fees for a small one-man company. Fees of £10,000 but £500pm! As such a lot of time was spent trying different web creation software until we found one that I could use comfortably and save a lot of money with … even if it meant we lost a lot of time in the process!
With my new software programme and skills I set up www.auto-evolution.co.uk as our website. Whilst customers told us they liked the site, marketing it SEO-wise mean’t that it wasn’t the easiest to market as a) it doesn’t state on the tin what it is we do, and b) with doing many different things (wheel repairs, bumper scuff repairs, windscreen chip repair, ecu remapping, chip tuning, etc.), focusing a marketing effort on any given area for any given keyword was very time-consuming (not expensive, as I’m now doing that myself). But soon after this, we found that one of our suppliers had seemingly tried to sabotage one of our services… not a good thing. And we only found this out through our customers and industry contacts. It meant that we had to look for new suppliers and pay for legal fees to recoup our losses from the supplier, all of which put us on the back foot.
But then we had a bit of luck which changed our web direction and has meant starting back from scratch … As mentioned above, one important element to marketing your business is to have a name that is instantly recognisable as to the service you provide. Well … our principal service is to provide a mobile ecu remap service. And as luck would have it we were able to be the first ones to register mobileremaps as a web domain for .com and .co.uk as well as Twitter, Facebook (although we’ve now changed this to www.facebook.com/MobileRemaps). This is great, as it not only tells customers what we do, but we’ve got a fantastic logo that stands on its own merits. Furthermore, we now use remap file writers who have over 25 years’ experience and have tuned more than 10,000 cars and worked for some of the industry’s largest names to back us up …
So now we market and trade as www.mobileremaps.co.uk with a website built by yours truly and SEO (search engine optimisation) done by yours truly.
Whilst all of the above has gone on in the background, it meant that to keep the business dream alive, I’ve worked part-time. It also meant heavily revising our business plan so that we can move Mobile Remaps from a start up (as of end Oct/beginning November 2012) into a premier ECU remapping company in the UK by 2014 with a solid reputation for customer service.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
What have we learned? The power of the internet to market services, the importance of being easily distinguishable to your customers, to always be open, honest and transparent with customers and the service you provide (this helped a lot given the hassle with a former supplier) and always ensure you build a reliable team of like-minded people behind you. We have this now, and so 2013 really should be a year of stabilisation with us moving forwards in 2014.
The learning curve has been steep. It’s also been a lengthy process. But moving forward, I’m now bringing on a SEO fellow as a consultant to do the SEO marketing I don’t want to have the time to do … you can’t do everything yourself and so it’s important in business to bring in people to create a team so you can continue to do what’s important. And that is to steer the direction of the business. I did this when looking for a new ecu remapping file writing team. And now, as I write this, it means bringing in an SEO consultant who I can trust and rely on to do what’s right for us regarding search engine marketing so I can be in front of customers, steering them through the maze of remapping a car ecu and ensuring they get the right remap for their needs and vehicle.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Never work with anyone unless you feel you can trust them
Only work with those who truly understand your needs
Ideally work with those who understand your industry, not just your needs
Using the above as your guide, bring in the right team around you to free up your time to steer the direction of your business. Remember you’re a Director for a reason. You’re steering the direction of a company … if you don’t do this, you’re not being a Director. You’re just being an employee with a jolly tough job!
Have a plan and work to it! And always reflect on this plan at appropriate intervals and don’t be afraid to revise your plan as needs be.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
By the end of Q1 2014, we’d like to see Mobile Remaps fully funding itself. By this we mean the business it turns over being 100% profitable rather than using funds from Auto Evolution. I say this as although throughout this update we’ve focused on Mobile Remaps, it does not mean we’ll stop doing the bumper scuff repairs, windscreen chip repairs (this what Auto Evolution will focus on once we’ve got Mobile Remaps fully profitable) … but we want those services to be add-on services to cross-sell to our customers for additional profit rather than relying on that to boost Mobile Remaps’ profit. Achieving this will also mean I can give up the part-time job I took up as well … thus freeing up time and money to drive Mobile Remaps forward. Fortunately, I think we have the team behind us now to achieve that. So that’s encouraging. It means, though, a long hard year ahead. Often working from 6am to 8pm just as we did in January.
Wow – a very challenging year – but Al stood up to the challenge, worked hard to beat it, and is hopefully looking at a reworked and positive 2013. I’ll be very interested to know what happens in the coming year!
P: 0800 051 5415
M: 0790 842 9996
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