Welcome to another Small Business Update – with Al Hunter from Mobile Remaps. I first featured Al back in January 2012 and then updated in 2013 and April 2014. He’s always been open and generous in sharing his business story and tips, and that’s not changed of course. Last year, when I asked him where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied, “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.” So how’s he doing?
Hello again, Al, and welcome back for your fourth interview! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
No. Whilst business has certainly improved, a prolonged marriage breakdown and divorce has meant that the mental or physical energy to put all my focus into growing the business as much as I wanted just hasn’t taken place. Having said that, we’ve improved on our Q1 goal of profitability and year on year growth has been in the 2-digit percentile month on month. Most of this is down to internet advertising and a growing reputation. In fact delivering on our customer service philosophy actually earned us a ‘Highly Commended In Town’ award from ‘The Best of Cambridge’, an award Mobile Remaps was delighted to received.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Our marketing approach is entirely digital. And this has helped us no end. So, too, has working directly with garages. It means that when delivering our service to our customers, if we discover problems associated with a client’s vehicle, we can refer them to a trusted garage. This benefits all concerned, from the customer knowing they are going to a trusted garage, to the garage getting a new customer (with hopefully repeat business) and to us as well as it frees up time for Mobile Remaps to focus on its core business of engine remapping.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
You get more experienced with individuals as you go on. Unfortunately there are some individuals who try to deceive all involved with their vehicles. Now we’re more aware of such people we are much better able to protect ourselves as well as our customers. We updated our diagnostic equipment so that we’re able to get a much more clear picture of the health of the vehicle before we tune it. As such whenever we get individuals who say ‘my vehicle is running fine with no problems’ we’re able to prove before we even start tuning whether that statement is true and correct or not. A great example can be used from this very morning where we were asked to tune a Jaguar XF with a 3 litre diesel. The vehicle was ‘new’ to the customer but officially second hand. Our customer was unaware of the 13 separate faults his car’s computer was monitoring and that it had been in an accident previously but which the ECU had recorded. As a result of this we were able to write a diagnostic report for the customer and refer him to a trusted garage for further inspection before any engine tuning takes place. By following this diagnostic procedure before remapping customer vehicles, Mobile Remaps feels we’re better positioned to ensure our clients are fully informed about the potential for reliability issues with their vehicle before those issues become a huge inconvenience for them. It also enables them to resolve those issues earlier which allows them to save money on repair bills. From our point of view, it also allows Mobile Remaps to protect itself from accusations of ‘your remap caused this…’ when we know fully, that it didn’t.
Any more hints and tips for people?
When it comes to tuning your vehicle, listen to the advice you are being given. One issue we constantly find is that customers are being given conflicting advice that leads to mistrust. Too many listen to forums or friends who have had similar issues with their vehicle and take the solutions for those other issues as being the right solution for their own situation. More often than not we find our customers are misinformed. When it comes to fault diagnosis with cars, the fault code is just the starting point. It is NOT the finishing point. Using another Jaguar XF we had in as an example, the vehicle showed a fault code relating to the Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor. The garage pointed the finger at the remap, when we could see the fault code as being present long before any engine tuning took place. Although the MAP sensor is engine related, on these Jaguars they are part of the heating and ventilation control (air conditioning to you and me) system. The correct solution for this vehicle wasn’t engine tuning, or a new MAP sensor but to replace a 3 way valve stuck halfway under the dash! So in effect a small mechanical non electrical item (the valve) gave a fault code relating to something that wasn’t at fault. On a completely different vehicle however, I’m sure the MAP sensor could have been faulty which would have been a very simple and easy fix… but again that fix is not something engine tuning would correct or cause. So my professional advice to all is don’t be sold to by companies promising that engine tuning is the solution and don’t assume simple diagnosis by others means a simple solution. Paying for further investigation is cheaper than paying for the wrong solution in the first place!
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
We’re happy with the direction Mobile Remaps is heading at this point in time. If double digit % month on month growth continues then for now that is what we’ll aim to continue achieving. But to do that we’ll need to refine our advertising, which is something we’re always looking at. And, we’ll need to partner up with more garages we can trust and refer business to (and vice versa).
See, you get free car advice with Libro’s small business chats, too! I find the way Al’s refining his knowledge of the quirks of his market very interesting – and it’s a vital aspect to stay on top of as you go along. I’m sure this coming year will be a good one for him.
Back to Al for an update on his website and contact details:
Our website www.mobileremaps.co.uk has had a major revamp since last year, making it easier to navigate through. We also have a number of new local websites that are a big hit with our customers. These websites are www.remappingcambridge.co.uk, www.remappingpeterborough.co.uk, www.remappinghuntingdon.co.uk and www.remappingburystedmunds.co.uk.
We are also developing a specific www.tuningboxes.co.uk website for customers further afield so we can put our remap software onto tuning boxes. This way, customers get the benefit of our engine software for their vehicles even if they’re too far away for us to remap directly.
If 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.