Andy Arndt says his shop’s 147% year-over-year sales increase in November 2021 was a notable achievement, but he points to the 52% YOY sales increase in January 2022 as a clear indicator of Protractor’s impact on his business. That’s when COVID-19 finally reached the doorstep of his 34-year-old, Malta, Ill.-based shop, sidelining six of his employees at one point.
“But we were able to keep the shop running,” he says while logged into Protractor during a quick getaway in Florida with his wife, Julie, taking full advantage of the cloud-based software’s anytime, anywhere access. “Part of it is Protractor, part of it is people are fixing up all the old stuff because of the inventory shortage. I also have better staff than I did a year ago.”
Arndt says Protractor’s ability to plug profit leaks in his business through the systems and processes it inserts has had the greatest impact. “We weren’t tracking our cores and returns,” he notes. “We had a notebook with line items that were supposed to be crossed off when we got credits, but I realized guys were just throwing away parts — some with core charges of up to $1,000.
“Protractor changed that, forcing us to do a better job of tracking our returns and our cores,” he continues. “With other accounting systems, you can just delete those parts, but not with Protractor.”
Checks and Balances
Over a rolling 12-month period, revenue is up 20% — 10 percentage points higher than what Arndt was told to expect when he officially made the switch from R.O. Writer to Protractor on April 1, 2021. The move also included a change from Peachtree accounting software (now Sage Intacct) to Protractor’s integrated accounting tool, which Arndt says is much easier to understand for someone without an accounting background.
A farmer’s son who preferred fixing tractors than operating them, the shop owner learned early on the value of hard work. His involvement as a child in the local 4-H program also gave him a solid foundation in business management and record keeping. After enrolling in junior college to become a technician, he worked for a couple of dealerships before opening Arndt Automotive in 1988.
Arndt says paying the bills was never a problem, but he knew that wasn’t enough when his son joined the business in 2013. “I had resisted coaching for a long time, but I finally reached out to other shop owners to find out what they were doing,” he says, noting that the first coaching group he signed up with recommended R.O. Writer. It was better than the ledger book he previously used, but he and his wife, who handles all bookkeeping activities, grew tired of the daily transfer of transactions between the SMS and Peachtree.
In 2016, Arndt joined the ShopPros coaching group. He was the only owner not on Protractor. “I quickly realized I was at a disadvantage. Protractor is just way more advanced than R.O. Writer,” he says. “You can list things by debit and credit and have double-line accounting, but you can also check a box, and it goes to single-line accounting, which is easier to understand.”
Pull Those Profit Levers
The more Arndt uses the system, the more profit levers he discovers. Protractor, for instance, allows for an infinite number of additional charges. “Now my service writers don’t have to remember to add those charges at the end of the job,” he says. “And the way Protractor allows you to build service packages and link them with certain jobs works much better than R.O. Writer.”
Then there are the integrations, including the one connecting Protractor to RepairLink. The shop uses the latter to source OEM parts from local franchised dealerships. R.O. Writer offered a similar connection, but Arndt’s service writers stopped using the tool because the integration was clunky. His service writers especially like the ability to view pricing from three suppliers right from the work-order screen.
“We sell a fair amount of tires, which was pretty much a manual lookup for us before Protractor. We’d go to the website, write down what we wanted and the pricing, and then manually enter it,” Arndt says. “Now, all of that integrates right on the invoice, along with our pricing matrixes. Protractor then condenses the service packages into dollar figures, so my service writers aren’t looking at different labor and parts lines. That allows them to sell right from the screen.
“So, my crew loves Protractor. My office staff loves it,” he adds. “To be competitive these days, you really need this type of technology. That was not the case 30 years ago when I started, but now we do.”