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Growth on the cards as innovative auto-electrical business scoops National Award

Sunshine Coast Business, Accelerate Auto Electrics & Air Conditioning, has been named Champion Automotive Services at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.

The awards, presented by Precedent Productions, are open to eligible small businesses from around Australia and are designed to ‘highlight Australia’s most outstanding small businesses’ and ‘seek to recognise the hard work that business owners contribute to the local community in generating employment for millions of Australians, as well as their contribution to the Australian economy’.

Presented with the award at a ceremony at The Star hotel and casino in Sydney at the end of April, Andrew Janes and Briohny De Vere, owners of Accelerate Auto Electrics & Air Conditioning, said that getting to the glamorous evening showcase was a bit of a last-minute sprint and they were thrilled to take the top spot from the 13 finalists in their category.

“We were at a show in Nambour that morning and had to get someone to look after our two young children, so it wasn’t until we finally got on the plane that we wrote a speech, just in case,” said Briohny. “We were up against some very strong businesses, including one of our suppliers, so we thought we were just going for the show. We were totally shocked when Peter Overton called our name out and we had to go up on stage in front of 1100 people to accept the award.

“The award is a testament to our team and our hard work over the last 10 years. Having an ‘Oscar’-like statue in our reception will definitely spark conversation and interest with customers.”
The national Small Business Champion Award win follows hot on the heels of Accelerate taking top spot in the 2017 Sunshine Coast Business Awards for Retail and comes after a decade of growth and innovation that has made the company the largest Auto Electrical business on the Coast with a staff of 12, two mobile units, a retail showroom and a state-of-the-art workshop.

The company provides the full range of auto electrical services – from starter motors, alternators and batteries, to air conditioning, wiring faults and ECU diagnosis – and the brand has expanded to the 4WD, caravan and camping market with a range of 12V accessories available through the retail store located next to the workshop. Accelerate also works with the RACQ to provide auto electrical services to association members.

The business has come a long way from the one-man one-van outfit that started back in 2008 when Andrew and Briohny made the lifestyle decision to move from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane.

Both already had careers working within the automotive industry – Briohny as an accountant and Andrew, who is dual-qualified as a light vehicle mechanic as well as an auto electrician, in various roles including as a mobile auto electrician and co-owner of a mechanical workshop.

The business-minded couple were quick to establish themselves on the Coast and after a couple of years of hard work, the one-man mobile auto-electrical business they founded began to grow, firstly by taking on more technicians and expanding to a four-van business and then through the establishment of a workshop base in 2012 when they joined the Midas group as franchisees, running Accelerate from an adjacent shop.

Four years on, the couple would move on from Midas and set up in large and well-appointed location from which the award-winning Accelerate would emerge.

So how did this small business come to be so successful, beating much larger businesses to the praise of its peers and the capture of national accolades?

The answer lies in Andrew and Briohny’s commitment to combining good old-fashioned service and quality work with a forward-thinking attitude, the adoption of innovative technology, the embracing of the possibilities offered by social media channels such as Facebook and YouTube, and an ambition to see their industry
grow and advance.

It’s a combination that has enabled them to not only create a thoroughly modern, efficient and streamlined business that focuses on the customer, but also to secure an outstanding reputation that sees them on the cusp or realising a far-reaching ambition.

“Good service and turning up when we said we would turn up was, in the beginning, what got us going,” said Briohny. “Now, we have an element of automation around quotes that really works – – building a relationship and good rapport with customers is our main aim.

“For example, let’s say we have an enquiry about a dual battery system. As soon as the customer contacts us, they go into our job system. We produce the quote for the customer, and once that is sent out the job status changes to ‘quote sent’. Those two tags – dual battery and quote sent – will then link in with our automation software which texts the customer to let them know that a quote has been emailed to them. It also triggers an email to our sales manager who will call the customer the next day to see if they have any questions. It also triggers a further email asking what the customer thought of the quote while also allowing them to click a link to book in their vehicle should they wish to do so and view further information on the dual battery systems through a link to an informative video.

“We have spent the nearly two years creating YouTube content, and that content not only improves our ranking on google but is also useful for marketing, and it allows us to inform the customer, if they are sitting on the fence, about what options they have.”

The use of technology within Accelerate goes beyond engaging with customers and keeping them updated and informed of their enquiry. In the workshop and in administration, technology is making a difference too. Technicians use phone-based app software for all communication, including recording job cards, invoices, notes and instructions, and every invoice and piece of paperwork generated by suppliers is scanned and logged digitally. It makes for an essentially paperless business.

The effect of this technology is that the business runs smoothly and efficiently, powered by systems that can be duplicated and which can, with a little training, be transferred to be the foundation of a new business. And it is here that Andrew and Briohny’s have ambitious goals for Accelerate.

As part of their future planning, the couple are looking at franchising, utilising the systems they have created and packaging them for those with the skill and the will to run their own business.
Interestingly, the move to franchising is not just about making money for Andrew and Briohny – it is also about making the auto electrical industry more professional and more organised, traits that, Andrew said, have sometimes been lacking.

“There are a lot of guys who want to get out of the mines, for example, get back to their families and earn $100k. But they can’t do that, so they end up jumping in a van and then it all goes sideways for them. So many guys make a mess of it,” he said. “And that is because they just don’t understand that fixing a car is only 10 per cent of the job. 90 per cent is keeping the current customer happy and the next customer happy before you even get to them.

“I want to be able to give them that capability. I want to find the technician who wants his own business and then show them our process, show them how to do it, and then let them run with it.
“We are ready to go,” he added. “All our systems are online, and we even have a business coach waiting in the wings to help new franchisees. The support is there, and we are ready.”

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