Ask a Pro January/February 2022

February 23rd, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

We Need to Talk Social Media

By Mike Burke

Over the past several years, I’ve positioned myself to be a coach and mentor to a variety of industry professionals. I have been doing this a long time and few things are as rewarding to me as sharing what I’ve learned in my 30-plus years in business with others who are not as far along in their journey.

I get to talk candidly with business owners from different markets across the country, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. People who are popular on social media—those envied and whose shops are “goals”—privately confide that business is slow. They have little money in the bank, struggle with crushing debt and haven’t vacationed in years.

Unplug and Power Up

This development goes hand-in-hand with another social media trend I’ve seen, where small, one-to-two person shops are the first to like every post and comment on every thread, at all hours of the day and night. It also seems like everyone is posting fancy shop upgrades, even those struggling to stay busy. I am convinced that social media envy and “fakebook” contribute to people spending money on things to look good to other tinters versus investing in their actual business.

I love how social media has brought the industry together, and the groups are great for building community. Tinting can be solitary work; most shops are run by an owner/operator or one to two employees. Social media gives us virtual coworkers—people to bounce ideas off of or vent to.

Lately, tint groups on Facebook are all vying to be the biggest attraction. Don’t mistake industry camaraderie for business marketing. It’s entertaining from 8 p.m. to midnight when you’re home relaxing, as an alternative to watching TV, but living with a phone glued to your hand limits your success in real business. I love Netflix, but I don’t watch it at work.

Tech Traps

Other tinters are not your customers. They aren’t sending you work or paying your bills. Impressing them does nothing for your bottom line. Instead of posting online, try building real-life relationships. One trick: Everywhere you go, ask someone, “What kind of car do you drive?” This is a great conversation starter, and no matter how they respond, you can steer the conversation to your service offerings.

If you’re slow, grab a stack of business cards and head to the nearest gas station. Back in the day, I would leave in the morning with 100 cards in my pocket, and I wouldn’t come back until they were all gone. It still works. We don’t need to get rid of social media, but here are four recommendations:

1. Make business and personal Facebook pages separate.
2. Join local car enthusiast forums to post your work to your customer base rather than just other industry professionals.
3. If you’re looking for help on doing something specific, don’t make a post and get 50 answers. You know who the experts are—call one of them and get advice.
4. Allocate an hour at night for the “fun” stuff and then turn it off.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses. I tinted cars for many years with epoxy floors and fluorescent light tubes. RaceDeck floors and LED lights are slick, but they don’t put money in your pocket. If you don’t have a sales process, a marketing budget, front counter or shop help, you shouldn’t be investing in lights and flooring.

The best investments for business building are coaching and advertising. When you have money in the bank to buy the upgrades twice—go on vacation and then fix up the shop. Don’t pay for luxuries with a credit card. Spend your time focused on business, not popularity. You will see success.

Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 50 locations in 19 states, and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection and ceramic coatings. If you have a question for Mike to tackle in a future column, email him at mike@sunstoppers.com

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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