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Old Number Rings Up Business At Auto Shop

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office
        SoHoTIPS.com
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Greetings,

Today we have a story about an entrepreneur who discovered 
that taking over the phone line of a recently closed 
competitor was a great way to drum up business. Read about 
his experience and you may find that this might just work 
for you!

Best,
Mandi

Be sure to visit the SoHo News and Tips blog!
SoHo News & Tips Blog

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NEWS & TIDBITS

- Wachovia buys Golden West for $26B...

- Conseco misses estimates, CEO steps down and 
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- Silicon Graphics Inc stock bombs 82%, as the 
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Old Number Rings Up Business at Auto Shop 
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN 

While leafing through the Yellow Pages last fall, 
entrepreneur Mark Bright saw an ad for a recently 
dissolved competitor listing an out-of-service 
phone number. On a hunch that readers would 
continue dialing the number for some time, he 
arranged for the line's outstanding calls to be 
rerouted to his company. Since then, he says, he's 
turned many unsuspecting callers into customers, 
thereby boosting sales.

When a business folds, bargain hunters often pick 
up whatever's leftover -- inventory, furniture, 
equipment. But as Mr. Bright discovered, entrepre-
neurs may be able to scoop up more than just 
tangibles. 

Mr. Bright adopted his former competitor's digits 
in October, and says his company, Northwest Auto 
Services in Tacoma, Wash., now receives about 40 
calls a day, double the number of calls from 
before he added the number. As a result, monthly 
sales for the auto- and small-engine repair shop 
have increased by an average of $1,400, he says. 
The largest growth occurred in March 2006, when 
sales were $3,700 higher than in March 2005, he 
notes, adding that his initial data show even 
stronger revenue gains in April.

Mr. Bright says his former rival gave him the line 
for free, despite his offer to pay for the transfer. 
The local phone company agreed to reroute the calls 
to Mr. Bright's shop after they confirmed he had 
secured permission. The changeover took effect five 
days later and Mr. Bright began paying the line's 
$14 monthly fee. 

Next, Mr. Bright coached his four employees on how 
to greet confused callers who reach his shop. The 
employees explain to callers that the company they 
had tried to reach is out of business. They refer 
callers seeking engine parts to a nearby retailer, 
but also explain the services available at Northwest 
Auto. Mr. Bright says callers are also asked to 
provide a name and address so he can send them 
promotions. Callers looking for engine-repair work 
are encouraged to schedule an appointment with his 
shop. 

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                            *
                            
According to Mr. Bright, the value of a business's 
phone number depends on how long it was in use and 
how much advertising exposure it received. He says 
the number he acquired had been active for more 
than 35 years, and he was willing to pay $2,000 
for it, an amount he estimated as its value. "It 
was like buying something for a quarter at a garage 
sale and finding out later it's worth a heck of a 
lot more," he explains. Mr. Bright says he plans to 
keep the number for as long as callers expect to 
reach its original owner. He anticipates a new 
version of the phone book, without the ad, to come 
out late in 2006 since he's received a new copy 
every year around that time. 

Entrepreneurs seeking to acquire a dissolved 
competitor's number should act fast. Some phone 
companies reassign business lines just three 
months after they've been canceled, while others 
hold them open for up to one year. Most phone 
companies require you to obtain permission from a 
phone line's original owner to make the switch. 

Mr. Bright says he's now looking for other phone 
numbers to absorb for his business. He's been net-
working with other local business owners to find 
out if any competitors have recently closed or are 
on the brink of closing. Recently, he says he 
learned that the owner of a competitor located 
less than a mile from his shop is struggling to 
stay afloat. "I heard that the owner is home sick, 
and his wife is tired and worn out from running 
the business," he explains. Mr. Bright says he 
called the owner's wife, relayed his understanding 
of the company's status, and expressed interest in 
purchasing its phone number should it dissolve. "I 
said, 'If things get bad, give me a call.' " She 
agreed to consider his offer, and then asked if Mr. 
Bright was hiring, he says. 

Mr. Bright says he's had less success with 
traditional marketing strategies. For example, in 
2005, he says he invested around $1,800 in coupons 
for voucher books, doorknob flyers and ads on local 
grocery-store carts that promoted his business, but
drew only eight new customers needing small repairs. 


DID YOU KNOW?

Try to negotiate termination and breakup agreements early 
in your relationship while everyone is still getting along 
and interpersonal tensions are low. A more equitable 
settlement is more likely at these times than later on when 
the partners/owners are no longer on amicable speaking terms.

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mailto:mandi@gophercentral.com 

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