Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2008   by Bruce Eccles, Owner, Bruce Eccles Auto Service Inc In Dundas, Ontario

Never think you are alone, as others have experienced what you have

Nothing makes a shop owner's hair fall out faster than listening to the shop voicemail. The one you listen to when you come in an hour before opening to enjoy a coffee in peace and get caught up on so...

Nothing makes a shop owner’s hair fall out faster than listening to the shop voicemail. The one you listen to when you come in an hour before opening to enjoy a coffee in peace and get caught up on some invoices or reading your favourite trade magazine. You know it’s trouble when it starts like this: “You guys put a starter in my car two months ago and now it won’t start.” That’s bad enough, but then it goes on with: “We are out of town and it is broke down in the hotel parking lot.” So it is too early to call room 261 and get them out of bed, I mean it is bad enough the car is broken; at least let them sleep. So for the next hour you just pop a Tums and let a few follicles hit the floor.

I decided to take a proactive approach and find a shop near the hotel and I Googled Auto Service Midland Ontario. There were several big-box boys, but the one that struck me the best was Little Lake Service Center. My intuition told me someone would be there listening to their voicemail that early also. I think on the second ring Dennis politely answered (I never caught his last name). I explained my dilemma and we laughed at how we all have different customers with the exact same lines.

Dennis went on to say they had a very busy day scheduled but he took care of the no start as quickly as possible. Several hours later, I received a call from our customer delighted with the prompt service she received. The starter was working fine and the car started with a boost. I never found out why the battery was dead, but I suspect the lights were left on by mistake.

My youngest daughter is a second year student in the automotive program with Georgian College is in Barrie Ont. which as most may know is in the snow-belt. The first week of November she called me to say it was snowing and her car was all over the road. I didn’t have to Google search for this problem. I just called my friend Ed Jagt from Protech Tire and Ed installed four snow tires and repaired a brake line — and he would not charge me any labour.

Where am I going with these two stories? I guess I have always felt there is a comradely spirit amongst us in the business. It has occurred to me that every one of us should take great pride in being part of this industry and one thing we need to do more of is to form local associations, like the one in Barrie, Ont. which Ed Jagt is part of. There are many business advantages that such local associations offer independent shops; and there is something therapeutic and confidence boosting in being with others who have come together to discuss the same issues and problems you are encountering.

It is a funny thing, but most of us in this industry are pretty much alike. I once took a Dale Carnegie course while at the AC Delco National convention in Las Vegas. Part of the session was to find out as much as possible about the stranger sitting next to you in five minutes. In less the five minutes, I realized that the guy next to me was a clone of me right down to the truck he drove. What that taught me was I’m not alone in this industry, that there are others out there who struggle with the same business and repair challenges that I do every day; and by taking the time to talk with each other, sharing stories and working together we can learn a lot and succeed together.

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