In the first installation of our storySmall Business Makeovers by Microsoft, we profiled one of the three companies that won a complete technology makeover.
Next up, we look at how this technological windfall may well help the owners of an auto repair shop realize their dream of opening a second store.
Company: Japanese Car Care
Business: Auto Repair Shop
Location: Miami, Florida
Owners: Denise and Carlos Nunez
Denise and Carlos Nunez run a 15-year-old auto repair company that specializes in Japanese-model cars. Denise manages the business end while Carlos is the mechanical wizard who keeps the cars rolling out of the garage. We spoke with Denise about the contest.
“I read lots of business magazines looking for new ideas or trends to improve our business, ” says Nunez. “I saw Microsoft‘s ad for the contest and thought, ‘Gosh, could you imagine if we won this?'” Three or four months later, one of Nunez’s employee’s answered the phone, turned to her and said, “Denise, it’s Microsoft!”
One of the biggest challenges the Nunez’s faced was their antiquated computer system and finding the time to figure out what solutions could help them.
“We didn’t have a proper computer system running our business,” she says, “and our old server — a clone built out of bits and pieces — was on its last legs. We were using a database we made in Microsoft Works 95, and our inventory was done the old fashion way, by human memory. When you run a business, it’s so hard to find the time to research and learn about what technology can help you.”
Another issue was the amount of time they spent doing tasks by hand: writing work orders, invoices and inventory orders. “It’s harder for small business owners to keep up with customer demands,” says Nunez. “We don’t have the manpower like the big guys. You have to do the best you can with what you have.”
Although word of mouth has increased their business steadily — about 10 to 12 percent annually —over the years, Nunez says they were about at the limit of the very basic technology they had to work with. ” The contest couldn’t have come along at a better time,” she says.
Carlos and Denise Nunez, owners of Japanese Car Care in Miami, Florida.
The first step involved a thorough analysis of the Nunez’s business. Three Microsoft advisors and one of Microsoft’s Microsoft Certified Partners — CIP of South Fla. — assessed the current state of the business to determine the best technology solutions for the auto repair shop.
CPI handled the hardware and software integration. Nunez said after the initial planning, they started receiving product, including: MS Small Business Server 2003, eight HP desktop PCs with flat-panel monitors, a workstation notebook with a flat-panel monitor and a color printer.
A specialized automotive repair software program called IPM will bring together all of the various departments — inventory, sales, billing. “We’ve been using bar-code scanners to enter all of our inventory into the database. It’s a huge improvement,” says Nunez. “I can’t even sleep at night, I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get in to work in the morning to enter new information.”
The data entry is a tremendous task, but ultimately all of the inventory, purchasing and invoicing will be automated. “We do a lot of different repairs here,” says Nunez, “and that means our inventory includes thousands of parts.”
Nunez describes their business as “a marriage of physical labor and technology. It was really interesting to watch the computer whiz guys look at this mechanical world,” she says. “I think it opened their eyes, and they really got into how the technology could support our business.”
It took Nunez and her employees two months to enter all the data into their new software program. Currently they’re in the process of troubleshooting the software.
Although the new system isn’t up and running yet, Nunez anticipates great things. “I can tell already that things will run much more efficiently,” she says. “We’ve dreamed of having more than one location — and the need is there to support it. But without the technology, we couldn’t hope to expand. There are just so many different kinds of repairs and so many complex details to keep track of.”
Nunez reports that their employees are excited and looking forward to learning the new system because they know it will make their jobs easier. “We are so grateful to Microsoft and CPI. This is an incredible experience,” she says. “Technology is the future — there’s no way around it.”
<Lauren Simonds is the managing editor or SmallBusinessComputing.com
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|