Staying True to the Vision: Acquiring Our Biggest Competitor
Investing for Innovation
Edmonton is home. It’s where my co-founder Uzair and I launched instaMek and received the initial validation we needed to recognize that we were on to something. We remained steadfast in our mission: to provide customer’s with the on-demand convenience of having an auto mechanic come to their doorstep. It became apparent pretty quickly that this would be no small feat. There remains a myriad of reasons why the automotive repair industry lacks innovation and ingenuity. These reasons made themselves abundantly clear to us immediately. To overcome these challenges, we knew investing in highly-skilled and talented people, who understood and believed in our vision, would be imperative to success.
We worked diligently towards this objective and have grown to 12 staff members and 75 mechanics along the way. We treated Edmonton as our playground, where we honed our service offering and nailed down our value proposition. It’s here we decided that our differentiation in the market would be unparalleled 7-star customer service. It’s where we determined anything besides a Red Seal Certified Mechanic wouldn’t make the cut. Edmonton is also the place we worked out the kinks in our business and made sure any mistakes we’ve made would not be duplicated when we expanded down the line.
A Key Opportunity
Down the line came much sooner than we expected. Not long ago, we made a key decision that has propelled us beyond our reach in Alberta: the acquisition of WrenchPatrol, a Vancouver-based competitor. When this opportunity came across our table, we were excited by the prospect of taking the wheel instead of reinventing it. WrenchPatrol represented a key player in the Canadian mobile mechanic auto repair industry. Most importantly, we would be integrating a team of all-stars who had amassed a significant amount of industry insight since beginning operations in 2011. Expanding throughout British Columbia via this acquisition meant we would be combining two sets of learning: theirs and ours.
This deal fell in line with our strategy to invest in building a talented team who was excited about the future of auto repair. Their management was passionate about convenient auto repair and had developed an incredible brand with loyal customers. Overtaking WrenchPatrol meant we were moving towards our goal more rapidly than we had ever imagined. I have always stressed to our team the importance of failing quickly. Partnering with WrenchPatrol meant we could learn from their past mistakes without having to falter ourselves. We saw immeasurable promise in WrenchPatrol’s dedicated team and their unwavering commitment to provide a service that gave Canadians the ease of hassle-free car repair at their doorstep.
Obstacles and the Road Ahead
Post-acquisition, integrating WrenchPatrol with instaMek wasn’t a matter of fitting together Lego pieces. Despite a shared vision and dedicated people to carry it out, noteverything was awesome. The day-to-day operations of each company varied drastically and so did how we did business. Uzair and I got to work on a new streamlined vision that would combine the best aspects of our company and the most vital components of theirs. Routing all customer calls through our centralized dispatch centre in Edmonton and fully integrating the use of our customized internal tracking software were no-brainers. So was keeping the WrenchPatrol brand intact due to the strong name-recognition in BC and the trust and high quality service the name has come to embody.
Other decisions came with far more difficulty. Our outsider perspective gave us an objective view of the inefficiencies in WrenchPatrol and we went to work on bettering the economics of the business. Unfortunately, decisions we felt were crucial to the continued success of the company did not resonate with all involved. Change is never one-size-fits and despite our best efforts, not all the the WrenchPatrol staff and mechanics we started with are with the us today. While I believe you can never be over prepared, we certainly over planned for a future that was far more different than we could have imagined. Luckily, different can mean “good”. We’ve launched in a new market with amazing repeat business that’s allowed us to more than double our revenue over night. One of WrenchPatrol’s co-founders stayed on board and continues to contribute to the vision in an invaluable business development role. More so, our streamlined processes allow us to deliver the best aspects of each business to our customers through every interaction. Today our company is in a place where we’ve built a team of incredible people, including auto repair industry experts, who are committed to spreading our “mechanics who come to you” model far and wide. We have our eyes set on expansion throughout Eastern Canada and the not-so-distant future holds plans for international expansion. While it remains to be seen what the future holds, lessons in optimizing for growth and seizing opportunities won’t be far from my mind.