The Journey: My Why

Every month I get the team together for lunch and we review the previous month, discuss operations and opportunities and we plan for the next month.  It’s a good way to build a team environment and communicate as one team.

As I was preparing for one of these meetings I realized that my team did not know My Why.  They didn’t know my background and they didn’t know why I opened a shop.  Which meant that they didn’t know my motivation nor my objectives – really, these are our objectives.

Wanting To Be A Business Owner

I can recall back to 7th and 8th grade and starting to read business magazines and the newspaper.  Junior Achievement was involved in a few of our classes which provided insights into what business men and women do and the opportunities that exist in the working world.  In 9th grade we had an intro to business class and part of the class included developing a business idea.   My idea was a marina on Lake Erie.  A full service marina with sales, service and food.  I loved being near the water then and still do today.

I guess you can say that my desire to be a business owner started young, but I never really acted on it.  After college I started working in the corporate world and life moved on.

One Night In Class

It was during one of my MBA classes that I started to ponder opening an automotive related business.  I zoned out of the lecture and started to write down ideas, concepts, equipment lists, pricing models and next steps.  This idea got me super excited!

The next step was to research this business idea, look for competitors and continue to refine the business plan.  One activity I started to do was to network with those in the automotive industry and I met with bankers.  I received great feedback and suggestions.  These folks advised me and coached me on what would work and what wouldn’t work.  I connected with SCORE and the Ohio SBDC.  I worked with real estate advisors, business brokers and insurance experts to get the plan where I wanted it.

Then I shelved it.   Yup.  I let it gather dust and continued on with my career.  I’d review it every month or so and think about it and hope that someday it would become something I could explore, but that was it.

The Catalyst That Led To My Why

It was the summer of 2012 and the family and I set out on family vacation to North Top Sail Beach in North Carolina.  We loaded up our Dodge Durango and headed out.  Our Durango had been a great vehicle which never gave us problem.  Over its 12 year life it hasn’t cost us very money in repairs.

Our Durango was serviced mostly by three places; the dealership, one independent shop and one local chain.  Each time the we took the vehicle in for service our concerns were addressed.  If the vehicle needed brakes – it got brakes.  I always took the advice of the shop if it needed something.  In fact, I would always ask for a full look over and was routinely told “all is good”.

We were about two hours from the beach when the Durango started to run hot.  I monitored it and as the temperature climbed I’d crank the heat and it would cool down.  That worked for about 20-30 miles.  Coolant level was good.  I bought some tools at a truck stop and removed the thermostat thinking that perhaps it was bad.  That only got us 10 miles down the road.

We called AAA and had to ride in a tow truck for the last 60 miles of our trip.  They dropped us at the condo and the condo owner recommended a local shop to us.  I took the Durango to them the next day and what they found was that radiator was clogged.  It was clogged because someone had added the wrong type of coolant to our vehicle.  If you didn’t know anti-freeze, also known as coolant, comes in many colors now and there are new types of coolant.  Without getting technical it’s bad to mix different types of coolant as mixing them together forms a thicker, gel like substance which can clog radiators and heater cores.

I authorized them to replace the radiator and thermostat and flush out the cooling system.

As we relaxed on the beach I couldn’t help wonder if I had this happen to me how many others might have the same problem.  I’m not just talking about overheating vehicles.  I was thinking about shops not taking care of their client’s vehicles.  If they were careless enough to use the wrong fluid, what else were they careless about?

I kept thinking, there has to be a better way to service and maintain vehicles.  This began to consume me.

What Did I Find When I Got Home?

A couple of days after we got home I decided to spend some time with the Durango and investigate what else these shops have been missing.

I can work on cars, but due to work requirements and travel we always had the Durango serviced at shops.

The air filter was over two years old.  How do I know?  I had the date and mileage written on it when I last replaced it.  ((So I guess I did do one maintenance item on the Durango))  If a technician had checked that filter he would have seen how dirty it was and also it had date proof that it needed changed.  Maybe eight or nine oil changes in those two years and nothing!  Also, I would always ask about spark plugs.  I was told they were fine and not due yet.  I pulled one out and it was long overdue to be changed.

This was just further support for my motivation that there’s a better way to perform car maintenance and repair.

I told my wife that it’s time to dust off that business plan and get working on making auto repair better.

My Why

So this is My Why.  This is why I come to  the shop everyday.

I want to work to make car repair and vehicle maintenance the best it can be.  It’s my goal that client vehicles are safe and reliable. I want to have a strong and experienced team that executes to this goal each and every day.

Owning a business is tough enough.  Owning an auto repair is even tougher.  Each day presents new challenges, but also new opportunities.  When those challenges seem overwhelming I remind myself of My Why and why we do what we do.