Cleanline Automotive expands capacity and operations

Invermere auto repair company levels up with support from the Basin RevUp program.

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RevUp program helps Invermere auto repair company thrive

Husband and wife team Aaron and Steph Van de Kemp launched Cleanline Automotive with an innovative approach to vehicle repair, prioritizing environmental sustainability and a positive workplace culture. But the booming Invermere-based business has outgrown the location they’ve rented since 2012, with the Van de Kemps ready to scale up to a bigger facility while securing a more functional work/life balance.

After years of running a successful business while raising three children, mechanic Aaron and marketing professional Steph were exhausted, which led to seeking the guidance of Columbia Basin Trust’s Basin RevUp. The advanced business accelerator program provided Aaron and Steph with customized coaching from February to October 2022, focusing on how to sustainably double their capacity without sacrificing their personal lives. The company started RevUp with four employees and is about to add a sixth, with plans to hire up to three more people once their new facility opens at the end of 2024.

“We’re always looking for growth opportunities so we’d done some business coaching before, but nothing like RevUp,” says Aaron. “I worried I wouldn’t have time to do the program, but Steph said we didn’t have time to not do it. We were looking to better our business and ourselves.”

Full-throttle financial literacy

To boost profitability, Cleanline first needed to improve their financial literacy, specifically in regard to budgeting, time inventory and margin reports. They switched to QuickBooks Online to allow real-time reporting, and their RevUp coach showed them how to interpret the data to optimize efficiency.

“Before the program, we were getting monthly reports three or four months after our month-end and we didn’t fully understand how to track and calculate things like parts and labour margins, gross margins, etc.,” explains Steph. “Now we have a monthly bookkeeping cycle in place, and I actually know how to read the numbers in the profit and loss reports, balance sheets and cash flow statements, which is huge. Now I can’t wait to get nerdy and analyze the reports!”

RevUp taught the Van de Kemps how to make use of budgets and key performance indicators (KPIs) to set monthly goals and improve profitability.

“Since starting the program, our revenue is up by 20 per cent and our profit has doubled. In our last quarter — November 2023 to January 2024 — our profits have increased by 110 per cent. It’s really awesome to see the revenue steadily increasing, and that huge improvement to our bottom line means we’re doing something right!”

Accelerating efficient communication

While examining their management style, the co-owners recognized a need for clearer staff communication and delegation. With guidance from their RevUp coach, they crafted a functional organizational chart and refined their hiring procedures.

“I used to do all hiring and onboarding myself, but now I just run the interview process and hand off training to the shop foreman and the service manager,” explains Aaron. “We’ve seen a real difference in the work quality of new hires because they’re trained properly on all our systems, which makes the process so much more efficient — and it frees up much more of my time.”

They also revamped job descriptions, defining clear roles to establish a streamlined chain of command and implemented a more effective cascading communication system.

“We started giving senior staff the space to take on more responsibility in managing the team,” says Aaron. “I now meet weekly with the shop foreman and service manager to discuss goals and they pass that information on, instead of everyone coming to me directly. We recognized they were ready to step up, but they couldn’t do that if we were micromanaging.”

Aaron now has a set time for daily “toolbox meetings,” minimizing interruptions while still offering reliable support for his staff. The team also enjoys monthly social lunches and quarterly team meetings, fostering an uplifting environment with “a more productive communication rhythm.”

Thriving in top gear

In addition to expanding the team for their new auto shop, the Van de Kemps worked with RevUp on retaining talent by encouraging career longevity and cultivating an inspiring work culture.

“We think it’s really important to provide living wages and benefits like an RRSP-matching program so our staff feel excited about building their careers with us,” says Steph.

With construction on the new location breaking ground in spring 2024, Aaron and Steph plan to diversify their operations by offering more car accessories and expanding on their electric vehicle services. Equipped with the tools they gained from RevUp — and a healthy dose of confidence — they’re ready to shift their business into a new gear.

“This program has changed our business and our lives, and the feedback from our staff has been awesome; they’ve noticed a real shift in how we operate,” says Aaron. “I’ve also changed my mindset from listening to the limiting beliefs of ‘I’m just a mechanic’ to really stepping into the role of a business leader.”

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