It’s Small Business Chat time again, and today we’re saying a warm hello to Al Hunter from Mobile Remaps, a man who does something I’ll admit that I’ve never fully understood about cars (this is OK: I don’t have a car, I don’t drive, I don’t plan to drive or have a car, and if anyone asks me about this stuff I’ll point them Al’s way …). Al started off with us in January 2012, and at that point he’d been running his company for a couple of years and had big plans. By our next chat in March 2013, things had changed and evolved, and Al was into the mobile remapping side of things. He’s always shared lots of information and advice in these interviews, and with typical detail, this was his plan for the year ahead, this time last year: “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.”
So, let’s see how Al is doing!
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Without sounding cocky in any shape or form… No. I’m where I planned to be. And as such, I’m where I expected to be. Which is good but not great. But it now means that as a business, it should be possible to move ‘onwards and upwards’, as they say. Twelve months ago I said I wanted at the end of Q1 in 2014 for Mobile Remaps to be able to stand on its own two feet as far as profitability goes. And that goal has been met. It’s been a jolly hard slog for a cash-restricted company (i.e. one that doesn’t have thousands of pounds to spend on advertising each month), but slowly and surely we have been developing a solid reputation for both a quality product and service whenever customers have had a question or a concern. And now we actually receive calls and emails stating the reason for contacting Mobile Remaps is because of the reviews that these individuals have read about us online!
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
In our last annual update, I mentioned that as I felt it important for a business to do what it says on the tin, and because as a business we were introducing a mobile remapping service, we introduced our trading name as Mobile Remaps as well as our website www.mobileremaps.co.uk. At the time, I said I expected the small car body repairs to run alongside the new remapping arm. As it turns out, with the exception of performing car body and alloy wheel repairs for existing customers, we have struck up a partnership with another local company for this service for all new customers that has allowed Mobile Remaps to focus on providing its mobile ecu remapping service. This has been of tremendous benefit, as our mobile remapping business is not weather dependent. As such, the first website I built for auto-evolution.co.uk that featured our car body repairs has remained very static, whilst our mobileremaps website has been very dynamic and is constantly being updated.
Around the 3rd quarter of last year, it was anticipated that our van would get a new livery for Mobile Remaps. As chance would have it (and you do need a bit of luck from time to time!) a former Saatchi executive ‘liked’ Mobile Remaps on Facebook. Having left the corporate world, David responded to a question I put on FB regarding the look and feel of our website at that time. His words were not overly complimentary. They weren’t rude, either. It was his comments stating that our website was ‘not sexy’ from an advertising professional’s perspective that caught my attention. The last thing I wanted was a sexy website as a) I’m not a spotty teenager looking at the back pages of a Max Power magazine and b) I didn’t want to alienate our potential female customers. So, without being precious about our website or brand in any shape or form, I found out David’s number, spoke with him and engaged his own newly started business to provide a marketing strategy for Mobile Remaps. And it’s been this strategy that slowly and surely I’ve been saving towards and implementing when funds allow.
Part of David’s observations were that the original Mobile Remaps Logo was not in keeping with the professional, corporate image I wanted for our company to portray. As the first part of his report, it was the branding image that has taken up my energies when I’ve had the time. It’s taken a while to get our logo and image as I wanted it. Partly I suppose because of my own failure to get across the image I had in my head to professional designers (despite writing what I considered a detailed brief – perhaps too detailed?) and partly because some professional designers simply didn’t come up to scratch and so I went from designer to designer… But sure as night follows day, my determination to work towards my goal has meant that in February the corporate image started to come to life as we collected our Mobile Remaps van in its new corporate livery. I also commissioned a new corporate uniform with our logo and colour scheme which should be delivered to us by the end of March.
Now that we both have our brand and are building a solid reputation, we can actually start advertising (aside from my own SEO work) to truly move the business forward. And this advertising will be done through online paid-for advertising, social media (our Facebook site is growing all the time) as well as email shots and flyers.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Communicate, don’t dump… My wife is very much a part of my business, even though she has absolutely nothing to do with it. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. But it’s not. My stress in working part time as well as full time on my business has meant time for the two of us has been limited at best. And it’s meant that meaningful communication has often been more like social media sound bites. But in seeing both our reputation grow and as recently as this week [at the time of writing] the realisation of Mobile Remaps’ branding come to life… my wife mentioned that I should be proud of the hard work that has led to where we are at today.
But if there is a learning point here it is this…. I need to include my family more. Seeing my stress and tiredness has led to my wife and others being stressed more than they would otherwise have been if I had improved my own communication with them about all that has gone on in the background. Due to my lack of communication regarding all the balls I’ve been juggling over this last year, I have appeared distant from my loved ones when nothing was further from my mind. If I had realised this a year ago, I would have changed my behaviour at home instantly. But it only came to a head this January and since then, not only has my stress reduced but I also have a sounding board that I respect and trust which, without dumping all of the world’s business concerns on my wife and family, allows me to obtain an unbiased, unprejudiced and alternative opinion to my own on certain business aspects.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Keep clear and accurate records. It’s difficult to know a good business from a bad business at times, as we found out with a less than satisfactory service from a bookkeeping company. But due to our own clear and accurate records, Mobile Remaps were able to document dates, times, phone records and fees paid for all services (or lack thereof) provided by this third party. Such records enabled Mobile Remaps to not only put an unsatisfactory experience behind them but also focus on the future, which is equally if not more important.
Keeping clear and accurate records has also been beneficial when scouting out new suppliers for products and services and in negotiating better deals… so there are potentially many benefits from this tip!
Develop a strategy for yourself. That old saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ is true here. Having the strategy developed by David for Mobile Remaps gave a focus that was lacking previously. That’s not to say we’ve followed the strategy religiously. We couldn’t. Restricted funds saw to that. But what it did to was provide a goal (working towards being able to afford a complete rebranding exercise) that we could work towards and then once achieved, understand what the next step would be.
Keep an open mind. One of the best things we’ve done this year has been to join the networking group BNI. Originally I visited BNI 3 years ago and was not impressed. But at an alternative networking group an attendee said ‘have you heard of BNI? Why not visit my chapter and see if it’s any different to the one you experienced before?’ Every bone in my body said don’t go but I fought my own prejudice and went thinking… what have a I got to lose except for a couple of hours and perhaps a wrong impression?! Well for I have found BNI beneficial for the business as well as me personally. It’s improved my communication and presentation skills as well as confidence. I’ve also found it to be a brilliant resource for finding other reputable companies who can help Mobile Remaps grow.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
As I said in last year’s review, I expect from the end of Q1 in 2014 to be a year of growth. And this is still my goal and expectation. Without going into too much detail on goal specifics, the aim for the end of Q1 in 2015 is to be in a situation where Mobile Remaps cannot serve all customers who would like our service. And, by this I mean that we are too busy to travel too far away to see our customers. This situation would lead to Mobile Remaps considering training an employee or franchising the business so that we can provide national coverage with local reach, which I think is the ultimate goal. But before we can do that, Mobile Remaps must first perfect as best it can both its local advertising strategy and service. For after all, the best national companies and franchises are just local business repeating themselves.
Wow – such a lot of useful information which can really benefit other businesses as they think about their growth and branding. Al has a very sensible approach to spending money on marketing which I really echo – only spending when you’ve got the money to spend is good and sensible way to go about things, and can lead to a healthy and growing business, as we can see. I wonder what Al will have to report this time next year!
Al adds: If anyone wants to keep in touch with what we do they are most welcome to keep in touch with Mobile Remaps on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions that may be raised for our attention. If anyone wishes to learn more about remapping, please do feel free to also visit our website at www.mobileremaps.co.uk.
f you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.